Let’s Talk Closing

What is a close?

To many it’s “Getting the Sale”.

True, but this is a very narrow definition of a close.

When we think of Discover Selling© our purpose for any close is: “Achieving the Objective for the Engagement”.

This could be;

◊ Prospect agreeing to accept additional information from you.

◊ Prospect agreeing to get more information for you.

◊ Setting a meeting with the Brand Manager or Marketing Director.

◊ Visiting their retail stores and providing insight and observation.

◊ Submitting ideas and letting the prospect prioritize which most closely fit with their marketing and brand positioning.

The list is endless. It all depends on where you are in the sales cycle and what action is needed to move you to the final agreement to hire.

This approach is a must when you have Procurement and or a Search Consultant moderating the sale.

Think therefore of getting the sale as a combination of 1,425 little closes.

Persistence

How much persistence should you use?

It depends on what you’re selling and to whom.

A “One Shot” sale such as is often thought of with the automotive or insurance business, heavy persistence is frequently used to whittle down the prospects resistance. This too is why the subject of “Selling” gets a bad rap!

A specialty or service salesperson can use above average persistence, but prudently and over time. Advertising falls into this category as does CPG, Retail and Media sales.

Since you will build your business on sound relationships over a period of time, with repeat orders as a consistent source of revenue, it isn’t wise to initially be over-persistent.

This does not mean that after the first or second “NO” one should give up. It means that the client or prospect is then placed in a lower sales conversion priority but nonetheless continually courted and serviced.

Accept Defeat Gracefully.

The Unqualified Prospect

There is the exception of a prospect being clearly “unqualified” as a potential client.

Sell smart, not hard!

In a service business, spinning one’s wheels on an unqualified prospect is a detriment to effective time management and use of selling time. There is always another day that might be won if you lose this one gracefully.

Remember there are times one will lose the battle but win the war, especially if this same client ends up at a different company a year from now and remembers your graceful exit.

However, in order to execute this “walk away” strategy, one cannot only have 5 prospects on the list. The more scarce your prospects are the more likely you will stay the course and persist away unsuccessfully.

The key is to create a list that has so many prospects on it that if you walk away from 50% of them, you’d never know the difference, nor would you care.

It’s like dating, if you only have one person to call, you’ll keep calling until you get the person on the phone or not. If you had 10, you’d more likely just move on to the next.

Decisions can be changed – they are not always irrevocable and buyers admire the salesperson that can accept a “NO” – provided the reason for the NO is reasonable.

In a service relationship, it is often better to maintain good relationships rather than risk the chance of “closing” an account and losing business altogether.

Buyer’s remorse is your worst post- sale nemesis and is often the result of an overzealous salesperson forcing a close knowing that they cannot deliver.

Once you get the close

After getting agreement, don’t keep the buyer talking about unimportant and unrelated trivialities. He or she is a busy person. Minimize this end of sales talk. More discussion oftentimes leads to further questions.

You may perhaps reassure the buyer that he or she has made a wise decision.

The reverse sometimes applies and a salesperson can’t get away from a talkative buyer.

Here is a magic phrase which can save you hours. As you stand up and hold out your hand, say:

“Mr. Jones, you must have a lot on your plate – I’ll leave you to it. Thank you for your business and assistance”.

That gives you an inoffensive exit. Remember, so far, there has not been a single death as a result of a salesperson asking for the order, but many have been impoverished by not asking.

Therefore, ALWAYS ask for the order unless it is obvious that the buyer is not ready to buy.

5 Types of Closes

Here is a starter kit of 5 easy to remember closes you can apply to any engagement with a prospect or client.

Question

Are you interested in having us draw up a proposal for your review?

Assumptive

I take it you will need us to provide an analytics resource to conduct optimization modeling over the next 18 months?

Alternative

Which month would be best for us to start the initial research with customers and the competition – June or July?

Suggestive

May I suggest we move ahead by proposing the exact steps we’d take to address the issues mentioned?

Summary

We will ensure that:

  1. All your interactive and brand communications are in sync with each other,
  2. Meetings with each of the directors will happen by May 21st,
  3. All plans will be approved by both you and brand management.
When would you like to meet and discuss details of the project?

The Last Word

In almost all service sales meetings and presentations that do not end well, the salesperson States rather than Asks for the sale, often using it as a means to summarize why their company deserves the business over all others.

If the prospect does not know that you are their choice by then,  your chances of getting it are remote at best.

Therefore, if the prospect looks ready, Ask and then Assess.

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Selling Made Effortless

Simply: Selling is the act of convincing.

I assume, since you are interested in reading this, you must also be familiar with the myriad of documented techniques of selling.

This is not a repeat of those.

This is simply a method discovered that matches the exact natural and innate sales cycle. It is one that occurs with or without you.

This approach allows you to convince based on the exact sequence in which people decide to buy.

It’s not Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We have found that sequence lacking in that there are too many exceptions to his rules, especially since 4 decades have passed since his discovery and we as a society have moved on.

It was discovered both during the author’s own sales career as a straight commissioned sales representative and later while coaching and training sales representatives selling products from the Yellow Pages to Magazine Ads, TV shows to Advertising agency Creative work, Strategic Advertising and Brand plans to Media plans, Pharmaceuticals, Insecticides, Oil, Cars, Financial Services, Commodities and Farm Equipment.

One of the most fascinating and revelatory insights discovered was that independent of what was being sold, the sales cycle stays the same – always – case after case.

This was the breakthrough that led to the development of Discovery Selling©, for which this series of blogs is being devoted.

The key:

If you progress through the sales cycle with the same alacrity we do in converting a customer from awareness through purchase, you end up with two very happy campers where you and the buyer will swear all seemed to have been effortless, efficient and productive.

Is this just another form of Consultative Selling?

I am often asked if this is just a renamed “consultative selling” approach, one that gained tremendous traction in the 80’s and 90’s.

ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Consultative selling has its place. It works well for the likes of the consulting, aerospace, legal, oil and gas businesses, and the like where time was abundant.

It essentially practices the art of probing sufficiently deep to identify the buyer’s needs and then show how the seller’s product or service fulfills those needs.

Often it is taught based on finding the “pain need” and showing how the seller’s product makes the pain go away – or – shows that if the buyer does not buy, the pain will intensify.

It was easily sold as an approach since it allowed sales representatives to believe they were now consulting vs. hard selling, a role many gravitated towards as seemingly it was less strenuous and more easily executed.

It was.

The author knows it well as this was the approach we very successfully used it to train all of Exxon Mobil’s International Aviation Fuel managers, 100’s of the old Anderson Consulting (now Accenture) consultants, Booz Allen & Hamilton consultants, Coopers and Lybrand business and management consultants, and Kidder Peabody deal makers.

However, it works well only when you have very large contracts entailing multiple integrated components, divisions and decision points and a long tail sales cycle – typically 12+ months.

However, as we know, the 21st Century buying cycle dramatically shortened and with it brought the demise of the long tail consultative approach.

A New Approach

Discovery Selling© is an approach and rigor where one must appear to consult but close the sale quickly and efficiently, while simultaneously being highly competitive, allowing the buyer to have much interaction and ownership in and of the sales process.

It then focuses on reselling, keeping the business for the long haul.

It was named Discovery Selling© as this is its exact purpose and how the sale is managed and the sales process performed.

First you discover what to sell and how to sell it. Not against a pain, but instead against both the immediate and foreseeable goals (expectations of your product or service) of the buyer.

By default, you are assuming you never stop discovering even after the sale has concluded, thus the approach also assumes a long-term continuum of sales.

This unique approach has been captured visually through the use of an 8-runged ladder simply called the Louws’ Sales Ladder©.

Each “rung” represents a specific stage of the buying cycle for which practical sales techniques have been developed to naturally help the seller move the buyer along to closure.

This sales ladder can be viewed here.

This blog will be written in a series of 9, with this first blog addressing the foundation upon which the ladder rests.

The Winning Attitude

One’s attitude, especially early on in the sales process, is one of the most impactful and consistent elements under your control.

In sports many practice the skill of imaging. Seeing the race from beginning to end.

Similarly, if one imagines a meeting going well, chances are it will.

On the other hand, imagining you will have a tough time of it has potentially unfortunate consequences.

You must be willing to come to grips with the fact that your attitude will unequivocally affect your performance and importantly how the buyer responds to and engages with you.

So what attitude works best?

First, what attitudes do not work?

1)  Solicitousness – Pretending interest for self serving ends.

This is by far the most commonly taught.

Put on a smile. Make the customer believe you are interested. (Note the subtle but obvious implication that you don’t have to really be interested)

2)  Ask before selling.

In some cases this works well. However with time limitations and more and more communications occurring remotely without much direct interaction with the buyer, it tends to run into all sorts of roadblocks.

In worst case scenarios you are better off giving a 60″ introduction that clearly establishes your potential value to the buyer before asking your first question.

3)  Enthusiasm.

This is a wonderful personality trait for those buyers who appreciate high energy sales representatives.

However, and this is more common than not, this can be misperceived as being overbearing and anxious.

What then works?

Simply: A Can – Do attitude.

This is perceived by a buyer as one of the most productive of all.

The seller comes across as proactive, interested in accomplishing the goals of the buyer, providing only what the buyer is interested in without trying to oversell them and most importantly appears as a genuine attempt by the seller to satisfy what the buyer wants.

Case in point:

Advertising Manager of a CPG company wants the first credentials/capabilities presentation sent to them by PDF.

Instead of trying to convince the Advertising Manager to see the agency in person, the agency asks: “Would you like an additional copy in Word so that you can make notes to pass on to others?”

Note: This opens the door to productive dialogue dealing with the interests of the buyer not the seller. Inevitably, this opens the door to insights about the buyer for the benefit of the seller.

Another Case in point:

Buyer of databases wants the cost of each lead to be reduced from .30c per lead to .24c.

Typical way reps are taught to respond to this type of objection: “I do not think my management will approve this, but I will run it by them if you will agree to increasing your purchase from 5,000 names to 10,000.” (real case as experienced by this author when trying to negotiate this deal as the buyer)

Result? Conflict, right off the bat.

The Can-Do attitude approach:

“I will certainly look at getting the list for 24c a lead. Give me a few hours. Where can I contact you back?”

The difference is that the buyer believes you are attempting first to do what they are asking.

This and this alone eases the pain of your coming back and telling them you cannot do it for 24c without raising the number of leads to 10,000.

Think about the simple process of buying a car and telling the sales rep you want the car for invoice.

Remember the typical response.  I don’t think my manager will go for that.

And what is your immediate response?

Get the point?

Next steps:

1)  Envision your interactions will go well.

2)  Evaluate your going in attitude to every interaction with a client/buyer/prospect and ensure it is supportive of a real Can-Do attitude as will be experienced and perceived by the buyer.

3)  Eradicate any form of pretended interest – it’s as obvious to others as the odious smell of a skunk.

Next Installment:

Rung 1 of the Discovery Sales Ladder© – Strategically Planning how to position one’s offerings to match a buyer’s natural instinct to evaluate and compare.

Toni Louw
Louws – CEO & Founder

About the author:

Over the past 34 years, Toni Louw has trained, coached and consulted with over 480 Brand advertising, promotion, direct marketing, digital, interactive, social, media and public relations agencies worldwide. This has also included over 50 of the top 150 brands internationally.

Toni has recently re-constructed and updated, for 21st Century business application, 18 different business critical subjects that has made Louws one of the most ubiquitous leader of innovative performance based training, coaching and consulting services worldwide.

Click on the link provided: Discovery Selling© for more information on Sales Consulting, Training and Coaching.

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