I know a great salesperson who told me that at the beginning of his sales career he was told that to be successful he’d have to learn how to CLOSE the sale. It sounded mysterious at the time, but now he admits it is the easy part when you know how.
“Indeed in the company where I first started my sales career, there was an elite group called ‘the closers’ – a small band of highly experienced, highly regarded sales people whom I was told knew the ‘secrets’ of closing the sale. Their powers were mystical and their fame legendary. I was in awe of them and occasionally had an opportunity to accompany one of them on a sales call to observe up close the magic they could work,” says my mate.
“Mostly this involved asking confronting questions, bamboozling the prospect with clever answers to their objections and then using silence to apply pressure. I couldn’t believe the audacity of these manoeuvres.
“I remember sitting in silence one day for what seemed like 10 minutes (I was briefed to say nothing on one of these calls), waiting for one prospect to respond to a particularly confronting close. It was embarrassing … and it worked! I just couldn’t see myself being that high pressure. I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to make it if I have to do that’.”
The truth is, high pressure, tricky closing techniques used to work – and to some extent they still do. This is one of the reasons why many sales people and sales managers still believe that the most important phase of the sales process is closing the sale. Frankly I disagree.
When I’m speaking to salespeople at conferences they tell me that if I could show them how to close, then they’ll immediately become more successful. They think what they need is to be shown more effective ways of closing the sale. Mistakenly they believe this will provide the much-needed ‘magic wand’ for immediate success.
There is no magic wand but there are tricks to help you get the sale across the line. Here they are:
1. What you do BEFORE you ask for a commitment is more important than how you ask for a commitment
If you’ve done a professional job in:
• Building rapport
• Developing trust
• Asking questions and understanding your prospect’s needs
• Making the right recommendation
… then closing will be easy.
Unfortunately, a great many sales people fail to handle these steps professionally, which is why closing is so hard for them.
2. Knowing WHEN to ask for a commitment is the key to getting a favourable response
Often when I ask participants in my workshops, “When is the right time to ask for the order?”, I get answers like, “Any time!”, “All the time!”, “Right from the start!” These are cliché answers from a bygone era of selling.
Frankly the best time to ask for a commitment is when you know that your prospect has already bought what you are selling … in their mind.
3. How can you tell when they have already bought?
Buying signals – anything your prospect says or does which indicates they have already bought. There are six buying signals that I teach salespeople to watch out for. If you know what to look for closing becomes easy. Here they are in brief:
a. Questions about price and/or terms
They suddenly interrupt you and ask you for the price or ask you about methods of payment or terms. You have already mentioned the price, but at that stage they had not yet ‘bought mentally’ so they didn’t pay attention, so they ask you again. Or they might ask, “Do you take Visa?”. This could be a buying signal, so if you suspect it is, stop and ask them a question that tests the “temperature” of their interest. For example, “Do you feel you’d like to pay by Visa?”.
b. Questions about details
They suddenly interrupt you and ask you for more details about what your offering. “Is it available in green?” Again you may have already mentioned these details. Again ask them a question that tests the ‘temperature’. For example, “So do you feel you’d like it in the green?”
c. They suddenly relax.
Maybe they have been tense and anxious up until now, then suddenly they become more relaxed. Some will even give a sigh of relief. This sudden release of tension can be seen in their body language as they change the way they are standing or sitting. This shift in physiology can often indicate a shift in psychology or mind set. It may well be a buying signal. Test the temperature. Are they hot or cold towards buying now or somewhere in the middle?
d. They suddenly become friendlier.
Maybe they have been ‘stand-offish’ and defensive, even downright unfriendly. Suddenly they become friendlier and open up a little more about themselves personally, or ask you more personal questions in an attempt to get to know you as a person. Sometimes they will suddenly offer you coffee or tea. This shift in behaviour can often indicate a shift in their mind set. It may well be a buying signal. Test the temperature.
e. They start figuring.
Maybe you have done this yourself. You are listening to a sales person and you suddenly think about the money and you start figuring out the savings or what the price difference is between this and something else you have seen.
If you see this, stop what you are saying, wait for them to finish and test the temperature. Ask them what they have figured out.
f. They suddenly come up with ‘silly’ objections or put offs.
That’s right, some objections are actually buying signals.
They intend to slow down the buying process as they suddenly realise how excited they are and decide they had better put up some resistance or they will end up buying. Don’t be afraid of such tactics. Just handle their objection/ question professionally, find out if their concerns are genuine, answer their question and give them the reassurance they need.
Now you may have noticed that I have used a word over and over in relation to objections and the word is SUDDENLY. Most buying signals occur suddenly and then often disappear just as suddenly. Be on the look out for them and test the temperature if you think you see one.
4. Knowing how to use a TRIAL CLOSE to test whether your prospect is HOT or COLD (have bought or not bought yet)
I find a lot of sales people don’t know the difference between a trial close and a close.
It’s vital to know the difference and NOT use a close before you’ve confirmed that your prospect is ready to make a commitment. If you do, they will feel pressured and the stress level will go up. Use a trial close instead.
5. Knowing HOW to ask for a commitment without applying pressure or creating stress for the prospect
You should make closing easy and natural, not uncomfortable.
Once you know it’s time to ask for a commitment you don’t need any tricky closing techniques.
A simple question to gain commitment is all that’s needed. I teach sales people 10 simple questions, which can be used without creating stress.
6. Knowing how to HANDLE OBJECTIONS if they come up – and asking again
The ‘hidden’ ones are the hardest to handle because they are unstated and covered by excuses.
Learn how to smoke out these hidden objections.
If you understand these ‘secrets’ of closing then you’ll close more business in less time, with less stress and you’ll become a top gun in sales.