Don't hesitate when it's time to make the sale

In the most recent column, we went over how every prospect makes five buying decisions in a precise, psychological order before they buy your product or service. The prospect may not even be aware they are following these five buying decisions, but you have to understand them if you are to be successful.

The first four decisions are deciding upon you, the company you work for or represent, your product or service and the price of the product or service you are selling.

At this point, your customer has made four of the five buying decisions. Your prospect has decided you are a decent, likable person with integrity and good judgment. Your company sounds honest and capable. Your product or service fills a genuine need or solves a genuine problem, and the price is fair in terms of value received.

The only thing left to decide is when to buy. When that's all that's left to decide, it's time to ask for the order.

Can you see how closing the sale can be, and should be, the logical conclusion to a well-given presentation? This is the exact time to close the sale. After your prospect has decided positively about you, your company, your product or service and the price, the only logical decision left is when to buy.

Yet, if you will recall, surveys show that 62 percent of the time, just when the salesperson should be closing the sale, he or she never asks for the order. Is it any wonder that 20 percent of salespeople make 80 percent of all sales?

One reason this happens is many salespeople fear rejection. If they don't ask for the order, how can the prospect possibly say no?

However, if these salespeople would just say, "Will you buy?" they would be very successful.

I'm sure that in the first few months I was selling insurance, many of the people I called on thought I was some kind of goodwill ambassador, just laying the groundwork for the next salesperson who would ask for the order. I sold my prospects; I just didn't ask them to buy. It finally dawned on me that if I was going to earn my livelihood from commissions, I'd better start asking people to buy, and I did. And I found they would buy if I asked.

Most sales interviews are terminated by the prospects, not by the salesperson. The salesperson goes on and on, and the prospects finally have to say, "That sounds great. Where do I sign?" or "I want to think it over," or "I want to get another price."

And most prospects don't say, "Where do I sign?" They say something else to terminate the interview. If they didn't terminate the interview, the salesperson would be with them forever, dreading the moment of having to ask for the order.

The fear of rejection is groundless. When a prospect says, "I don't want to buy your product," or "I don't want to do business with you," that is not a personal rejection of the salesperson, only of a business decision. The prospects don't even know the salespeople personally, so how can they reject them?

Children understand this. When you tell them no, they know it doesn't mean you don't love them anymore. It just means no. Children, like the 38 percent of salespeople who do ask for the order, persist in asking. They ask in various ways and are quite successful in getting what they want.

Besides the fear of rejection, there is another factor why 62 percent of salespeople don't ask for the order. Many of them are just plain confused. They aren't sure exactly when to close the sale, and they aren't sure exactly how. Because they aren't sure exactly when and how it's done, it is more comfortable for them to just skip that minor step -- and walk off without making a sale.

My grandfather once told me, "You can no more teach what you don't know than you can go back to where you ain't been." Many companies train their new salespeople by sending them out with experienced ones. The rookies watch the experienced salespeople in action, then are told, "There. That's all there is to it. Just do it like I did."

That type of selling is not a transferable skill. You have to know when to ask for the order, and you have to know how. There is a right time to ask for the order when the other four buying decisions have been made positively, and the only logical decision left is when to buy.

If salespeople asked for the order just once, think how their success rate would change. How many would move out of the low-producing, ineffective 80 percent?

When your prospect has made all other buying decisions positively, it is time to ask for the order. Or, as Mark Twain would say, it is time to "take up the collection." This famous humorist went to church one Sunday and heard a missionary speak. In describing the sermon, Twain convincingly emphasized the importance of knowing when to stop talking. He wrote:

"He was the most eloquent orator I ever listened to. He painted the benighted condition of the heathen so clearly that my deepest passion was aroused. I resolved to break a lifelong habit and contribute a dollar to teach the gospel to my benighted brethren.

"As the speaker proceeded, I decided to make it five dollars. And then 10. Finally, I knew it to be my duty to give to the cause all the cash I had with me -- 20 dollars. The pleading of the orator wrought upon me still further, and I decided not only to give all the cash I had with me, but to borrow 20 dollars from my friend, who sat at my side.

"That was the time to take up the collection. However, the speaker proceeded, and I finally dropped off to sleep. When the usher awoke me with the collection plate, I not only refused to contribute, but I'm ashamed to state that I actually stole 15 cents."

Now is the time to take up the collection. When the prospect has made all other buying decisions positively, and the only remaining decision is when to buy, it is time to ask for the order. Don't be the 62 percent that never asks for the order. Be the 20 percent that makes 80 percent of all sales, and get on the road to successful selling.



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