What is the single most important thing you can do before calling on a customer? The answer is to decide on an appropriate Commitment Objective for the call. Not a list of call objectives, mind you. A Commitment Objective.

I believe that this concept should be hammered home in every sales training program and every sales coaching session your company sponsors.

The Commitment Objective is the foundation stone of sales training based on the Action Selling system. Everything hinges on the idea that you must go into every single sales call you make with a Commitment Objective in mind.

The Commitment Objective is so crucial to professional and successful sales calls that if you don’t have one for a call, you are wasting the customer’s time and your own. That’s right: Without a Commitment Objective, you have no business calling on a customer at all. Without a C.O., no collection of sales skills will rescue a sales call.

What is a Commitment Objective, you ask? A C.O. is entirely different from the more familiar call objective. You can have any number of perfectly valid call objectives when you visit a customer: conduct a needs analysis, explore opportunities to get more of the customer’s business, ensure that the customer is happy with your service—the list is endless. But a Commitment Objective is a different animal.

In sales training and sales coaching based on Action Selling, salespeople learn that a Commitment Objective refers to a specific, concrete action that you want the customer to agree to take as a result of the call. Whatever sales skills you might bring to bear during the interaction, what do you actually want the customer to commit to DO by the end of this sales call?

“Well, naturally, I want the customer to agree to buy my product,” you say. Sure you do—eventually. But in business-to-business selling, final buying decisions are rarely made as a result of a single sales call. Sales training and sales coaching should acknowledge that it’s more likely you will need to make several calls to a corporate buyer.

As those calls progress, you will be engaged in a certain process. Whether you have consciously mapped out that process or not, it will include some definable milestones that you must reach on the way to a sale. Those milestones might include things like “conduct a thorough needs analysis” and “meet with all key players who have a voice in the buying decision.”

In the earlier stages of your sales process, the question isn’t, “Can I get the customer to agree to buy my product?” Instead, the question is, “Can I get the customer to agree to come along with me to the next logical milestone?”

Whatever sales skills you might use during the call, they must be focused on gaining the customer’s commitment to move toward that next milestone. If you aren’t learning this in the sales training and the sales coaching you receive, you are being poorly served.
Commitment Objectives are all about moving the sales process forward. Will the customer commit to taking that next step on the path toward a sale? The success of every call you’ll ever make hinges on the answer.

Of course, if you haven’t figured out what the next step should be, you can’t ask for the customer’s commitment. And if you don’t ask for commitment, you won’t get it. Mapping out the milestones in your company’s sales process should be another key goal in sales training. But that’s a topic for another day.

For information about how to improve sales skills and make sales training pay huge dividends, contact Action Selling at (800) 232-3485.

Duane Sparks

About Duane Sparks

Duane Sparks is founder and chairman of The Sales Board, the authoritative source of practical and leading-edge information about the art and science of selling. He has created Action Selling sales training products and learning systems that transform sales organizations. Duane is author of these best-selling books: Action Selling, Selling Your Price, Questions (the Answer to Sales), Masters of Loyalty (How to turn your sales force into a loyalty force), and Sales Strategy from the Inside Out (How complex selling really works).

Discover how the best sales training process can make spectacular improvements in sales skills. Action Selling: How to Sell Like a Professional (Even If You Think You are One).