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Ask for the Sale Customers may not buy if they don't know you're ready to sell.

By Tom Hopkins

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Recently, a group of consumers were surveyed after they'dbeen shopping but hadn't made a purchase. When they were askedwhy they didn't buy the product they were considering, mostanswered, "We were never asked." They were told,not sold. Untrained salespeople invested valuable time with thesepotential clients who were perfectly willing to make a decision.They talked and talked and talked, but because they never asked forthe sale, the client decided to wait, stall the decision or shoparound some more.

How do you prevent that from happening to you? By being preparedto ask every client for the sale. This doesn't mean you have toturn into a stereotypical, pushy, tactless salesperson. It justmeans that you have to ask, nicely, politely and clearly, for thesale every time. People won't be offended by this-after all,they're in your place of business or talking with you on thephone about your products. It comes down to how you do it.

In retail settings, it can be as simple as asking, "Willthis be cash, check or charge?" You've given them threechoices, none of which are "No thanks." Then simply walktoward the cash register as you say those closing words. Reach outto take the items they're interested in from their hands so youcan complete the transaction. Smile. Be sincerely happy for themthat they've found what they were looking for.

As you're asking for the sale, you must be aware of yourbody language. If your body is saying you're nervous, yourcustomers will pick up on that vibe and may hesitate to finalizetheir purchase. Fear and hesitation will begin to nag them.They'll start wondering, "Is there something wrong withthe product that I'm not aware of?" Or, "Is theresomething they didn't tell me?" So with your bodycommunicating your confidence, ask them as if it's the mostnormal thing to say because it is. You're in a sellingsituation: Your job is to direct the sale.

If closing a sale for your business requires a signature on anorder form, fill it out carefully. Then check for accuracy. Onceyou know it's correct, simply turn it in the direction of thedecision-maker, hold out your pen and say, "John, to get youstarted enjoying the benefits of our fine product, all I need isyour approval right here." Point to the place where Johnshould sign his name. Then stop talking. Do not distract him fromthe instruction you've just given. Again, smile sincerely andwait expectantly. Expect him to hesitate, but don't jump in andtry to continue selling. You've already said and doneeverything necessary for him to rationalize the decision to goahead. It's time for him to do his part by putting his name onthe order form.

Here are a few other ways to ask for the sale:

"Sally, with your approval right here (point to line andhand her your pen), we'll welcome you to our family ofsatisfied clients and begin providing the finest servicepossible."

"Martin, we can make that Thursday delivery you requestedwith your authorization right here on the paperwork."

Please note that you're asking for their"approval" or their "authorization." You'renot asking them to "sign." Many of us had parents tell usnever to sign anything. Signing something often commits you tosomething you may later change your mind about and have to gothrough legal proceedings to get out of. Rather than create anypotentially negative emotions with that word, ask forcustomers' "approval." They know that what you meanis that you need their signature. You're just doing it withwords that don't raise red flags and cause them to re-think orover-think their decision.

In business-to-business sales, you might need to have a purchaseorder from their company before you can proceed. In that case,simply say, "Marsha, what purchase order number will beassigned to this transaction?" You're not directly saying,"Are you gonna buy this?" But you're moving her tothe next logical event in the sales process by asking for that P.O.number. After asking the question, poise your pen over yourpaperwork, where you'd write in the purchase order number. Lookdirectly at her, waiting for her answer. Again, don't keeptalking. Just wait for her to answer. Once she gives it to you, youhave a sale!

Don't ever let survey results of your business show that youdidn't ask for the sale. Ask every customer, every time.

Tom Hopkins is world-renowned as "the builder of sales champions." For the past 30 years, he's provided superior sales training through his company, Tom Hopkins International.

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