How Important is Closing the Sale?

If you listen to most sales trainers, Sales Managers, and countless authors of sales books… you would think closing is the most important skill in sales.  Yet, scientific proof demonstrates typical sales closing techniques are ineffective and down right damaging to your sales success.  Here’s why.

The closing techniques taught by those sales trainers and authors are very effective at shortening the sales cycle and increasing sales when AND ONLY when you are selling relatively low cost products.  When you try those same techniques to sell an expensive product or service you FAIL.  You fail because those closing techniques pressure the prospect to buy.  Prospects will NOT be PRESSURED into making a buying decision when there is a lot on the line.  In fact, once you attempt to pressure the prospect to close the sale you dramatically increase the odds you walk away without a sale today and with no hope for a sale in the future.

All because you crossed the line and destroyed your opportunity to open a relationship with the other person.

Here’s where the confusion really reigns.  Most people think closing is about pressuring the prospect into making a commitment to purchase.  WRONG sales breath.  That is not what closing is about.

Closing is Obtaining a Commitment from the Prospect to take an Action

 

Please reread that definition.  Okay, now that you’ve read that again I want to make certain you understand why this is the definition you want to live by.  Low cost products are sold in a single encounter.

 

You don’t go to the store to buy batteries and walk away telling the store clerk you have to think it over.  No; you go to the store find the right battery, take those batteries to the register for checkout, pay the clerk, and leave.  End of story.

 

High ticket product and service sales almost always involve a multi-step process.  The idea you would meet and ask for the sale on the first appointment is almost ludicrous.  It might happen on rare occasions but you certainly don’t expect that as standard practice.  And if you try to shorten the sales cycle by pushing to close the purchase then you also shorten the time it takes to get to “no sale” because you are forcing the issue and offending the prospect.

 

When you move into big sales you can usually anticipate the sales process will go through 4 phases.  In the first phase you introduce your solution and open the conversation.  In phase two you determine relevance and specific needs.  In phase three you demonstrate your ability to produce your solution.  In the final phase you obtain a commitment.

 

Another thing you will notice about the definition for closing that I’ve used here is that it isn’t specific to the sale.  Due to the very fact that large sales often involve more than one meeting you need a way to successfully conclude every interaction.  Each interaction should CLOSE by concluding with a plan for the prospect to commit to an action.  Both you and the prospect must have a clear understanding of what happens next at the end of every interaction.

 

The way you successfully close an interaction is by setting the right objectives for action.  Simply gaining agreement for a future meeting isn’t enough.  There are 4 ways a sales conversation is likely to close.

  1. Money in the bank – you gain a client and earn the sale
  2. Next steps -  the prospect agrees to take an action that moves them closer to a purchase decision
  3. No commitment – you didn’t get the sale and the prospect did not agree to an action that moves the sale forward
  4. No sale – you will not be doing business together

Money in the bank and next steps are successful objectives for closing the interaction.  No sale is also a success because you know you need to move on and find another prospect.  No commitment is an absolute failure because you are either allowing the prospect to string you along, or you are prolonging a sale that should have concluded already.

When You Hear…

 

 ”I need to think about it”

“Why don’t you stop back next month”

“I’ll call you when we need to take things further”

These are all examples of no commitment.  You can’t allow a conversation to conclude this way.  These statements are big clues that should tell you that you did not do your job.  A prospect will not make a commitment to act unless you:

  • help them identify an immediate need for what you offer
  • answer their questions and concerns
  • review how they benefit
  • recommend a next step

Obviously, you can’t recommend a good next step if you don’t have a clear understanding of what your best next step options are.  If you haven’t already, list the actions a prospect must take to do business with you.  Never forget each action they take should improve your relationship not harm it.

Coach Cheryl

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15 Things You Need to Know about Closing the Sale

Over the last few posts we’ve gone over 5 hidden objections you face when closing the sale.

Here’s a free report you that covers even more about closing…

“15 Things You Need to Know about Closing the Sale”

When you click on the link the report will open.

Enjoy!

Coach Cheryl

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Overcome Negative Attitudes to Close the Sale

Even the most positive folks you know harbor negative attitudes.  Some of us tend to think more negatively than others.  Some respond more negatively to certain things than others.  So how do you deal with a potential buyer who seems to hold negative attitudes?

Avoid War

 

closing the sale train wreckEvery time I’ve ever seen this happen it results in a virtual train wreck.  The prospect makes a negative statement and you respond by trying to convince the prospect they’re wrong.

 

For example, the prospect says what you are selling costs too much.  Rather than finding out what they really mean by that statement you take it as an opportunity to challenge their statement.  So you come back with a statement about how great a value your service is.

 

This is a dangerous approach.  You can very well win the argument and lose the sale because the more you try to convince the prospect of your position the more committed they become to their position.

 

A defensive reaction to a negative attitude escalates the problem rather than deflating it.  Whenever a prospect makes a statement against what you sell you need to respect their point of view.  To respect their point of view you need to acknowledge it, and find out more about what they mean.

 

Ownership

 

One way to work through negative attitudes is to help the potential client imagine ownership.  They need to think through how ownership would impact them in as much detail as possible.  They need to explore both the positive and negative potential.

 

Respect Motivation

 

Whether a person has a positive attitude or negative attitude they are either motivated to move toward something or away from something.  You need to figure out if the person you are speaking with is more interested in moving toward a specific desired outcome, or if they are more concerned with avoiding a specific undesired outcome.

 

So when you are presented with a negative challenge:

  • Diffuse the challenge by accepting it as a valid concern
  • Respect the challenge by exploring the expressed concern
  • Uncover the impact both positive and negative
  • Accept challenges as unanswered questions
  • Identify the prime motivator

Coach Cheryl

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Assumptions About Closing the Sale

If you look the word assumption up in a dictionary you’ll find several different meanings.

  • Assumption of obligation (taking responsibility)
  • Assumption of command (asserting a claim)
  • False assumption

We make assumptions when we take something for granted.  This can be a VERY costly mistake.  Just ask Coca-Cola.

close the sale by avoiding the assumptions like CokeBack in the 1980′s Coke was concerned about their future market share.  Pepsi was going head-to-head with Coke in their Pepsi Challenge commercials.  In these commercials they showed Coke drinkers choosing Pepsi over Coke in taste tests.  57% said they preferred Pepsi over Coke.

Coke executives were frantic.  They made the assumption a shift had occurred in cola drinkers taste preferences.  They made the assumption they needed to change their secret Coke formula, or they feared they would lost their dominant market share.

Thus New Coke was born.  Much to Coke’s shock and horror there was a virtual revolt among loyal Coke drinkers.  New Coke was such a disaster they immediately stocked shelves with “Classic Coke”.  New Coke sales went to zero.

The flaw in their assumption was the difference between a sip test and a whole can test.  While testers might prefer a sip of Pepsi those same tasters did NOT prefer a whole can of Pepsi over a whole can of Coke.  The assumption that Coke drinkers were switching to Pepsi was FALSE.

Oddly enough you make assumptions that prevent you from making sales too.  When a potential clients says…

  • It costs too much
  • I already have…
  • I need someone with … certification
  • I can’t afford it
  • I can wait on this

You make the assumption those words mean the prospect doesn’t want to buy.  What it means is these potential clients have QUESTIONS.  The problem is you don’t respect their questions because of YOUR assumptions.

When you hear, “It costs too much.”  The appropriate response is, “Costs too much?”  Because you need to help your potential buyer tell you about their concerns.

“It costs too much” may really mean they need a payment option, they don’t see the value, they simply don’t need what you have to offer, etc.  However, until you know exactly what that statement means to that particular person you can’t possibly respect your prospect or yourself.

Assumptions are a preventable challenge when it comes closing the sale.  Don’t take the bait and assume anything.

Coach Cheryl

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Can They Hear You Close the Sale?

I’m guilty and I’ve no doubt you’re guilty too.  We all, at least occasionally, selectively listen to others.  Sometimes we listen selectively because we aren’t ready to listen to the speaker.  Other times we do it because we want to hone in on what we want to hear and ignore what we don’t.

Remember when your Dad said you could take the car if you washed it when you brought it back?  You heard “You can take the car”.  Somehow you did NOT hear “You have to wash it when you bring it back.”  Sorry, Dad.

Most of the time selective listening, while annoying, is pretty harmless.  However, selective listening leads to misunderstandings.  And those misunderstandings can lead to damaged relationships.

It’s All My Fault

 

In most cases when someone misunderstands what you said because of selective listening we get mad and blame the other person.  Even though you may be justified that doesn’t solve the problem.  The reality is you have to take full responsibility for what your potential clients “hears”.

 

Shut Up & Listen

 

The quickest easiest solution to overcoming selective listening is to simply shut up and listen.  The more you talk the less the other person actually hears.  Think about it.  When you listen to someone else, watch a TV show, or listen to a CD your attention comes and goes.  That means you never get the whole message.

 

The best way to get your message across is to help the other person do more of the talking.  Speaking requires thought, focus, and attention.  Plus it engages your potential buyer and increases their interest.

 

Place the burden for listening on YOUR shoulders.  Ask questions you really want to know the answer to, and your potential client wants to answer.  As you listen make sure you use both your eyes AND your ears.

 

First, listen for the content.  Then listen for emotion.

 

One thing I want you never to forget.  When your potential buyer is speaking they are saying whatever they are saying for a very important reason.  Sometimes it may seem like they’ve veered off topic.

 

When a potential client veers off topic they may be doing it to sidetrack you, and prevent you from asking for the sale.  When that happens recognize you are no where near ready to ask for the sale.  You literally need to go back to square one because this potential client perceives no value in your offer.

 

Other times when a potential client appears to go off topic they are really very much ON topic.  They are sharing something very important to them.  Even though you may not immediately see the connection this is a critical part of their decision making process.  You have to help them help you see the connection.

 

Finally, when a potential client tells a great story resist all instincts you have to tell your own story.  When you tell your story what you are doing is one upping your prospect.  Need I tell you how bad an idea that is?

 

Coach Cheryl

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How to Get the Focus to Close the Sale

Lack of focus is a big challenge for most people.  There are just so many distractions, opportunities, and crisis going on it’s hard to stay on track and focused.  Most of us can only sustain focus for short bursts of concentrated effort.  Focus is hard work.

The Role of Focus in Closing the Sale

 

All too often you unwittingly set yourself up for failure when it comes time to ask for the sale.  Here are just 3 of the most common mistakes you make:

  • You give your prospect too many choices
  • Those choices feel too complicated to the prospect
  • The prospect is not clear about the outcome

Before you think about asking a potential client to buy make sure you know enough about their needs so you can limit their choices to no more than three.

Sometimes it’s just plain hard for your potential client to really understand what you are selling.  It isn’t because they lack intelligence.  Rather they simply don’t have the expertise in this area that you do.  That means you have to make it crystal clear.

Stories, analogies, and examples are great ways to do that.  We naturally think in pictures so use that to your advantage.  Let’s say I came to your office to talk to you about how I can help you get the clients you want so you can do what you get paid to do.  Here’s how I might transform this concept into something more tangible.

use a card to make your point and close the saleBefore coming to your office I might stop at the greeting card store and purchase one of those greeting cards that you can record a message in that plays when it’s opened.  As we are talking I will need to help you realize that it takes marketing, sales, and referrals to fill and keep your business full of clients.  After we’ve talked for a while but before we are ready to close I need to make sure you fully appreciate this concept.

I hand you the greeting card in the envelop.  Then I might ask, “If you were sorting through your mail and noticed this hand addressed envelop how likely is it that you would stop and open that envelop?”  I’ve yet to meet anyone who does not open a personal communication in the mail.  I would then explain how this card represents your need to let the people most likely to become your clients know about you and that’s called marketing.  Marketing grabs the attention of these ideal potential clients and makes a favorable first impression.

I would then ask you to remove the card from the envelop and open it.  I would point out how the recording in the card is like sales.  I would have pre-recorded a message in the card that includes a request for action.  Then I would explain how this message represents your opportunity to invite the receiver to take an action that brings you at least one step closer in the process of working together.

I would point out how neither the envelop or the card itself for this particular card are specifically addressed to my potential client.  The reason is because this card can serve as a tool your existing clients can use to easily refer you to the people they know.  This particular card is intended to get passed along from client to potential client.  A note inside the card would also explain this concept.

If we had sat together and I had shared this card and this story about the card with you, do you think you could remember my card story?

Was it a good way to show you how it all works together?

Could you repeat my story?

BINGO

 

That’s exactly what you want.  You want to use a story, analogy, or example to make your offer understandable, memorable, and repeatable.  You may not realize just how important repeatable is.  You see when your potential clients decide to choose you they will need to logically explain their decision to someone else, and you want to make it super easy for them to do that.

 

Plus your story makes it very clear what your buyer is getting.  A confused mind can not buy.  Until your potential client can answer these two questions they aren’t ready to buy:

  • What do I get?
  • Why do I want that?

Coach Cheryl

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Understand How Resistance Impacts Your Ability to Close the Sale

Resistance to change is one of those human frailties I mentioned in the last post that make it harder for you to close the sale if you don’t understand it, and don’t know how to deal with it.

Extreme Motivation

 

It is much easier to remain complacent and keep doing whatever you’re doing now than it is to make a change.  Change is uncomfortable.  It takes extreme motivation to either avoid something very painful, or get something very pleasurable to spur most people to get off their duffs and DO SOMETHING.

 

The option of doing nothing, aka not buying, is SOOO much easier than the option of buying.  Even when your prospect really wants to buy they waffle back and forth thinking should I or shouldn’t I.  It’s much easier to stick with what you know than venture into the unknown.  As far as your potential client is concerned you are selling an unknown.

 

Risky Business

 

Making a change is risky no matter what that change might be.  When your prospect is weighing the pros and cons of purchasing they are really evaluating how this purchase impacts them:

  • Are they risking being wrong and having to admit it?
  • Are they risking investing more than the value they’ll get?
  • Are they risking how others think of them?
  • Are they risking giving up things they like?
  • Are they risking having to do things or get things they don’t like?

The list could go on, however, you get the idea.  One thing I want to make sure you don’t miss.  These risks are all about how this purchase decision impacts them as a person on a very personal level.

A common mistake people make is talking in terms of what their prospect is buying from a feature or process perspective.  What they’re really concerned about is how this purchase impacts them as a person.  Will this purchase decision make them feel more confident, respected, healthier, better looking, etc.?

Peel the Onion

 

peel the onion close the saleYou’ve probably heard the phrase you have to peel the onion many times in sales.  What people often don’t understand is that when you peel the onion you are working to uncover the core motivators for the person you are talking to.  You will never get to that point unless you earn the trust and respect of that person.

 

That means you need take it easy and allow that level of trust to develop.  Start by asking the easy questions until you earn the right to ask the important questions.  You will need to ask questions like:

  • How would this impact your customers?
  • How would it impact your ability to manage your employees?
  • How might this impact your profits?
  • How would this help you grow?
  • If I could show you…. how would that impact the way you work with your clients?
  • If I could show you… how would that impact your family?
  • If I could show you… how would that impact your standing among your peer?
  • What happens if you do nothing?

Think of the questions relevant to your business and your potential clients.

Unless you can openly talk about whatever is creating the resistance you can’t possibly overcome it by helping your prospect talk it through.  Until you uncover what really gets your potential client fired up and ready to act you won’t immediately seal the deal.

Coach Cheryl

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Which of the 5 Objections are Keeping You from Closing the Sale?

I have to agree with Gary Layo, listening is one of THE most important skills when it comes to selling.  I know this completely contradicts what most people think about sales.  People who aren’t very good at selling think the more you talk the more you’ll sell.  The reality is the more you talk the more likely you are to talk yourself out of a sale.

Don't just listen with your ears when it comes to sellingWhen it comes to listening some of the most important listening you’ll ever do doesn’t happen with your ears.  Quite often the most important listening comes from your eyes and your gut feelings.  The better job you do tapping into the unspoken messages you receive the easier it is to actually sell something.

Here’s why this is true.  All humans are innately frail.  These human frailties, though they exist, are rarely spoken about openly.  Nope, we keep them locked inside because we think if we never speak of them no one will realize we have them.  These human frailties create objections to taking action and buying.  If you don’t recognize and respect these hidden objections you will sell far less than you could.

These are the 5 hidden objections based on our human frailty:

  1. Resistance to change
  2. Lack of focus
  3. Selective listening
  4. Assumptions
  5. Negative attitudes

You must always acknowledge and respect the fact that even though your potential buyer is not voicing these objections they exist.  That means you must bring them to the surface so you can work with the potential buyer to overcome them.

Before you do that though you need to acknowledge and respect these objections in yourself.

Why are you resisting making the changes you know you need to make to change your results?

How would it impact you if you focused on just one thing until you could succeed with that one thing?

What aren’t you hearing that if you did would change everything for you?

How are your assumptions preventing you from getting the very things you want?

What negative attitudes are keeping you from doing what you need to do to get what you want?

Coach Cheryl

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Information Small Business Owners Need for Sales Prospecting and Closing the Sale

I don’t have to tell you most people are sick of the recession, rising unemployment, and the credit crunch.  Some will do nothing more than wallow in self-pity and cry “woe is me”.  You aren’t like that though.  You’re a fighter.

When you get served up lemons you make lemonade.  Well, your tax dollars are serving up the lemons in the form of a recent government report.  Here’s what the SBA is saying…

“U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy’s 2009 edition of The Small Business Economy: A Report to the President.

Some surveys have shown that owners are less willing than
in previous years to expand their small businesses, to hire additional workers, to invest in new plant and equipment, or to borrow money.”

 

turn lemonade into sales prospects and closed sales
Let’s take these sour lemons and make some lemonade.

 

We aren’t Expanding

 

You contact a sales prospect and say, “I’m wondering if you would be open to some ideas to grow your business without expanding”

 

At the closing table your prospect tells you they can’t buy because they aren’t expanding.  You say, “Aren’t expanding?” and listen to how they fill in the blank.  Then you lead into, “That’s exactly why you need this because the option we just talked about will help you grow your business without expanding here’s how…”

 

We aren’t Hiring

 

You say to your sales prospect, “I’m wondering if you would be open to some ideas to make it possible for one man to do the work of 3.”

 

At the closing table… “How would it impact you if I could show you a way for the employees you do have to do the  work of 3 people without working harder?”

 

We aren’t Investing in New Buildings or Equipment

 

To a sales prospect… “Would you be open to some ideas to extend the life of your existing equipment while reducing repair and maintenance costs?”

 

At the closing table…  “How much could you save if I could show you a way to extend the life of your existing equipment while reducing repair and maintenance costs at the same time?”

 

I’m not Borrowing Money

 

To your sales prospect… “I’m wondering if you would be open to some ideas to get (insert appropriate outcome) without borrowing or risking a penny.”

 

At the closing table… “Borrowing money?”  Listen to their response then adapt accordingly.  So for example, if the response is the potential buyer does not have the funds to make a purchase of that size at this time you might then continue… “If it weren’t for funding is there anything else keeping us from moving forward?”  If the response is “no” then you might respond… “What would work for you as far as funding?”  Then come to terms on a payment option.

 

These are merely objections not rejection.  What are the objections you’re hearing?

 

How will you turn those objections around and transform them into sales?

 

Coach Cheryl

Do it Yourself

Do it with a Little Help

Do it with Guidance

 

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