I tried to convince my publisher to name my second book, The Art of Commitment-Gaining. They called it The Lost Art of Closing. Some people equate the word “closing” with a self-oriented, pushy, high-pressure form of selling that is now so rare as to be remarkable when you experience it. Even though the word “closing” still carries a negative connotation, success in sales is, in large part, built on gaining commitments. If you want to improve your ability to ask for and obtain commitments to serve your clients better, you might start by recognizing how you are making it easy for your clients to say no.
No Value Messaging
The content of your message matters. When you ask for a meeting or the next commitment your dream client needs to make, the content of the message is the critical variable. You make it easy for your prospective client to refuse your request for a meeting when you fail to provide them with a solid, compelling value proposition for the meeting or the commitment you are requesting from them.
When you say you’d like to stop by, introduce yourself, and share how you are helping companies like your dream client with better results, what you are trading in value is too weak to command a yes. The fact that you want to talk about you, your company, and your products and services is a snoozer for your client. They have already had this experience enough times to recognize that the meeting isn’t a good use of their time.
If your messaging suggests that your client will be better positioned to make decisions about their business—whether they buy from you or someone else—you provide something worth saying yes to. If you want a deeper dive into the language choices for a value proposition for a meeting now, check out Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 of Eat Their Lunch.
Mediums That Make No Easy
The medium you choose to ask for a commitment is also a variable that drives your success. Some mediums make it easy to refuse the request for a meeting or a commitment. The reasons salespeople prefer these mediums is because they don’t have to call their prospective clients to ask and because they believe they are efficient, both of which create poor results, weak pipelines, and often, a career change.
- Email: Of all the ways you might ask your dream client for a meeting or some other commitment, why would you ever choose to make an ask on a medium that allows your contact to say no by ignoring your email, like the ones you sent weeks ago and are hoping against hope for a reply that will never come? You provided your client with an ask that they can say no to by only hitting the delete button on their keyboard.
- Social Media: How is LinkedIn different from an email? You are still asking in a medium that provides the easiest and frictionless way to say no. There is not a social platform with the ability to increase your chances of acquiring a meeting or a commitment by using it as the medium in which you ask.
The way you make it easy for your client to say no is by not being there when you ask. You are not there to ask again, and you eliminate the possibility of resolving your client’s concerns. You expect too much from a medium that isn’t the right choice for critical outcomes.
Poor Language Choices
The choice of words you use can provide your client with an easy out. When you ask, “Is now a good time,” you invite a no. When you ask, “Is now a bad time,” you invite a yes, which means no. Asking your clients questions that indicate you have no value proposition and offer them an easy no generally results in them accepting the out you provided them.
There are three variables to success in asking for meetings and commitments, one of which is the value proposition. A weak value proposition sounds like this: “I just want to check in and see how things are going.” Or my favorite from a salesperson who called on me for years, who said: “Just wanted to check in to see if anything has changed in your world.” The words you use matter.
Another variable is your confidence. You reveal a lack of confidence, when you say, “I was wondering maybe if you might want to meet . . . ” Your hedging betrays a lack of confidence. If you are not confident, you make it very easy to refuse your request for a meeting. If you are not sure what you want, why you want it, and how it is going to benefit the contact you are asking for a commitment, your client is right to refuse the request.
There are still salespeople who ask questions that make it more challenging to gain a commitment. They ask questions like, “Are you happy with your current provider?” A yes to this answer confirms they are not compelled to change, and you aren’t offering to help change their beliefs about change. Congratulations, you reinforced a no. You ask questions like, “What do you wish your current provider did differently,” because you don’t have a theory about what your dream client should change.
Ceding Control of the Process
When you allow your dream client to determine what comes next because you are unaware of the need to control the process, you are providing your client the option to say no without your even asking. If you are conflict-averse and worry about alienating your client and losing the opportunity, not only are you not being consultative, but you are accepting a no without even asking. If you ever ask your client, “So, what is our next step,” you demonstrate that you are not a trusted advisor and that you don’t have a plan for helping them make the best decision about their future.
It is possible for you to get a no to a large number of commitments you need your dream client to make by merely ceding control of the process. By allowing them to decide what comes next, you are accepting a no to the real work you need to do with your prospective client to genuinely serve them. When you lose deals, the most significant reason is that you allowed your contact to determine a process that didn’t let you create compelling, differentiated value. You skipped the conversations and commitments that would have better served both you and your dream client.
If you want better sales results, stop making it easy for your clients to say no.