11 Ways You Give Up Control of the Sales Conversation

In The Lost Art of Closing, I wrote about the ten commitments you need in a typical B2B sale. In that book, I identified two rules to acquire these commitments, the first of which is that you must trade enough value to create an imbalance in your client’s favor (they gain from the meeting, even if they never buy from you). The second rule is that you need to control the process (the sales conversation).

Here are eleven ways you give up control.

  1. Not knowing that it is your responsibility to control the process: It is easy to lose control of the process when you don’t know it is your responsibility to manage it in the first place. Improvement here starts with awareness. There are some who believe that buyer should—or does—control the process, and that you should be subservient, waiting for them to direct you. This is wrong, and it will cause limit your ability to win and serve your clients.
  2. Not creating enough value in a meeting to earn the next: If you don’t show up prepared, with an agenda, with insights and ideas, and with good questions, you are not going to generate enough value to earn the right to another meeting. Your client is going to decide whether the next meeting makes sense, and that judgment is shaped by how you perform.
  3. Leaving a meeting without a meeting: You should never leave a meeting without another meeting. If you do, you are going to find yourself chasing your prospective client for the next meeting, first over voicemail, then over email (two mediums which make it easy for your client to avoid you). Book the next meeting before you end each meeting.
  4. Accepting a non-commitment: A non-commitment sounds like this: “We’ll reach out to you in the next couple weeks.” Maybe they mean it. Alternatively, perhaps they’re just nice so that they can get rid of you. One thing is certain, there is no next meeting on their calendar, and there is nothing on yours. You accepted a non-commitment, and you are back to chasing.
  5. Making a commitment instead of gaining one: You may have established a few critical follow-up tasks from your meeting. You owe your prospect an email with some additional information. The commitment that you made is not a commitment for the client, and they are in no way obligated to open, read, or respond to your mail. A commitment was made, but your client didn’t make it.
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  7. Avoiding conflict over next steps: Your client may not want to do what they need to do next. They may not want to bring in other parties. They may not want to commit to a meeting with your operations team. They may not want to let your legal team hash out an indemnification clause with their legal team. When these commitments are necessary, avoiding the difficult conversation to gain the commitment can levy a hefty penalty of your conflict-aversion of your lack of diplomacy.
  8. Failing to trade enough value for the commitment you want: If you can’t tell your client precisely what they gain from the meeting you are trying to schedule, they are right to refuse it. They need to know how they benefit from agreeing to the meeting. No value, no commitment.
  9. Allowing clients to determine what comes next when it is the wrong decision: Sometimes a client will tell you something that sounds positive, like “Go ahead and get us a proposal and pricing.” But if you haven’t done the work to be able to provide what they are asking for, you have to do what is right instead of what seems easy.
  10. Not knowing what commitment you need: It’s possible that you don’t know what commitment you need. Because the sales conversation is nonlinear, it is easy to find yourself outside of your sales process and in a place where turn-by-turn directions are not available. Even if you have to guess, and even if you are wrong, you need a commitment that moves the opportunity forward.
  11. Failing to identify the next best commitment: Sometimes the commitment you need is difficult to gain. If you don’t have a backup commitment, something you can ask for that, while not being optimal, still moves your forward. Something is almost always better than nothing.
  12. Not asking: If you don’t ask for the commitment you need, you are not going to acquire that commitment. Ask!

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