Asking for the order after an effective sales presentation would seem to be a common-sense concept. Yet many salespeople are reluctant to do so. This may seem obvious, but most salespeople don’t ask because they are afraid of rejection or of being pushy. Perhaps we are uncertain about what to say or how to ask. Regardless of our reasons, we don’t ask because of fear, and fear stops us all. 

So, let’s think about what there is to be afraid of. For starters, asking for an order invites rejection. In view of this, it is important that we teach ourselves not to look at rejection as a personal thing. After all, it is only our goods and services that are being rejected. Think of “asking” as a straightforward opportunity for the customer to accept an offer of purchase rather than a pushy demand to buy. 

Of course, the very worst might happen; she might say, “No!” Oh horrors, she might even give us an objection and offend us by telling us that something isn’t quite right. If only we had not asked, she would have kept her objections hidden. Plus, we all know that what we don’t know won’t hurt us, right?

Excuse the sarcasm, but unless we ask for a decision, we may not know what is really bothering her. So, instead of a concern and likely a sale, what we often hear is that infamous put-off, “Thanks for your time; I might be back,” and off she goes to muddle through her unspoken misgivings. And, the odds of her coming back are unlikely.

One thing is for certain: successful salespeople are not afraid to ask for the order. According to estimates, just by asking for the order, we can increase our closing ratio by about 200 percent. Many customers when asked later why they didn’t buy say, “We were never asked.” It is important that we stop letting valuable business walk out of our store into someplace else where professionally trained salespeople know how to ask for the business. 

Still afraid to ask for the order? Use trial closes to gauge your success before asking for the order. Trial closes take the uneasiness out of asking for the business. Sometimes called tie-downs, a trial close is not an actual closing technique, but a type of question that clarifies the thinking of the customer. Trial closes invite feedback. They are opinion-asking, not decisions-asking questions. 

Certain trial closes allow us to evaluate the amount of headway that is necessary to achieve the sale while allowing us to make corrective actions throughout the selling process. Useful trial questions — such as “How does this fit your room?”, “How does this look so far?”, “What are your thoughts on this?”, “Is this what you had in mind?” — are all practical questions in understanding your customer’s “way of thinking” regarding a positive sales path. 

Other trial closes tell you about the buying readiness of the customer. Examples include: “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 will 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?” These types of trial questions tell you your customer’s buying temperature or how near you are to being successful when you outright ask for the business. 

Another way to take the dread out of asking for the sale is to ask a customer to make a minor decision which eventually can carry the major decision. For example, most installed sales require measuring. So, an unassuming question could be, “Would you like to set up a measure? This way you will know the exact footage and materials for the cost of the purchase.” By listening to her response, you receive revealing feedback as to her readiness to buy and move forward.

So, when is the best time to ask for the order? Let me tell you my definition of when to ask for the order: After all steps of the selling process are complete, I ask for a decision when I am pretty sure a person will say, “Yes.”  The reason I believe this is that my customer has given me plenty of feedback and positive signals partially in the way of trial closes. 

When you have covered all important points and your customer has no further questions, just ask, “Great! If everything is in order, would you like to move forward with this?” We commit no fouls with these requests and most customers prefer a straightforward wrap-up as opposed to tricky, manipulative closes. 

How often should we ask?

While most great salespeople ask for the order more than just once, doing so repeatedly only makes sense in the context of what is happening. Obviously, we do not want to close when the decision is miles away. Until then, substitute untimely “closes” with a simple, straightforward, “Tell me more about your concerns.” However, if there is a rule of thumb as to how often to ask for the order it would be: often enough to be effective, but not so often or early that you annoy the prospect. It is not the closing question per se that is the issue; it is the timing and intent to manipulate that turns the prospect off. Our intuitive judgement decides the exact call.

Suppose despite our best clues, the horrible does happen, and she does say “No.” It happens. But, “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 “forever no,” why is she not already marching out of the store? What we are really hearing is, “I am not convinced”, or  “I am not ready.” We simply need to gather more information and create solutions. We 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 an explanation. But, if that should happen, wait a moment, appear to accept “no” gracefully and then simply state, “I’m sorry. I thought you were ready to go ahead with the purchase. I didn’t mean to rush you. Is there something I forgot to cover?” Or, “May I ask what’s holding you back?”  Remain quiet and listen for the response while observing nonverbal clues. Probe the resulting concern(s) and handle them like any objection with added information. The truth is that with rejection (or refusal), we stand to learn something more about the customer’s needs so that we can offer fresh solutions. 

Sometimes the customer may reveal that it is time to close. For example, when customers show an indication of already owning your product, they may be sending a green light. If she says: “What would this cost with the better pad?” or “When could you install this?” Answer the question and then seriously consider asking for the order. 

One final fear-conquering solution is to force ourselves to replace a part of our empathy with ego. We need empathy to connect and relate to the customer. However, salespeople with too much empathy may become so afraid of upsetting the customer they become hesitant to push forward and ask for their business. To truly help our prospect, we must sometimes detach ourselves from our empathies to make sure we offer the customer an opportunity to buy. Customers often put off making informed decisions until someone gives them that slight push. 

The best condition in asking for an order is trust. With trust, our customers become more open to our ideas, suggestions, and solutions. The atmosphere becomes friendlier, more relaxed, and the prospect is more inclined to answer our questions and to share information freely. Relate to the customer, discover her needs, adapt to her circumstances and the sale usually develops into a more than accurate parity of the correct color, style, quality and price. Now, it is as simple as asking for the sale! For your sake, by all means, please ask!

Good selling to you!