Understanding Closing the Sale
Allow me to introduce you to why I feel the art of professional closing so vitally needed, especially by today’s better trained and more informed and professional salespeople. These are also the same salespeople who have to deal with the most educated sales prospects in the history of selling, either in Australia, or anywhere else in the world today.
I bring up Australia here for a specific reason because it has one of the worlds smallest populations in an extremely vast continent. The cities compared to other major cities around the world are smaller, the country centres even smaller and the smaller country towns further apart than almost anywhere else in the world today. Here, salespeople tend to be younger than anywhere else in the world simply because of the excessive time spent traveling. It is for this reason I am so pleased the selling standards I have encountered in Australia are so high.
In this, my 54th year in sales, and I am expanding my initial sales closing book, “Over 50 Ways of Closing the Sale.” In fact, the research for my first sales closing book stems back to the mid 1970’s when I isolated over 200 Closing Techniques and over 1,000 associated (and related) Adjuncts to Help salespeople to Close Sales more effectively and Sell Better overall.
In 1983 I produced an Audio Tape series entitled “Over 50 Ways of Closing the Sale,” which included a 140 page A4 sized Workbook, with over 100 Help-Cards, Closing Cards and Note Cards. That series sold over 2,500 sets in one Australian city (Melbourne) alone, and was mostly sold door to door and then purely on referrals. I later found out that the “Over 50 Ways of Closing the Sale” audio pack had broken many of the existing book sales records and its sales were in a sector of its own – in the ‘Selling Audio Tapes Package’ field.
In 1994 I was encouraged to translate the Audio Tape series into a self published Paperback Book which the first edition went on to sell over 6,000 copies in Australia alone. That was a commendable number for an Australian business book. Eventually bad health removed me from all forms of Sales Training, Public Speaking and Sales Management. But I do really enjoying selling (in all forms) whenever my body allows me to – due to heart problems that have been with me for over 30 years. That’s why at 68 I still sell, and do it reasonably well when I am able to. And if that means working 3 days a week or one week on and one week off, I do it.
I am also proud to have a track record, that until now, suggests I have been able to maintain a high status in sales, to which I mainly attribute the ability to constantly going back to basics, whether I am on track on not. So whether I have been lucky enough to win Sales Awards, Rewrite the Record Books either on a National or a World-wide scale, work in Sales Management and other Senior Sales Management or as a Corporate and Small Business Sales Trainer and Advisor (for more than 35 years of the 51 I have enjoyed in sales) the most common reason I have noticed for sales not being made is most salespeople I have managed to help usually don’t sell simply because they fail to ask for the order.
In my sales training workshops, people express a variety of reasons why they don’t ask for the sale. The purpose of this introductory sector is to reveal the most common reasons why sales people don’t ask for the order and how easily it can be addressed and corrected.
Sellers Dread Fear of Rejection
In my first Sales Closing Book, “Over 50 Ways of Closing the Sale,” I devoted a complete section to this one subject – and you would do well to spend some time studying what I had to say at the time. Things may have changed somewhat over the past 20 years in all areas of sale, but the Fear of Rejection is still (in my opinion) is by far the most common reason why people don’t ask for the order.
Personally, I don’t know many people actually enjoy being rejected, or would even go out of their way to be rejected and salespeople are no different. Rejection is still rejection – no matter how small or how intense – it is still rejection, and whenever rejection is taken personally it hurts.
This dreaded Fear of Rejection is a real FEAR and whenever you are affected by this real FEAR it HURTS – REALLY HURTS.
However, it is also critical to realize that any form of rejection, especially a ‘No’ in a sales call is not a personal attack against you. It simply means that your prospect or customer has decided that he or she does not need or want your product, service or solution at this present time. And what’s more, in most cases it doesn’t mean they dislike you as a person either.
There are times when because we may have taken the rejection personally and can become pushy, or rude or even arrogant as a form of comeback or retribution for whatever reason, be aware your response was neither professional nor acceptable. And if you were guilty of that or even something similar, get over it, learn from it and do whatever you can to avoid it in future.
As a professional salesperson you should be above that and never be consumed by something so trivial as a business rejection – be it somewhat justified in your eyes at the time or not. It simply cannot and should not happen.
Sellers are Afraid of Being Too Pushy
Far too many salespeople are afraid of being perceived as being pushy especially if they have been complained about by a customer; told by a prospect they would have made the sale if they had not been so pushy or had one of their superiors or another senior salesperson suggest they could have done so much better if they had not been so pushy.
Unless as a salesperson you choose to use manipulative sales tactics, overly aggressive closing lines, or use the wrong tone of voice or talk down to people, very few people will seldom think you are being pushy when you ask for an order. And to most people making a buying decision is quite often a traumatic experience.
The key to doing a good job and not to appear overly pushy here is to ensure that you done an effective job at identifying a potential problem and presenting your solution in terms that make sense to your prospect, and then, and only then, addressing any potential concerns they may have. If you achieve these goals, you have then earned the right to ask for the order. personal bias was that he personally abhorred aggressive sales people. However, he went on to say that he had also learned that you need to be somewhat aggressive in order to ask for the order. Mmmmmm, guess who I won’t be taking too much notice of when it comes to advanced sales techniques or closing hints.
They are Afraid of Objections
The salespersons ability to effectively handle objections is without doubt one of the single biggest factors in getting your prospects to buy from you. An objection is simply an indication that the prospect has either bought or is at the very least considering buying. At this point the objection should be both welcomed and carefully listened to by the salesperson.
If the salesperson considers the objection to be a reason for concern by the prospect, therefore a true objection should not be thought of as an unreasonable expectation. The only thing the salesperson needs to immediately consider what is a real objection and what should be viewed by the salesperson as a smoke screen set up by the prospect. This is an important consideration as it an important difference.
On the other hand, managing prospect expectations, and more particularly, the many unreasonable prospect expectations encountered during a sales presentation requires a different skill set that more often than not can surface under a different heading after it may have been perceived as an objection in the first place.
Objections are and should always be thought of as a natural part of the sales process. Many sellers have learned that the best way to deal with them is to anticipate and address them early in your sales presentation or proposal.
It is also important to understand that when someone articulates a real objection, try and deal with it as professionally as you can as it usually is an indication of the prospect’s interest in your product or service, and strongly suggests a better than average buying signal. At this point it should be understood it is much better to deal with an objection, no matter how awkward, rather than to walk away from a potential sale with no idea of why your prospect didn’t buy from you.
They are Afraid of Awkwardness
I recently read how in order to reach important goals, people must always be willing to expand their comfort zone. This information made perfect sense to me at the time – as it still does now. Most of us have dreamed of being our own boss and breaking away from our regular jobs,-+ however we don’t, because we know that to do so we must take great risks. Yet, among the highest earners anywhere are sales professionals, however far too many people overlook this profession because of what they perceive to be an uncomfortable feeling associated with asking for the order.
The irony is that those of us who take the time and trouble to increase our earnings above the hourly dollar concept offered by “regular” jobs, we will constantly face something that regular, ordinary, safe and (should I also add – typically broke) people rarely have to face. We will face massive amounts of awkward situations which at times we wrongly think of as REJECTION. But that is not the truth of what sales is about, because sales is about FREEDOM. And awkwardness will always come from external forces and never from within.
The truth is awkwardness can come in many kinds of disguises that can really throw us off our focus when we least expect it. And awkwardness may not just be as cut and dried as a sales representative think or feel. It may come from a banker refusing you a personal or business loan, or it may come from a potential partner, refusing your proposition for an alliance, or it may come from friends refusing to test out your products, and worse still, it may come from a family remember refusing to believe in your ability to succeed.
Either way, in order to be a success you must learn to rise above all of this unexpected awkwardness. You must develop your mind to deal with rejection, adversity and failure.
Yes it does feel awkward and it does feel uncomfortable at first. But that’s just like anything else you attempt for the first time. The key here is to create a variety of lines, phrases, statements and questions that you are comfortable using and then practicing them over and over until they tend to flow smoothly and comfortably from your brain to your mouth. And don’t ever dismiss this simplicity of this idea.
Verbal rehearsal and practice is one of the most effective ways to remove any awkwardness and discomfort from a new sales approach, question or response. Remember, you will always miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take, and this applies to sales, too.
In today’s highly competitive world you need to be proactive in asking for the sale. Otherwise, one of your competitors, who is more assertive, will capture the business you have worked so hard for and rightfully deserve.
They Don’t Know How to Close
Some salespeople, especially those individuals who are relatively new to sales, simply don’t know how to ask to ask for the order.
My interest in a sales career began at the age of 11. I wanted to get into sales because at the time the man in my parents bungalow (a backyard granny flat) got into sales and I saw it turn his life around financially. Within months of starting to sell television sets in 1958, he upgraded from a 10 year old broken down badly rusted and dented Austin A40 to the latest American Ranch Wagon. His selling also improved because he could now carry up to six televisions in place of the two previously. A few months later he placed a deposit on a new house and moved on. I saw that man move from rags to riches within months and wanted in on the action – even at 11.
Once I turned 17, despite my father’s wishes I wanted to go into sales. The first time I was given an opportunity was when a man finally said yes. He gave me a wad of paper (17 pages of single spaced 11 point type) and told me to go home and memorise it and I would have a job. Three days later I had memorised it and excitedly went back, only to be told to “Piss off, you are too young to succeed” after I had recited the first page.
Next I got an opportunity door knocking to make appointments for a company selling pre-coated aluminium siding. After a number of tries I won that vital first interview – an interview where the interviewer sat on the edge of the wrong side of the desk, and while I was fascinated by the view of the insides of his nostrils, I reasoned one of us had better take notes – as he obviously wasn’t about to. So while I furiously penned, he rambled on about the company, future prospect’s and endless income possibilities.
Ten minutes later, part one of the interview was over. To qualify for part two, I needed to go home and memorise a 12 page script by the end of that week (all I could think of at the time was the last script I had memorised – but gave it a try anyway). I was also told, that if this was done to his managers satisfaction, I would be trialed for a commission-only door-to-door canvassing job for one of Melbourne’s house cladding companies.
The initial training lasted a whole day, mainly memorising a half page script, and then learning how to role-play the preamble to the trainers satisfaction … Yet it was this opportunity – all those years ago – that taught me the power of one-on-one persuasion.
Puffed up with enthusiasm, a burning desire to succeed and the need to feed an overgrown ego, I became that team’s premier lead getter. In fact, I won as many leads as the rest of the team put together. But ironically, very few of those appointed leads achieved what they were supposed to – and very few had resulted in sales.
A few weeks later, too wet to field canvass, the team was brought inside to telephone canvass using the best lead source around – the White Pages Telephone Directory. Within 30 minutes, my in-house Field Supervisor had pulled me aside and threatened to fire me should I ever use that “phrase” again.
That one incident taught me more about the folly of compromise in selling, than perhaps any other phrase since. So what was the phrase, and why was it so important? Besides, all I said was, “We’ll be working your area on Saturday” and made an appointment for the salesman at an agreed time with the prospect. In fact, this was the second appointment I made in the area that morning. But the irony is that even today – almost fifty years later – hundreds of people working in the sales profession in this city will quote the same exact phrase, “I’ll be working in your area on …” and wonder their sales results are so poor.
The truth is, that phrase doesn’t affect sales – the phrase affects appointments. Prospect’s don’t keep them because they don’t feel they will let the salesperson down if they accept a last minute meeting, or even another appointment in place of it – because that person will be “working in the area” anyway.
Immediately the salesperson compromises the call with any form of compromised statement, the prospect is then given license to also compromise appointments and the like – but more about this later.
After many more interviews, it was some two weeks later when I first got my first “REAL” selling job, I can still vividly remember that very first sales call more than 50 years ago. I was a baby-faced 17 year old who was given a kit, around 10 minutes of training by a small business owner who desperately wanted to sell his especially moulded bottle opener in the days before the screw cap. He drove me to a local service station and sat in the car while I made my first call. Much to his surprise I made a sale. Then I made another, then another and yet another. That was four in a row. He was so impressed, he joined me on the fifth call and quickly ascertained that I knew nothing about sales, but was fearless and sold purely on enthusiasm.
Within a few weeks my sales had started to falter and the more my boss tried to help, the worse things became. It was really the blind leading the blind. I knew a little from some door knocking I had done some weeks earlier, but not enough to keep the momentum going. Yet neither of us understood we needed to learn at least the sales basics for things to succeed.
In my next venture I had improved, then was also fortunate enough to have been given some training for an advertising concept. Vince, the business owner, even taught me how to prepare the prospects I should call on based on advertisers in the local paper. He even had a bullet point presentation schedule. All was well, I made an appointment with the wife of a local plumber, I had gone through my presentation and she appeared interested. But then when she warmed to the concept, I tragically didn’t know what to say so we sat there until I realised someone should speak and asked her if she wanted to buy some space. She said she did, and I wrote up the order.
The only thing I got right on the day was signing the order. Vince had to go back with me to get the details and layout right, but from that point onwards I got better at what I was doing, and so did the sales. And because of the help and really good advice I got from Vince my selling career was under way. A little while later I was introduced to a number of books that would both set me straight and get a well rewarding sales career under way.
You can read more about the early days of my sales career in my other sales closing book called “Over 50 Ways of Closing the Sale.”
They Don’t Know When to Close
Timing in any walk of life can be critical and the same applies in all areas of sales. The more I am confronted by salespeople not knowing when it is a good time to start closing, to them I have a really simple answer, the closing starts the minute you meet the prospect, and the formal closing starts the minute you open your mouth.
Then we have an additional dilemma, because some of the salespeople who I would have thought should have known better have told me they don’t know exactly when to ask a prospect for their business. In turn they end up waiting too long and invariably miss the opportunity by either creating some sort of doubt or by simply talking the prospect out of buying. To them I would say that it’s true you don’t want to ask too early, but it’s also true you can’t afford to wait too long either. So then, when would you tell them is the right time to close? My answer is anytime is the right time to close. Most times you can never ask too early and you can never ask too late. The biggest mistake you can make during a sales call is not asking for the order – and the problem with most salespeople is not asking too early or too late – it’s simply not asking. Here too I have a suggestion if you ask too early or even ask too often. Use trial closes often to both feel the temperature as well as feel out the prospect’s readiness to buy.
Another way is to simply make it somewhat light-hearted the first few times you may have asked too early, things like, “ I know you want to place an order with me, I just want to make sure to ask you when you know you are ready. “ If you keep getting things wrong and time drags on, make a joke of it, something like, here we go again – right? So what would stop you from placing the order with me right now, give me two good reasons. Keep up the light-heartedness and the friendly banter, and in so many cases they will give you an order when you will usually least expect it.
Now here’s another idea that works for me more often than not. Build a formal close into certain parts of your sales presentation. Simply work out the places to position the “closing questions” be they trial closes or any of your well prepared formal closes. The main place I would position it is immediately after my solution and after addressing any supposed difficulties applying that solution. Any revised or mutually agreed to changes to that solution work equally as well.
If You Can’t Close, You Can’t Sell
That’s the real bottom line in sales. If you can’t close, you simply won’t make the sales.
There are no if’s or buts about it; there are no excuses you can make that will justify your lack of results; and there are no alternative short cuts such as twisting the truth, or manipulating situations, or simply saying what you think that your prospect wants to hear that will give anyone in sales the results they want.
No. It’s all about understanding what makes people want to do business with you – and that takes understanding, knowledge and to be always working at closing.
We all understand the 80/20 rule developed by the late Perato. And in sales this one fact is more prevalent than just about any other. A mere 20 percent of salespeople make 80 percent of the sales. Yet they’re selling the same product or service as are the other 80 percent.
So what’s the difference between the two? The top 20 percent are able to make sales by applying any one of the keys they had learned to apply in order to capitalise on the selling situation they find themselves in.
It’s the knowing of how or when to use these keys is what sets apart that 20 percent from the rest in sales. Yet the same keys that help provide the results to this smaller group of top producers, are the same ones that are available to all salespeople.
The application of these same keys by all of the top professional Supersellers I know, and have ever known, is a science that all can learn – and that includes you no matter what background you have come from or what socio-economic demographic or financial quadrant you were born into. That’s right, knowing how to sell at the top level CAN BE LEARNED.
A Strong Desire to Close is Essential
The way this book has been compiled is to allow the reader to share the knowledge and approach the top sales performers have at their disposal and consistently apply. The experiences they have can also become a part of you.
Another factor that you will benefit from is that sales is also as much attitude as it is a science. As you begin to understand this and mould this one factor into the techniques you learn in the pages of this book, your mindset will inevitably change, and that in turn, will move your confidence to another level.
In a short time, another essential ingredient will begin to strengthen within you – the desire to close. It’s a kind of desire that can only be developed from within. It needs to be both personal and personalised through the goals you set yourself. Why? Because your goals will provide the fuel and the necessary energy to
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This BLOG Article is by Peter Collins – In a sales career spanning more than 50 years, Peter Collins has focused on helping and bringing out the best in others – whether it involves training or mentoring salespeople, managers, business consulting to SME’s. Since the 1970’s Peter has built a reputation as a Nationally and Internationally Published author, and has 65 business books to his credit, but he is mainly known for one book based on the Audio Tape series of the same name, Over 50 Ways of Closing the Sale. Peter had his first book published in 1969 and now has over 130 books in all, including Business, Marketing, Sales, Free Publicity, Body Language, Music and over 30 Christian books to date. Peters books have sold over 2 Million copies over 48 years. In his personal life, Peter has been sought after as an encourager and motivator that has given of his time and talents freely despite his busy schedule. Subsequently, he has assisted churches, pastors, community and charity groups, as well as individuals through his teaching, training, development and on-going mentoring.
© Copyright Peter Collins, Profit Maker Sales, Sydney, Australia, 1994, 2002, 2007, 2011, 2015, all rights reserved. Peter can be contacted through his website – profitmakersales.com
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