In the fifth instalment of the six critical success factors in selling, Jeff Gardner looks at how gaining your customer’s commitment turns your sales story into a number one best seller
A sale is rather like a book, with a beginning, a middle and an end. You, the salesperson, are the author of the novel entitled Your Sale, and you have a responsibility to your readers (customers) to develop the plot and create a fulfilling finish.
So like with all books, let’s start at the beginning and chapter one. Think back for a moment to prospecting. You researched a number of factors, the most important of which was the name of the person whom you had to contact in order to schedule an initial meeting. We will call that person your ‘yes’ person. You asked your yes person for a meeting and he said "yes!", and so ended the first chapter in Your Sale. Easy enough, right?
Turning to chapter two, we developed the plot. Every story has a plot and the plot of Your Sale began to take shape during the first meeting with your yes person. You listened to the person’s problems, but then you asked some pointed questions to uncover other needs within the company.
For example, your yes person might have told you that employees were complaining about headaches due to glare from computer screens. You also learned that the glare was wreaking havoc on the company’s bottom line: lost wages and slower productivity. How did you learn this valuable information? You asked questions, which led to another chapter in your novel.
In chapter three the plot thickened. Presenting solutions to a customer changes the dynamic of a sale. It leads to the climax of a novel…the moment of truth. How will the customer respond? Suddenly, your yes person could turn into an ‘I don’t know’ person or, worse yet, a ‘no’ person. The solution is negotiating through any objections your yes person might throw your way.
In chapter four it really begins to get exciting and your ability to negotiate through objections will determine the outcome of your sale. Negotiating is like the climax of a novel, and doing it well is the only way to keep your yes person interested. If you negotiate poorly, your customer will close the book on your sale.
And so to the fifth chapter of Your Sale – gaining commitment. Gaining commitment is commonly referred to as ‘closing the sale’ or ‘asking for the order’. However, gaining commitment is really much more than that. It is a better description of what is happening between the buyer and the seller.
You have done the footwork, you’ve laid the plot, and the natural conclusion to Your Sale is for you to ask for commitment. You might feel uncomfortable about asking for an order, worried about being perceived as pushy or aggressive.
Old school sales training taught the ‘close early and close often’ technique. It was an aggressive approach and consisted of chasing the sale, not developing it. Nowadays, buyers respect someone who can listen to their needs and present solutions to their problems. There is nothing pushy or aggressive about giving a buyer options that will make his job easier. A buyer will not be shocked when you attempt to sell a product or service to him. It’s what he expects. If you don’t ask for the sale, someone else will!
Asking for an order is easy, but make sure that the way in which you do it is consistent with the sale you have presented. Chances are that, if you don’t feel satisfied with the answer your customer gives to you, then he probably doesn’t either.
I was working with a salesperson one time who did a very good job throughout the entire sales call. He asked great questions and made a compelling presentation and then finished up by asking the customer "what do you think- The customer replied that it looked good to which the salesperson said "great, I’ll give you a call next week" and the customer replied "ok".
There are six closing techniques but asking "what do you think- is not one of them. Your novel is not open for discussion, and "yes" is not the answer to "what do you think-
Closing technique #1 is, simply enough, the ‘just ask’ close, also known as an ‘invitation close’. Just ask the customer to make a buying decision. The best way to do this is to say "why don’t you give it a try- This is really two questions, the first part "why don’t you" is designed to bring out any hesitations that the customer might have. The second part, "give it a try," implies that this is a straightforward request for the buyer to make a decision.
Second up is the ‘choice close’. You give the buyer a choice between two options. For example: "Joe, would you like the file cabinet in black or beige-
The ‘presumption close’ involves using words that presume they are going to buy during your conversations with the customer. For example, "when you receive your new file cabinet, you will really enjoy the extra filing space".
The fourth technique is the ‘directive close’: you direct the buyer to the logical next step, which is probably an order. Don’t be discouraged, however, if the buyer’s idea of the next logical step is more negotiating.
With the ‘reverse directive close’, you ask the buyer to direct you to the next logical step in the sale. This close is effective in a complex selling situation where you have multiple steps and multiple buying influences. You are looking for guidance from your trusted buyer by asking: "What do you feel is the best step to get this implemented- Or: "Where do you think we should go from here to get this project started- The reverse directive close should only be used when you’ve developed a relationship of trust and confidence with the buyer.
Finally, the ‘summary close’ is a modified version of presenting your customer with solutions. You will summarise the benefits and key points of the sale thus far. For example with the issue of computer screen glare, a salesperson might recap the solutions that he presented.
Top sellers always have more than one approach for gaining commitment and moving the sale forward. Be confident. Make sure you use a positive tone of voice when closing. Be confident in yourself, your company and what you have to offer. Then ask for the sale!