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Develop Commitment with Others

The difference between commitment and compliance is the difference between want to and have to. All of us have been in a position where we were told to do something. Most times, we do it without resisting because it is a part of every job. But when you are told to do something important that will take a great deal of effort and don't fully understand why, you will do it because you have to, but your level of commitment won't be as high as it would be if you understood why it was necessary and believed that your ideas were valued. In that case you would have a higher level of commitment to the project.

You probably have seen that when people are compliant, they do what they need to do to get by. They may not put forth any extra effort. If you've been on a team that has a high level of commitment, you know how exciting it can be and how much each person will do to make sure the project is successful.

If you depict the level of commitment as a spectrum, you can visualize how different degrees of commitment are possible (see figure 9).

Level of Committment

Figure 9:  Level of Committment

Top sales professionals must influence others in their organizations in order to do what they promised the customer they would do. Exceptional sales professionals are able to win commitment from others. How do they do that?

One way is to explain the "why"—that is, the purpose or benefit to the customer of what you would like to do. How will it help or affect the person whose support you need? This gives people a sense of the big picture and a reason to be committed. Ask for and consider their ideas. People are more committed to their own ideas than to those of others. If you can't use their ideas, at least explain why not. Recognize their efforts when they achieve the objective. Without recognition, people won't extend themselves the next time.

These steps, when carried out with genuine interest in the input and success of the people you work with, are more likely to lead to their support. If you are the person initiating the change, consider product management, engineering, or support staff to be your customers. Do your homework to find out what their needs and concerns are before you present them with requests, and you will find it a lot easier to make a "sale." Be very careful to demand what you want. People may give you what you demand, but you may find it to be less than what you need.

Recognize People's Efforts

The idea behind recognition is pretty simple. People want to be sincerely appreciated for their efforts and accomplishments. When they are, they tend to want to help you even more. When they are not outwardly appreciated but aren't criticized, they will do what they need to do to get their jobs done, but may not extend themselves beyond that. If they are inappropriately criticized for what they do, they will tend to do the least they can do to get by and will spend a lot of time commiserating with each other about how much they dislike the way they are treated.

Offer Constructive Feedback

From time to time, you're going to find you need to let someone who supports you know that he or she needs to do something differently. How you say it will be critical to the response you get. Offering constructive feedback is one of the most important ways that you can influence others positively. It can mean the difference between getting what you want and getting nothing.

If I said to you, "That was a great recommendation, but it was too long," it sounds good to you until I get to the word "but." As soon as you hear that, don't you find yourself tensing up? Don't you suspect that I'm just getting ready to say what I really wanted to say?

If I said, "That was a great recommendation, and if you can get it into just one page, which we can use as an overview for the customer, it will be close to perfect," wouldn't that sound a lot better? The key is to change the word "but" to the word "and."

"But" is negative. As soon as you say "but," you negate any positive statement that preceded it. If the recommendation was 95 percent good, "but" focuses the listener's attention on the 5 percent that wasn't good. When you use the word "and," it is additive. You recognize the 95 percent that was good and say that you can add to it. "And" is future focused, while "but" is oriented toward the past.

All of us use "but" in the context of trying to give people suggestions about what they can do to improve. It is a strongly ingrained habit. Give yourself time to start remembering not to use the word "but" after you've told someone something positive.

A number of years ago I was on the telephone after I had finished a speech. A fellow who had been in the audience was standing next to me. I was on hold, so I couldn't help but overhear what he was saying. He was talking to someone at work. He said something like, "I'm glad you were able to get that out on time, but you should have . . ." He stopped at that point and said, "I'm not supposed to use the word ‘but.' Let me start over." Most of us will find that it will take a bit of undoing to start using the word "and" in these situations. (By the way, "however" is the same as the word "but," just a little milder.)

A lot of times people want to give others feedback about how to improve. They rely on the cookie-sandwich approach, which has been suggested for many years as a way to give feedback: start with the good news, give the bad news, and finish up on a positive note. It is much more productive to avoid the "bad news" tone by using "and" instead of "but."

If you need to give someone corrective feedback and the person is not producing a result that is acceptable, communicate that point directly and diplomatically. Just say something like, "There's a problem with such-and-such. I need to sit down and talk with you about it."

Always keep in mind that your tone of voice in all of these interactions says a great deal. "What do you think?" can be said with many different tones of voice. How it comes across will depend on what you intend to convey. If you expect the person to respond positively, communicate that in your tone of voice. Be in control of the interaction.

Avoid the Temptation to Say . . .

All of us are tempted from time to time to say it when we are right and someone else is wrong: "I told you so." Instead, empathize, don't criticize. Have you ever misjudged someone? Have you ever misinterpreted someone else's behavior? Have you ever made a mistake? Can you remember how easily it happened? Can you recall how quickly you realized what had happened?

Then you can put yourself in others' shoes and try to understand rather than judge, empathize rather than criticize. You will be more objective and more likely to reach an understanding. Great salespeople and great leaders are able to be empathic. They create high levels of trust and understanding that are the foundations of effective and productive relationships.

Zig Ziglar, CPAE, has advice that is extremely helpful in these situations: never try to top the customer. If the customer tells you how bad or good something is or about something that happened to him or her, don't tell your own story that shows you had it worse or better. If you do, the customer will feel you are competing. Don't even try to match the customer with your own story. Instead, listen, laugh, or empathize with his or her situation, and he or she will know you are listening.

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