Anyone you speak to in sales will tell you that they believe in “consultative sales”. All this really means is that they like to speak to their client, and ask them some discovery questions, make a recommendation, and then “cross their fingers”. This concept is not new, it just happens to be en vogue. In any type of sales, this is pretty much the process. What the difference is between salespeople and professional salespeople is taking that “finger crossing” stage out of the equation by finding a way to persuade without pressuring.
Studies have shown over 70% of “Professional Salespeople” have challenges with the most important part of the consultative sales process –Closing Techniques. The reason that this is such a hindrance is because this is the part of the sales transaction that goes from building rapport, friendly conversation, dialog, and “niceties”, and immediately turns to the uncomfortable stage of “asking them for their money”. This dichotomy creates discomfort that can easily be overcome.
There are a number of different approaches someone could use during this crucial part of the sale, and I have listed a few. Try them out, and use the one that feels the most comfortable within your style or within the confines of the situation, but remember if you don’t ask for the sale, someone else will…
This happens to be my favorite because of the simplicity and the effectiveness. All you need to do is ask the customer their needs and repeat them back. Find a product or service that meets those needs and repeat their needs back to them once again. At that point, you simply tell the customer to take next steps.
Example – “Ok Mr. Smith, you told me you were looking for a Large Widget that is Red and is under $1,000. Here is what I have that meets your needs. It is Large, Red, and only $850. Let’s get your paperwork going on this.”
Time Line Close
The Time Line Close is effective when a product or service will impact a prospect’s project plan, especially if the purchasing decision is a prerequisite to other activities in the project plan. If you start with the desired project completion date, then backtrack through project milestones to the point where your company’s product or service should be added, in many cases, you and the prospect will discover that an order should have been placed some time ago!
Example – “Ms. Roberson, as you mentioned, you have until next Thursday to get this done. Let’s get you going on this Widget today, and you will have plenty of time to make any adjustments between now and next Thursday. It will only take me a minute to get this processed; all that I need from you is your credit card number.”
The Urgency Close is based on a call to action. This has been used since the dawn of time, and is the premise of how most advertising is set up. You have a certain amount of time to get a certain deal. In some cases the deal is no better than the regular price, but by adding a deadline, people think they need to purchase quickly.
To work this into a close is easy. You simply tell the customer that your offer is ending soon, and then wait for them to offer up their feedback. To maximize this close you will want to work on volume, and getting multiple purchases, or larger than usual packages for the customer.
Example – “Mr. Stanley, with our Widget offer ending tomorrow, you might want to think about getting 2 Widgets at this price. I want to make sure you get the best deal that I can offer, and we seldom have this good of an offer on our Widgets. I will get you set up for 2, unless you think you would like to stock up a little more at this price.”
People have used this approach to find homes for puppies for years and years. “Oh, why don’t you take the puppy home and see how the two of you get along? If you find it’s not working out for you, just bring the puppy back.”
Yeah, right – what percentage of the time do you think those cute little puppies are returned?
If having an opportunity to make “hands on” use of your product or service turns prospects into raving fans, your goal should be to do everything you can to make sure that (qualified) prospects have this opportunity. Once they start using your product or service, in many cases the only way to get it back will be to pry it from their cold, dead fingers.
Example – “Ms. Barnes, I am just following up on the Free Trial. I know 30 days go by quickly, but just imagine how well our Widget is going to work for you over the year. I will start processing this right away. Please let me let me know if you have any referrals for me, and I can a start them on a Free Trial as well.”
A Financial Close is the natural choice when you have successfully helped a prospect quantify the impact of their business problems. If the quantified impact of the business problems exceeds the investment required to solve the problems, a buying decision is easy to justify. The larger the difference is between the quantified impact and the required investment, the easier it is to close the sale.
Example – “Mr. O’Donnell, our Widget is going to save you $12,000 per year and will only cost you $600 per month. That is an additional $4,800 per year in your pocket, so this is definitely the way to go. Do you need anything else at this time or just the Widget?”
The Visual Close
Some prospects have a hard time making a buying decision, regardless of the attractiveness of the potential return on investment. For these people, the Visual Close can be very effective.
This close involves drawing a vertical line down the middle of a sheet of paper, and a horizontal line that intersects the top of the vertical line. This creates a large “T” on the paper. On the left side of the “T” you should write the word “For”. On the right side of the “T” you should write the word “Against”.
Now you should suggest to the prospect that it might be helpful to make a list of all of the reasons both for and against acquiring your company’s product or service. Help the prospect create the longest possible list of entries in the “For” column. For the most part prospects should be allowed to populate the “Against” column by themselves. The primary exception is if there is an objection that comes up frequently, in which case you should proactively list the objection in the “Against” column…and then do your best to immediately resolve it.
The usual end result is a list of reasons in the “For” column that is much longer than the list of reasons in the “Against” column. Seeing this difference visually can help push a reluctant prospect over the decision-making hump.
Example – “As you can see Mr. Thompson, the ‘For’s’ well outweigh the ‘Against’s’, and at this price, you owe it to your company to take advantage of this offer. Let’s get this written up today.”
In the Thermometer Close, you ask a prospect to rate their level of interest on a zero-to-ten scale. Zero means the prospect has no interest at all, and ten means they have already decided to buy.
If the prospect answers “Ten”, you’re done. Stop talking and complete the order. Many salespeople have a tendency to oversell. When it’s sold, stop selling.
If the prospect’s answer is five or lower, you should ask, “Based on what you’ve told me so far, I don’t understand why you say [score]. Can you help me understand that?” The prospect’s answer will tell you what you need to do to advance the sales cycle, and uncover their true hot button.
If the prospect’s answer is a six or more, you should ask, “What do you need to see to get to ten?” Again, the prospect’s answer will tell you what you need to do.
One of the attractions of the Thermometer Close is that it can be used repeatedly. As the prospect’s “temperature” rises, you can continue to ask, “What do you need to see to get to ten?” This is a nice, non-threatening way to get prospects to share issues that are preventing you from making sales.
Example – “Ms. Jones, on a scale between 1 and 10, with 10 being perfect, how would rate the Widget that I presented to you?” After the answer, refer to the follow up questions above.
Either/Or – Assumptive Close
This technique is simple. Once you discuss benefits and features of your product and service, you simply make the assumption that the customer is buying. The only question is what product. So instead of waiting for the customer to tell you what they want, you give them two similar choices that meet their needs, and then ask them which one they want to purchase.
Example – “Ok Ms. Adams, after listening to your needs, I have the Red Widget and the Blue Widget that will both work for you, which one do you want to go with?”
Remember, sales is about closing deals, and it is for the sales professionals to decide which close is best suited for them. These eight techniques can certainly help you to close deals and increase your bottom line revenue.
Jeff Trujillo is a Vice President of Sales for Dice Holdings, Inc. Jeff has 20+ years in sales management in Telecom, Wireless, High Tech, and Advertising, and has done freelance sales training for over a decade.
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