When it's closing time, use this technique

At my company, one area of selling generates more interest in our services than any other. It's the same area that drives sales management crazy and leaves many salespeople stressed and perplexed. That area? Closing.

Newspaper ads regularly proclaim: "Big money for TOP CLOSERS!!!" For some unknown reason people believe closing effectiveness is the only secret to sales success. Closing is important, but no more so than the five steps before it (approach, qualification, agreement on need, sell the company, fill the need) and the one step after it (cement the sale).

To the salespeople who tell me they are only interested in courses that focus on closing, I ask, "Have you ever walked through a closed door?" Unless they're a comic book hero, their answer is always, "No." I still haven't met a comic book hero.

The problem with low-producing salespeople isn't only that they lack a proven, effective process to close the sale, but that they haven't effectively "opened" the sale through rapport, qualification and agreement on need.

Studies show that 62 percent of all salespeople never attempt to close the sale by asking for the order. How can they sell their product/service if they don't ask for the order? Imagine how effective these salespeople would be if they asked for the order even once, let alone twice or more. With the closing process I'll detail, you'll be able to close "softly" up to five times, if necessary, without high pressure, trickery or gimmicks.

Coupled with an ineffective process, salespeople who rarely ask for the order may be timid, unsure of when to ask or fear rejection.

Although no one likes to be rejected, I've never understood the reason to fear rejection in selling because the prospect is not rejecting the salesperson personally. The prospect is simply saying "no" to the proposal.

The following closing process serves the prospect without manipulation and, when used properly, it:

  • Increases the odds that the salesperson will close in the first or second try;
  • Helps the salesperson avoid a high-pressure situation that jeopardizes the sale;
  • Offers the flexibility of closing several times professionally and ethically without antagonizing the prospect;

The closing process is as simple as this:

"If we can (summary of action to be taken), can you think of any reason why we shouldn't (summary of desired act of commitment)?"

That's it! No trickery or gimmicks. No high-pressure or rambling prose.

This close will work comfortably regardless of the salesperson's and prospect's personalities. It's suitable whether the salesperson is asking for the order or another act of commitment.

After the words, "If we can," the salesperson should give a brief summary of the action to be taken. The summary can be of price, next meeting date, etc.

After the words, "can you think of any reason why we shouldn't," the salesperson has made a direct request for the act of commitment. In short, he/she has asked the prospect to make a positive decision to buy or act now. The sale has been closed!

But be aware of words and phrases that aren't part of this request. For example, a salesperson shouldn't use words such as "now," "today," "this afternoon" or "right away." Words and phrases that urge direct action change the close from low to high-pressure.

Other negative-impact words include "sign" (we've all heard the admonition, "Never sign anything!") and "cost" (the prospect feels they're losing rather than gaining).

We've discussed what the close doesn't say, so let's look at what it does say. The word "we" reinforces the concept that the salesperson and prospect are working together.

Next, the word "think" is important. It focuses the prospect on his/her thinking, rather than objections. The most important aspect is the negative question you ask. "If we can ... can you think of any reason why we shouldn't," doesn't ask the prospect to buy, but rather if he/she can think of any reason not to.

If the salesperson has done a proper job helping his/her prospect, the answer expected is "no." This is a subtle and extremely effective piece of strategy. Psychologically, it's easier for people to say "no" than "yes." But in this instance, when the prospect says no, it means that he/she has just bought.

There is an even subtler, more important reason at work here. It is likely that prospects have encountered incompetent and ineffective salespeople in the past and have gotten comfortable and experienced in saying no to them. Thus a salesperson extends a simple invitation to say what they are psychologically most comfortable saying.

Realistically, however, things don't always happen so logically in the real world. At the moment of decision some prospects experience FUDs: fears, uncertainties and doubts. These can be traced back to areas of the salesperson's presentation that the prospect was not satisfied with.

In a way, the FUDs serve as a "report card" on how the salesperson has performed. The salesperson should acknowledge the objection with one of the following statements: "I see," "I understand," "I can appreciate that."

That should be the extent of the response. The salesperson should never react to the prospect by arguing. However, he/she should empathize with the prospects concerns. After doing so, he/she should get back to selling, offering the prospect additional reasons to buy your product.

 

This constitutes the second close. It goes like this:

  • Acknowledge the objection.
  • Re-establish your areas of agreement.
  • Add a new feature/benefit/reaction sequence.
  • Ask for the order again.

    What happens when the prospect objects again? Many times he/she doesn't reveal the real reason for holding back.

    Some buyers are even trained to reject a salesperson's first offer, regardless of what it is. The salesperson's objective is to get to the real objection. It goes like this:

  • Acknowledge the objection.
  • Re-establish your areas of agreement.
  • Uncover the real objection.
  • Handle the real objection.
  • Optionally, add a new feature/benefit/reaction sequence.
  • Ask for the order again.

To uncover the real objection the salesperson must ask the prospect: "(Prospect's name), there must be something you don't like. Would you mind telling me what it is?" This statement demonstrates the salesperson's sensitivity, understanding and that he/she is seeing the situation through the prospect's eyes. It should also uncover the real objection.

 

For the fourth close the salesperson uses this procedure:

  • Acknowledge the objection.
  • Cite the penalty for not buying or acting now.
  • Optionally, add a new feature/benefit/reaction sequence.
  • Ask for the order again.

In the fifth close, the salesperson acknowledges the prospect's objection and tries a creative close. He/she may offer a compromise, a discount, a free trial, even a zany close. The sequence is flexible and occasionally the salesperson may want to use the fourth or fifth close earlier in the process.

This closing process sells everything imaginable -- from vacations to software, airline reservations to recruiting services --and it will work for any salesperson.

 


 

Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.