This article has been excerpted from Masters of Sales: Secrets From Top Sales Professionals That Will Transform You Into a World Class Salesman (Entrepreneur Press, September 2007).
To successfully close a deal, you have to invite the prospect to buy several times during the sales process. Other than low-ticket retail purchases, most prospects tend to avoid saying, "OK, I'll buy it" on their own initiative. They have to be coaxed to make this commitment. Master sellers know how to ask for the sale, and they don't interpret a customer's "no" as a personal rejection.
Closing a sales process is really very simple. All that is required is to learn a few simple closing questions and then practice them until you are a master closer. The closing phraseology used during this phase of selling is simple but carefully worded.
To truly master closing scripts, it's important to grasp the key communication principle of allowing the customer choice within the interaction. The choices are pre-selected like a multiple-choice test.
Get in the habit of allowing the customer optional responses at the onset of the sales interaction:
When would be the most convenient time to meet for you?
Morning or afternoon?
Early or late morning?
The beginning, middle or end of the week?
Would you like a more complete presentation that will take 45 minutes, or should I plan on a 15-minute overview at first?
By offering options to the customer, you give him partial control over your meeting. This signals your desire to respect his needs and to be a partner in his buying venture. As the transaction progresses, there are other ways to offer customers a choice, such as:
Which color do you prefer?
Will the product be mainly for business or family use?
Will your full staff or just senior staff take the course?
What is a better time to deliver the product, morning or afternoon?
Selling cars taught me that customers have very definite ideas about preferences, even if they can't articulate these at the outset. When we give our car customers a choice in selection of their new car--fabric, color, transmission, style--we convey our desire to share in the responsibility of getting just the right product to satisfy the client's special requirements. Giving them choice also makes them feel like a VIP, which certainly helps close the sale.
To communicate choice, sellers must have full product knowledge and discover how to match the product's features to the client's desires, which are often not articulated. Building choice into the sales interaction helps to draw out the client preferences.
Master Selling Scripts
Use sales scripts that communicate choice from the meet-and-greet phase right through to closing, product delivery and follow-up. A simple sequence of three closing scripts is useful to close a sale for most products and services. Once you memorize the questions and practice using them, your closing ratio will improve. The questions are easy to insert into a sales conversation, yet they still allow the customer choice of three optional answers.
These questions get inserted into your directed sales conversation that bounces back and forth between casually and formally discussing many topics related to the customer and to the product. After your product presentation is completed, casually inject in the conversation the closing question. Following are some examples.
Closing Question 1
Do you feel this product/service/program/organization/concept would be of benefit to/enjoyed by people?
The response will be some form of yes, no or maybe.
A "yes" means the client sees the merits of people owning the product, and is likely to be considering the idea of owning it. This signals to the seller that it's OK to move forward.
A "maybe" means the person is thinking about issues or features of the product that may not fit his immediate needs. The seller must discover if the prospect does not understand some aspect of the product or service, and then answer these questions or objections with the proper information before moving forward.
A "no" means that the client does not like the product and sees no personal application for it or anyone else in his organization. The way to move forward is to thank the client and--if you feel that a rapport was established--ask, "Although you cannot see merit in this product, might you be able to refer a friend or colleague who might like it?" You can also try to refer the customer to some other vendor who might better meet his needs, thereby doing a friendly deed that will come back to you . sometime. (What goes around comes around.)
With a "yes" answer (or a "maybe" that has been converted to a "yes"), you can move along in your sales script. If you have a firm "no," you will want to move on quickly to the next prospect in line.
Closing Question 2
Do you think that this product would be beneficial to your business?
You can substitute the word "business" with other terms as applicable--life, family, organization or program--depending on the circumstances. With this question, you are getting a little more familiar with your client, and are seeking to build on her general interest and turn it into her commitment. Again, you will get one of three responses (yes, no, maybe).
If you get a "yes," then the customer feels the product will not only benefit people in general, but will also directly benefit her or her business. At this point, you almost have the customer's agreement to own the product. Her only other concern may be with the price or some other logistical issue that will show up in a "maybe" response. But you are getting close, and you need to help your client overcome any final reasons for concern.
If the client feels your product or service will benefit people and it will benefit her own life or business, very little remains to separate her from agreeing to buy.
If the answer is "no," then ask when she might want to reconsider owning your product and work toward scheduling a follow-up meeting. Once you get such a meeting scheduled or noted in your calendar, now is the time to ask for a referral (covered above).
Follow the formula. If you have a "yes" or have overcome the "maybe" response, move right into the final stage.
Closing Question 3
Would you like to fill out the paperwork so you can begin using the product?
If your interaction and communication was more formal, you will use more formal wording to the question; alternatively, a more casual exchange should be used if you have had a more informal, comfortable sales exchange. "Charlie, shall I roll it out for you?"
You will have to decide on the exact words to polish off the deal, but with practice you will soon master the best scripts.
Using three semi-open-ended closing questions will allow you to direct the conversation toward a conclusion to your business. As the seller, you remain in control of the professional task of selling, while respecting the client's time and integrity.
Don Morgan is founding national director of BNI Canada and executive director of BNI Chicago, and co-author, with Dr. Ivan Misner, of Masters of Sales: Secrets From Top Sales Professionals That Will Transform You Into a World Class Salesman (Entrepreneur Press, September 2007).