Closing the deal is so much more than getting a signature on the bottom line. A more accurate description is that it includes getting two commitments from the buyer: a private commitment and a public commitment. An often forgotten part of the sales process is that a buyer’s commitment actually comes in two steps: First, the prospect decides privately, to themselves, to purchase—to test the waters, so to speak. When that step is reached, then, and only then, does the buyer have the confidence to make the commitment public and commit to a long-term relationship. It’s really much like a personal relationship: You’d prefer to take time during the dating process to learn about your potential mate before diving in and marrying them, right?
You may be asking: Why does this order matter?
It matters because no buyer is going to truly be a lifelong advocate of your product or service if they haven’t truly bought in to the value your company provides. And who really wants an uncommitted customer?
The private commitment is part of the sales journey that many salespeople try to rush. Understandably, it’s easy to focus on the public commitment because it means the prospect is further down the pipeline—the deal is closer to completion. But as we learned in our previous post, doing so often results in losing the sale because the seller has become too focused on what they want (instead of what the buyer needs) and they lose the buyer’s trust. As we also learned in our previous post, rushing the process and failing to get a private commitment from the buyer typically leads to indecision. Upwards of 60% of deals are lost to people who expressed an intent to commit but failed to actually act. Companies, however, can close more deals and increase customer-retention rates if they prioritize this two-step process while providing prospects with what they need.
Offer Case Studies
A great technique for validating the private commitment and encouraging the buyer to take it public involves case studies. Yet at this point in the buyer’s journey, case studies should look much different than any potentially used in earlier stages. To be effective here, case studies should focus on the buyer’s specific pain points, helping them visualize what working with you long-term would look like and the benefits their future-self would receive from your product or service. A great way to illustrate that is through reviews or testimonials from previous companies you’ve worked with who experienced similar problems. In fact, a study found that 92% of B2B buyers are more likely to purchase after reading trusted reviews. Utilizing case studies from previous deals provides buyers with the information they need to feel comfortable and safe, and it can be a significant catalyst in moving your deal forward. And salespeople can think outside the box with case studies as well: They don’t have to be a physical document or PDF file. It could actually be a landing page on the website that thoughtfully outlines a plan of action for the buyer. Remember: At this stage of the sale, the buyer is looking forward, not back.
The case study must keep that in mind, illustrating how great the outcome can be with your product or service and the defined path they can take to get there.
Most, if not all, salespeople know that they must seek out advocates at the company in order to convert a private commitment into a public commitment. Yet a sometimes overlooked aspect is that salespeople must equip the advocates with the information needed in order to obtain buy-in. No potential buyer is going to stick their neck out for your product or service and risk their own reputation if they feel anxiety around their ability to explain how it’s valuable in the first place. Salespeople must equip their advocates (i.e., buyers) to talk to their CEO or other decision makers about the problem your product or service solves, what the journey to implementing will be like and what it will take to move forward. Unless the advocate feels comfortable in that—that they aren’t being set up to fail—they will never take their commitment public. Equipping an advocate with the detailed information needed to achieve buy-in also leads to them feeling ownership of the plan and positions them as the hero, which only encourages the deal to move forward.
Part of equipping your advocate with the information needed to feel safe to go public with a commitment includes fully realizing the specific information the company will need to move forward. An easy assumption would be that the C-suite would simply ask about the technology, features, benefits and longevity of the problem. Yet Ian Altman and Jack Quarles conducted a survey of 10k executives, and they found that executives ask these three questions before making a purchasing decision: What problem are we trying to solve? What happens if we don’t solve that problem? What’s the likely outcome? Equipping the advocate to go public means so much more than providing the information you feel is important—it’s about understanding their unique scenario and the specifics that are going to be important to their company.
Guiding the buyer from private commitment to public commitment and creating the buy-in needed to close the deal requires more than just sales and marketing alignment. It requires alignment with all silos within the company, including customer service and revenue operations. Each department plays a role—before and after the sale takes place—and each should be at the table to eliminate the buyer’s worry and transition them from anxious prospect to satisfied customer.
In summary, it’s imperative for a private commitment to occur before a public commitment ever takes place. Techniques such as providing case studies, equipping advocates with the information needed to create buy-in and ensuring that every department fully understands the role they play in the sales process can help salespeople maintain the momentum needed to close the deal—as long as they remember that the process is about the needs of the buyer, not their own. Though there’s no set time on how long the process will take, the time invested is well worth it as it will result in a mutually-beneficial relationship with significant lifetime value.
Our podcast is dedicated to helping small and mid-market businesses thrive and develop the sales and marketing acumen to move the needle. Tune into our episode featuring sales expert and founder of The Sales Evangelist, Donald Kelly, to learn more about consultative selling and guided help to finalize more sales for your company.