From Engagement to Involvement: Why Creating Buy-In Isn’t Enough


One of the great connections professional salespeople are looking for is engagement,  their ability to influence the outcome through a very specific series of linked actions. Though these actions very between sales processes, they are always there and are always aimed at closing the deal.

If you ask pinnacle sales performers s about this part of their career they often use the phrase – Buy-In.  You’ll hear; “I’m looking to create buy-in around the product or service.” “If I can get a strong buy-in, I will have that level of client involvement I want.”  These types of statements always were used to try to get me to voice my professional opinion on the idea, but as tasty as the temptation was, I always held back. The processes around the interviews that lead to the content of the book were about the million dollar sellers not about me.





Engagement is one of the most critical elements of getting something done.  It’s about emotional involvement and commitment. In fact, it doesn’t matter if it’s something you are doing by yourself (writing) or something you need your team’s participation to accomplish, you need engagement.  The dynamics differ between you, an individual and others, but the goal remains the same, the more involved the tighter the bond between sales professional and client.


That’s why I don’t get the push for buy-in.  As levels of engagement go, buy-in is the lowest rung on the ladder.  At its core, it’s a top/down strategy. I have an idea and I need you to like my idea, to get you to do my idea, I basically need a subtle way to jam my idea down your throat.  In companies, its upper management picking a goal and getting you excited enough to get the goal done. They’re looking for; “Wow, great idea, I’m IN”. This often happens, but more out of perceived obligation than true engagement.


Think of It This Way



Try this instead – think ENROLLMENT instead of buy-in.  This isn’t a vocabulary lesson; they mean different things, requiring different actions.  

In college, you had required classes that were outside your real area of interest.  You went to English (as an author, I’m now glad I did – but I would have rather been surfing) even if you were a physics major.  You lugged your books, marched to the classroom head down. The school wanted your buy-in that this stuff will be needed. But when it was time for something that really interested you, the reason you enrolled in school, you were JAZZED.  


If what you are looking for is REAL engagement, emotional connections that lead to relationships, you need to make a strategic shift to get from buy-in to enrollment.  Its crazy simple – all you need to have is PARTICIPATION. If you want me engaged, INVOLVE me. Let me have a say, tell you about my ideas, make observations, and develop perspective.  LET ME PLAY. If I am REALLY involved in the idea or project you, will have my attention. I’ll be enrolled and, as an enrollee, I will be engaged.


I was involved with an annual goal-setting project for a client.  They weren’t satisfied with the level of engagement they were getting around their targets, especially from the sales force.   It was a typical model. Management created the goals and was working to gain buy-in from their national sales folks. I asked, “How involved were they in setting the goals?”  Turns out, not very. I looked at the goal-setting process for every division and it was the same, created from “on high” and fed to those below. I designed an incredibly simple system that would involve EVERY person in the company (over 400). They would all get a voice in the goals. Not everyone’s idea gets chosen as a goal, but they were heard. The following year they were at 125% of the annual goal. ENROLLMENT.


Try This



In a specific sales example, involve the client in the process.  Don’t pitch the product or service, instead, position a Tell Me strategy.   Tell me about how you see various solutions.  Let’s sketch this out together. Involve the client at the very beginning.  LISTEN. When someone is involved with any issue, when they feel a sense of ownership around the solution their emotions lead them to the highest possible form of engagement ENROLLMENT.


Forget about a focus on buy-in.  I get it, you are probably the smartest person in the room and you have seen this problem a thousand times and have the solution on the tip of your tongue.  STOP. Create an avenue for the client’s INVOLVEMENT and you will find the level of engagement that not only leads to a sale, but that forms the foundation of a great relationship.

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