Gaining commitment can be one of the most challenging activities or skills in today’s business world. We think it’s challenging mainly because people don’t always understand what it really means and how to get there. Gaining engagement is too often associated with “hard closing” or “tying in” customers.
Although many people would love to find a turnkey solution, an easily applicable and reproducible recipe, gaining commitment depends on the quality of the interaction between individuals and groups. It depends intimately on the value that the commitments bring to the people who make them.
What is commitment?
It is an agreement to take action between at least two parties (individuals or groups) based on meeting the needs of both parties. In other words, I, for example, will agree to commit to an action if I believe that what I do will help me to satisfy a need (or needs) that I have and, consequently, add value to my life or my work.
What do we need to reach a compromise?
When salespeople, managers, trainers, and account executives are asked that question as a customer, this is basically what many of them say they need to be engaged.
There has to be a clear knowledge/understanding that the planned actions are advantageous and will satisfy a need or add value. I will never commit to doing something that does not bring a benefit.
So how come so many managers and sales executives ask their salespeople to “sell hard” or “close the deal”?
Normally, a commitment is made between and by two parties. Both are dedicated to doing something. We need to understand that if one party sees value (here the salesperson sees value in convincing a customer to buy a product) but the other does not, it is highly unlikely that they will commit to action that satisfies both parties. In sales, this is often the case. It comes from the seller who wants something for himself that does not yet have a clear value for his counterpart, the customer.
Does this mean that sometimes we cannot reach a compromise? No problem. In fact, every interaction should lead to a commitment. We just need to be reasonable in our expectations and realize that a clear understanding of the needs of both parties will allow both parties to commit to some action that will help both move toward a worthwhile solution.
Let’s review what needs to be done, and done effectively, before we can come to a compromise.
To reach a compromise you need:
1. Clearly identify and understand the needs of others.
2. Clearly express your own needs
3. Make sure critical needs are on the table
4. Make the other understand that we understand their needs
5. Clearly state that your goal is to take actions that will be in line with the critical need(s)
6. Both coincide in a defined action
– How to discover the needs.
– Ask questions that help you build a case and follow the answers to ensure complete understanding
– Listen (paraphrase, eye contact, posture)
– Involve the person(s) involved (use silence, repeat, ask for clarification)
– Provide information for your understanding.
– Consolidate what both seem to agree on
The following is an effective exercise to practice these skills. Either with a specific case study/brief scenarios or an impromptu discussion topic, have people in groups of 3 or 4 engage in a discussion and try to find areas of agreement and then gain compromise.
Example of impromptu themes:
– Find 3 key rules for children’s education
– Find the 3 most important characteristics that a car needs to provide benefits
– What are the 3 things that humans need to have in their lives to find balance?
– What 3 actions should be taken to effectively combat poverty?
The U&I,DO™ concept
With Aseret’s simple method of communication that applies to any situation. Whether we are selling, arguing a case, discussing objections, asking questions, trying to find solutions, or compromising, this method works.
Gain commitment to U&I,DO™
1. Understand who you are communicating with and their environment
2. Identify your needs through questions. involve them
3. Disseminate information that will identify solutions
4. Organize expressed needs and consolidate
Who are you dealing with? What is your behavioral style? What is important to them? What is your role in the current environment? What are your responsibilities? What do they care or what do they believe? What are the pressures or constraints or realities you face in the current environment?
Start the interaction by stating the goal, the reason for the discussion, and the potential end value of this investment of time and effort.
Check your understanding of their situation and genuinely demonstrate your desire to understand their situation and needs.
Ask questions that allow them to express their needs, situation, philosophies and beliefs.
Be open to what they have to express and always check that you do understand. If things are not clear, clarify before moving forward.
Help your counterpart understand your needs.
Express your ideas about what can help (your understanding, your products, your organization, your services, your experience, your knowledge, etc…) to satisfy your needs (solution).
Provide elements that help them understand and demonstrate the possibility of commonly valuable actions.
Check how the needs are understood by both parties.
Establish common points, agreements and concomitant points of view about needs, objectives, goals or necessary actions.
Always address the most important needs first (critical needs)
Use the consolidation statement: How fair is it to say that what is important to you is X and that what I can offer can help you (others) meet those needs?
Use the action statement: Based on the fact that your need for X can be met by what we can offer, what are the next steps we should engage in?
Key concepts to remember
– Exerting undue pressure is ineffective
– One needs to demonstrate their true desire to find solutions that are good for both.
– Honesty is a strong motivator to induce trust.
– Adapt to the counterpart’s style without changing who you are
– Identify the appropriate reasons for suggesting the action.
– Appropriate pressure is necessary to take action that meets a need and creates a solution.
– Practice behaviors that help you make people feel comfortable and confident
In a training environment, it is important to get each participant to practice and receive feedback from their counterparts and neutral observers. It is also very important that participants individually explain why these concepts are important, ask them to discuss this in small groups, agree on the most compelling reasons, and commit to a specific action they will take as a group to pursue each concept in the coming weeks. . A conference call can be arranged after 3 weeks to share success stories of effective application of the concepts.
Winning commitment is not a matter of tricks, recipes or blind determination. However, compromise comes quite easily and naturally when needs are understood and consistent solutions are offered. When both parties see a benefit in whatever action they agree to take, a true compromise is possible.
Understanding the people with whom we interact, fully identifying their needs, and clearly disclosing our own needs will lead to organized and consolidated action steps that benefit all parties.
Philippe Glaude, M.Sc.