Sales and Sales Management Blog

January 20, 2011

Guest Article: “Don’t Get Trapped In Too Small Commitments,” by S. Anthony Iannarino

Filed under: sales,selling — Paul McCord @ 10:42 am
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Don’t Get Trapped In Too Small Commitments
by S. Anthony Iannarino

Getting in with your dream client can sometimes be the most difficult part of any deal. To get in, you may lower the commitment level so that you are asking for a commitment that is easier to obtain; you make it easier for your dream client to say “yes.”

The Big Value of Small Commitments

You want your dream client’s business. They know that you want their business. But if you were to say, “Hi, I’d like to spend time exploring the most challenging parts of your business with you, help you to create a vision as to how those things might be made better, then spend the next ninety days working with you and your team on a massive transformational change effort and become your trusted partner for life,” it might be a little more than your dream client can agree to, sight unseen.

So, you lower the commitment level. You say, “I’d like to spend 20 minutes with you to understand your business and to explore any future opportunity to help make some improvements.” Twenty minutes is something that is easier to commit to.

Lowering the commitment level is very useful when trust has not been established. It allows your dream client to agree to low level commitments that have little or no risk attached to them—other than you not making that time valuable for them.

Big Deals Require Big Commitments

Later, as the deal progresses, you need to ask for higher-level commitments. Lowering the commitments can and will unravel the deal you are putting together. If you are working in front of the deal, then you need access to the buying team members so that you can understand their needs and ensure that what you present reflects their needs and their vision of the right answer. You need access and information from all kinds of people in a complex sale, so that what you sell not only wins, but so that you can ensure that it succeeds for your client.

As the deal progresses, you have to ask for greater and greater commitments, never lowering the commitment level so low that you cannot obtain what you need to win and what you need to later succeed. The resistance isn’t usually a lack of trust; the resistance is usually the lack of time and resources. To obtain greater commitments, you are going to have a history of being a value-creator, and you are going to have to be able to explain the return you intend to generate on their investment of their time and effort.

You have to be prepared to say, “I know that other salespeople haven’t asked for this access to the members of the buying team in the past, but meeting with your buying team members allows us the opportunity to listen to them describe what they specifically need from any solution we propose, and we get a chance to talk through any issues that might prevent what we propose from succeeding. Ultimately, it allows us to work with your team to make sure what we do produces the outcome that you need, as fast as possible, with fewer missteps, and a lot less disruption. I promise I’ll make it worth their while.”

At the very end of our sales process, we have to ask for the big commitment: trusting us with their business. Along the way, you will have moved from commitment to commitment, increasing the level of commitment the whole way.


Not asking for the commitments that you need extends your sales cycle, decreases the likelihood of winning the business, decreases the likelihood of your solution matching their needs, and making obtaining the commitments you need for a real transformation later next to impossible.


It can be very useful to lower the commitment level early in the sales process, especially to get in. But you cannot get trapped in too small commitments later, when they will unravel your deal and cause you to fail for your dream client.

  1. What commitments do you ask for that you make easier to obtain by lowering the commitment level?
  2. At what stages of your sales process do you find it useful to lower the commitment level and make it easier for your client to agree?
  3. When do you need to ask for greater commitments in order to get what you need to win the deal and to succeed for your dream client should you win?
  4. What causes you to reduce the level of commitments that you are asking for as a deal progresses? What are willing to go without that, had you obtained the commitment you really needed, you would have better positioned to win and to succeed?
  5. How can you obtain the greater commitments that you need to win and to succeed? How can you make sure that your dream client knows how agreeing to those commitments benefits them in the long run? What language do you need to use to most effectively ask for and obtain the high level commitments that you need?

S Anthony Iannarino is the President and Chief Sales officer for SOLUTIONS Staffing, a best-in-class regional staffing service based in Columbus, Ohio. We provide light industrial, clerical, accounting, and scientific staffing solutions for our clients who need a higher-caliber employee, and the highest levels of service.  He is also the Managing Director of B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, a boutique sales coaching and consulting company where he works to help salespeople and sales organizations improve and reach their full potential.


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