“Our principal mission as salespeople is to get customers to commit,” Joe said forcefully. “That’s what we get paid to do. That’s the only reason we have jobs. If we’re not planning for the customer to commit to something, we’re not planning to do our job.”

What distinguishes a Commitment Objective from the salesperson’s other objectives is an agreement from the customer, Joe explained. A sales rep may have any number of goals or objectives for a client call, many of them excellent and even vital: to learn about the customer’s business, to discover who the competitors are, to figure out who makes the real buying decisions for the customer’s organization, to learn if funds are available for the purchase, and so forth. But none of those goals can be the primary reason for making a sales call because they do not require a commitment from the customer that will move the process forward.

“When you originally phoned Bob Howell to arrange this morning’s appointment,” Joe said, “you had a clear Commitment Objective in mind: You wanted him to agree to meet with you. And he did. He committed to a real, live meeting at a particular time on a particular day—9 a.m. today. So far, so good. You achieved your Commitment Objective for that phone call. And the process moved forward.

“But where was that clarity this morning when you walked into the meeting you’d succeeded in scheduling?” Joe asked. “This time you had no Commitment Objective. So you wound up leaving behind some brochures you could have mailed to him. And having given him reason to believe that scheduling appointments with you is a waste of time, you ‘guess’ your next step will be to call for another appointment.”

Matt thought about it. Then he muttered an expletive that will not be repeated here.

“Don’t beat yourself up too much,” Joe said. “Yes, it’s a dumb mistake, but it’s the most common mistake in selling. That’s what I meant about professionalism being a rare thing in sales despite all the people who sell for a living.”

Matt leaned back in his chair, scenes of past client calls playing in his mind. Where would I be today if someone had told me this nine years ago? At that moment it occurred to Matt that Action Selling was not just one more garden-variety sales program…

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).