Gaining commitment

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(MoneyWatch) Prospects have a hard time with the C word: Commitment. Sure they have signed on the dotted line. But fear, uncertainty and doubt enter the picture.

One of the biggest fears prospects usually have is a quite simple question: "How do we get started?"

They're now poised at the end of a cliff and a deep chasm. They can see the other side and implementation of your solution. But between now and then is a huge chasm they cannot cross in their imagination. This, of course, makes them very afraid.

Building a bridge for them will eliminate that gigantic fear and show them your competence, your ability to anticipate and strategize, and your willingness to share a little of the load of transition.

What the prospects want to know is, "What happens between now and then?" And you have to be prepared to answer completely and with confidence.

"Trust us. It'll be done," won't eliminate any fear.

Let's look at how we develop your transition map.

- Start with the question: What will we do today or tomorrow to move this forward? And you take it from there.

- Name and define clearly each step you will take between now and full implementation. Think of everything. Nothing is too trivial to be included: Actions to be taken, people to be involved from both companies, training that will be needed, person(s) from your company responsible for each step, timelines for each step, and individuals to contact in case the prospect has questions.

- Set a regular communication schedule with the prospects to keep them fully informed.

- Establish milestones with key performance indicators where you and the prospects can discuss how everything is going. Define your results threshold for rollout upfront. At each step, what results do you need and what results do your prospects need to make, so that you can move seamlessly through the steps?

- Establish the 30 percent completion point, the 50 percent completion point, and so on.

- Establish an ROI schedule.

This transition map is essential when you're hunting a big deal. Since this is such a large deal and since prospects are fearful, sometimes they will say, "Let's try a little and see how that works." Don't fall into that trap.

I was with a company recently in the far Northwest. They would sell an initial implementation -- fairly complex engineering sales -- and they'd sell almost any volume they could get.

The volume that would allow them to work out the kinks, really engineer the product, and work through the implementation was 10,000 units. But the salespeople were allowed to go out and sell 5,000 units.

Well, you want to know what the first 5,000 units look like? A mess.

During the first 5,000 they're just getting their supply chain management right. They're working through the orientation of parts in the inline manufacturing process. The first 5,000 units is where all the hard, bumpy work gets done. And if the prospects really wanted to know what the future would look like working with that company, the best vantage point would result from viewing it during the implementation of the second 5,000 units.

If you let yourself get caught in the "try it and see how it goes" trap, you won't have made the big sale you want to make, and your prospects will be disappointed with the results. Chances are you'll lose the deal entirely.

Selling 5,000 when you know the only way for prospects to really understand your value proposition is at 10,000 will not get you your big sale. If the prospect isn't interested in buying your entire deal, you need to find other prospects that will. Don't sell yourself short and settle for anything less than commitment.