Take the last sales step; be sure to tag all bases

There are surprisingly few people in selling today who are truly adept at knowing how and when to ask their prospects for the order.

Surveys show that 62 percent of the time, just when salespeople should be closing the sale, they fail to take that step.

It is not hard to imagine that a mere 20 percent of those currently employed in sales make 80 percent of all sales.

While many in sales regard this portion of the sales process as a mystical fine art left only to the most talented "closers", in reality, achievement of the sale is simply the logical conclusion to a well-given presentation. It doesn't involve magic, luck or even prodigious talent -- simply the use of an effective sales procedure that leads to the point where, logically, it's time to ask for the order.

If you believe in the product or service you're selling and if you have established during your presentation that it not only fits your prospect's needs but will help solve the problems they are experiencing, is there any reason why you wouldn't want give your prospects the opportunity to acquire it?

While one would think that would be a given, many salespeople overcomplicate this crucial part of the sales process.

Being fundamentally untrained and unprepared, they allow their emotions to get the better of them.

In truth, none of us relishes hearing the word "no."

However, some salespeople treat this reaction as if it were a personal attack. Considering it's unlikely your prospects have known you any longer than the course of the presentation, they probably don't have enough information to make a truly accurate judgment of your character. Odds are, when you hear "no," it's more likely because your product does not fit their needs or the price is not in their budget - facts you probably overlooked earlier in your presentation.

Infinitely worse are the salespeople who, out of fear they may be imposing on their prospect, drone on and on, long after the product or service has been sold and the prospect is ready to buy.

These kinds of salespeople are liable to talk themselves right out of the sale.

Nervous talking like this shows the prospect that the salespeople lack confidence and gives the impression that they are not only unsure of themselves but probably also unsure of the product or service they're selling.

Finally, there are the salespeople who are hoping to accidentally make the sale.

In essence, they're waiting for the prospect to bring up the option of buying so they won't have to. Since they aren't sure exactly when to close the sale or how, it's more comfortable for them to just skip that step and either see if the prospect will ask how they can buy or simply walk off without making the sale.

In my experience, I have found that rarely do prospects ask, "Where do I sign?" Without being prompted to buy, they are far more likely to say something like, "I want to think it over," or "I want to get another price," which effectively terminates the interview.

Leaving the close of the order to the volition of the prospect opens the door for almost certain failure.

After all, in the mind of your prospect, if you really wanted to sell something, wouldn't you just ask for an order?

If you work on commission, you probably already realize that you can't afford to spend all the time laying the groundwork and then not ask for the order.

Through the course of your presentation, it's likely you've completely sold your prospect. However, if you don't ask them to buy, you might as well have never opened your mouth.

If selling is the way you intend to make your living, you'd better start asking people to buy.

Consider two ethical questions:

First, how ethical is it to try to sell someone something they neither want nor need?

You probably think it's dishonest to push a product on someone who can't use or afford it.

Secondly, consider the ethics of not showing your prospects how they can acquire a product or service that is affordable, would meet their needs and would make their life easier.

Withholding a product from your prospects then, by not asking for the order, is just as unethical as pushing an unwanted item on them.

Time and again, I've emphasized in my articles how crucial it is for every sales professional to go through proper training and that, within this training, they should learn to utilize a sales procedure that will logically carry them from their first acquaintance with the prospect through the necessary support and follow-up steps after the sale.

Learning an effective sales procedure and developing your skills as a sales professional will allow you to shift your thinking from worrying about being rejected by your prospects or imposing on them to confidently knowing that, in most cases, they are interested in buying and simply need to be shown how they can acquire what you're selling.

When it comes to this portion of the sale, think of it as a baseball game.

If you've hit the ball, you run to first base, then to second base and on to third. Once you're down to asking for the order, home plate looms ahead of you.

Why on earth after getting this far in the game would you suddenly run back to third or second or worse, towards the outfield?

By allowing your fear to keep you talking or to prevent you from asking for the sale, you've effectively left the ball field altogether and are running toward the parking lot.

If you've covered all the necessary bases, resist the temptation to ramble.

Now's the time to make a break for home plate and ask for the order.



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