The Holy Grail of Selling: Closes that Work
Closing is one of the favorite topics of store owners and salespeople. Why? Without closing, there are no sales, no profit, no commissions, the doors close. It’s that simple. Unfortunately, too many salespeople are wired to do little more than show a product, supply a price, and take the order. According to some estimates, 80% of sales are lost because salespeople fail to close properly. For those who do not know how to build rapport and construct value, closing becomes extremely difficult.
Closing is the foundation of building relationships and trust, finding and satisfying needs, handling any concerns and then establishing the integrity and service of your store, all of which creates the correct value to buy.
When I initially began writing about salesmanship, I made a premature quote that said, “You will never see an article on closing beyond asking for the order.” I believed that the most effective close is to simply ask for the order, and do it often enough, but not so often or early that you annoy the prospect.
I called everything else tricky closes. Then upon some persuasion from colleagues and a little thinking of my own, I began to realize that a close may be of many forms and that good closing merely delves into the psychology of the buyer’s thinking. I also realized that I was more than occasionally using those other closes and didn’t even recognize it because I was speaking naturally to the customer. Therefore, quality closes should be thought of as distinctive or even connected rather than tricky. Quality closes are simply vehicles creating a favorable opportunity to ask for the order with a creative twist that emphasizes credible advantages that the customer may not have thoroughly considered.
Ask yourself, “What incentive or nudge do they need?” Is it simply buyer’s remorse lingering in their minds? What might create the added confidence to buy or show the silliness of not buying? What might create another reason or motive to buy or even an emotional desire to buy?
One reason salespeople do not close consistently is that they are afraid to ask for the order. Fear stops us all. In sales, we must teach ourselves not to look at rejection as a personal thing. After all, it is only our goods and services that are being rejected.
Suppose they do say “no.” What should you do next? “No” is not the end of the world. Whenever the customer rejects your closing question, think to yourself, “not yet.” If your customer really means no, why is she not already marching out of the store? What you are really hearing is “I am not convinced.” “I am not ready, not yet.” We just need to gather more information and create solutions. We need to focus on what’s missing. If not at your store, why and how is she going to find something elsewhere that better fits her needs?
Keep in mind customers will rarely turn you down without explanation. But, if that should happen, wait a moment, appear to accept “no” gracefully and then inquire, “May I ask what’s holding you back?” Or, “Is there something I forgot to cover?” Wait patiently for the response. Probe the resulting concern(s) and handle it like any objection by offering greater choices or new information. The truth is that with rejection, we stand to learn something more about the customer’s needs so that we can offer fresh solutions.
Closing techniques can be both effective and dangerous. So, before we move on to closes that are effective and work, let’s look at some of the worst closing practices, still widely taught today in sales programs, and all guaranteed to annoy your customers:
Lame Technique #1: The Fly-fish Close: Sometimes called the Now or Never Close, this is when you offer a lower price or a benefit but make it only available if the customer makes the decision to buy right now, leaving the customer feeling pressured.
Lame technique #2: The Lost Puppy Close: Here is how it works. Your customer has not made a purchase and as they are leaving the store, you attempt to get your customer to take pity, take a second look and even help you make the sale.
Lame Technique # 3: The Box Close: This is where you greet every new prospect with a clipboard for noting every objection, essentially boxing them in.
A close is just asking for a commitment, at the appropriate time, regarding a product you believe they are prepared to buy. Let us begin with the trial close.
The Trial Close (sometimes called tie-downs) is not an actual closing technique but a type of question that clarifies whether the purchaser is ready to close. Trial closes are opinion-asking questions, not decisions. Trial closes enable you to undertake a prospect’s perspective or way of thinking to evaluate their buying readiness. Your customer’s response will then guide you toward your next course of action.
Trial closes are not ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions, but open-ended questions to get the customer talking and engage the prospect’s thoughts and emotions. “Do you agree with that?” “That’s a nice feature isn’t it?” “Does that help?”
Trial closes also tell you where you are in the selling process and how near you are to outright asking for the order. Examples: “Based on what we have discussed, do you have any questions?” “What are the next steps you’d like to take? “Assuming you want to move ahead with this, when would you need this installed?” Another great trial question near the end of your presentation is, “Is there anything I haven’t covered yet that is important to you?” Upon asking the trial close question, as with regular closes, remain quiet, listening and watching carefully for their response.
There are many connected ways to close a sale and many books have been written on this subject alone. Indeed, closing has become a type of mastery in itself. The next article discusses several useful closing techniques tailored to the modern buyer and the floor covering industry.
Good selling to you!