Successful Sales: Achieving the Commitment By Gerry Giorgio and Joe Fox

Part seven in an eight-part series about sales strategies that improve profit.

Let’s quickly cover the important steps that have led tothis key point in the sales contact situation:

This specific interaction with the customer began with theestablishment of a plan to reach an agreement. Recall that this agreementengages the customer in the process and allows you to move the sales callforward. Since you plan to reach some level of agreement on each and everycontact, not every contact includes a plan to receive the order. Other examplesinclude : gaining agreement for an appointment next week, gaining an agreementfor the customer to visit your greenhouse facility, gaining an agreement toreview your proposal for next year’s business and achieving an agreement on theorder for next season’s business.

You created situations to further the relationship betweenyou and your customer.

You discovered key items that are of the highest importanceto your customer by asking good open-ended questions.

You made a great presentation of your company’s uniqueabilities to provide for the needs that you uncovered.

Now is the time to ask for the commitment.

Buying Signals

Many times in the selling process, there are subtle signalsfrom your customer that you have addressed their specific needs and that theyare ready to complete the order with you. There is some danger to finalizingthe sale if you miss these signals. The “buying signal” can soundlike some of the following:

“Your program looks like it will work well in mystore.”

“What are your payment terms?”

“When can we begin this type of program?”

“What’s the next step?”

When you hear an indicator that sounds like this, isimportant to conclude the sale and reach a final agreement. You can easilyjeopardize your progress and blow all of your hard work if you miss thisopportunity to finalize the sale with your customer.

Profitable Pricing

The sequence outlined above is not only designed to get youthe sale but to get the sale at the margin you require to remain profitable.Having followed the proper sequence, you are in a much better position to askfor this price than you would be without, for example, having tied yourproducts and services to the customer’s needs. The sequence of steps is veryimportant in allowing you to establish the value of the program you offer,before discussing price. If the pricing discussion is forced into the earlierstages of the meetings, it will become the focus, without you having had theability to present the full range of benefits your products or services offer.

Some buyers/purchasing agents will take sales courses inorder to understand the sales process to avoid the sequence that you, as avendor, will try to establish. Others are focused only on price and willnaturally bring this up very early in the discussion and end the meeting soonthereafter.

“What is your price on annual flats this coming season?”you will be asked. Although you are thinking about all the things you providein addition to a high-quality product, the customer is thinking only aboutprice. How will you recover the costs you have built into a program thatincludes such things as:

* a great selection of the new varieties you discovered atPack Trails last spring;

* custom colored flats and custom designed labeling for anattractive package at retail;

* a transportation and delivery system for a steady supplyof fresh product to each store; and

* responsible, trained employees who are dedicated toserving the customer.

If the customer is only thinking about price? You will not.The value of what you have to offer must be established before the pricing oryour program is essentially reduced to a commodity.


When asking for the agreement (a commitment to place anorder), always be prepared to negotiate some of the specific details of thesale — those that remain consistent with your goal of securing a profitableorder.

An example of a situation where you might want to negotiatewould be if you just finished your presentation and asked for a commitment butthe customer informed you of any of the following “conditions” of thesale:

Fewer stores will be part of the order than what youplanned.

Many of the store deliveries requested are remote locationsand with lower unit drops per site.

The overall order is smaller than what you anticipated whendesigning your program.

You receive a request to change the inputs that you hadbudgeted on — different container, unique tagging, posters at the store level,etc.

Other requests that add to your cost of goods sold butprovide no opportunity for increased efficiencies.

Since there is almost always a negotiation period in thesales process, you should prepare for it and be ready to respond accordingly.You can ask for something in return: If fewer stores and volume is offered, askfor a higher allotment of shelf space (units) for each drop. You can provide analternate solution. And you can also present your limitations on the requestand invite ideas on alternatives that work for both of you. Any alternativethat both involves the customer and protects your profit is acceptable.

Finishing Up

Congratulations on reaching this point in the sales process.You have achieved your original goal of establishing a commitment from yourcustomer on the sale of your product and program. You have essentially made thesale! There is one final step in this process, and it will be covered in next month’sfinal article.

Gerry Giorgio and Joe Fox

Joe Fox is marketing director and Gerry Giorgio is creative director with MasterTag, Montague, Mich. If you have questions about this article or about sales in general, they can be reached by phone at (231) 894-1712 or E-mail at [email protected]

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