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The Big Idea
Closing a sale is the stage in the selling process where salespeople meet the greatest difficulty. Joe Girard walks the reader through fundamental selling principles and experience-based insights guaranteed to help the reader sell any product or service. These principles are grounded on an important rule: becoming a successful sales person requires learning how to sell yourself first. This is because buyers “buy into” the seller initially before they do the product or service.
Principle One: Understand Why There Is Sales Resistance
Many individuals do not like being sold to. Nor do they particularly warm up to salespeople.
Poor public image of salespeople. There is a prevailing public perception that sales people are unscrupulous, scheming, obnoxious, slick and smooth talkers who simply want to get the customers’ money.
An “Us Them” selling relationship. Sales presentations and negotiations become contests between sellers and buyers. Here both parties become adversaries rather than teammates or allies. If the sales person closes the sale, the seller wins while the buyer loses. If the buyer walks away from the transaction, the seller loses.
Prior bad experience with sales people. Most buyers have had their share of sales encounters with unprofessional, manipulative, double-dealing sales people.
Salesperson’s insensitivity to customer time. Sales people know that time is money but they understand it from their own viewpoint and not from the customer’s perspective. Thus, some have difficulty respecting customer’s time.
Negativity in salespeople. Quite a number of salesmen have the habit of negative thinking. They believe that prospects do not really mean to buy. This negative attitude is likely to influence the sales transaction and relationship with the customer.
Saying no is difficult for potential customers. People do not like to be in situations where they have to say no. This is why setting a sales presentation is sometimes difficult.
Principle Two: Begin with selling yourself
Recognize that you are your company’s number one product. Salespeople must learn to make a difference with the prospect. It is important that potential customers like and believe in the sales person first.
Sell the company’s reputation. This helps establish credibility for oneself particularly if the company name is a familiar brand name. Being associated with a reputable firm erases doubts about doing future business with a stranger.
Successful sales people believe in what they are selling. An excellent sales person is one hundred percent convinced about the product or service he is carrying. The sales person believes that it is the best value of its kind. It is an added advantage for the salesperson to show and let prospects know he is using the same product or service.
Turn positive thinking into realistic thinking. Believe that one can sell to every prospect. Remove any form of negative thinking.
Visualize. Picture one’s self, completing the sale, the client signing the order form and handing over a check payment. Remember, what is visualized becomes reality.
Create a winning self-image. A positive self-image influences other people believe to believe in you. Preparedness. Know everything about the product, company and competition. This helps create confidence during the presentation and negotiation while stirring a positive self-image. Being unprepared can only create feelings of distraction, anxiety, and guilt leading to a poor self-image, and a waste of valuable client time.
Create an appearance of success. Look professional. A professional appearance goes beyond clothing.
It covers the entire spectrum of office design and space, transportation, etc.
Make the prospect feel important. Let the customer feel the sales person’s sincerity. When a prospect feels important, he is likely to give the business to the caring salesperson even if that sales person’s proposal was originally a second or third option.
Sell on your own turf. Invite customers to your office if this is an option. Use the office venue to sell one’s self subtly. For example, walk the customer through the office space and walls lined with framed pictures of citations, newspapers and articles, etc. acknowledging your firm’s accomplishments and good reputation.
Bring a sense of humor to the sales presentation. Nonetheless, use humor at the right time to relax and make the prospect feel comfortable. Use humor wisely, with a lot of discretion and caution, as well as good taste.
Allocate a budget for gifts. Give prospects and customers relatively inexpensive gifts to make them feel how important they are.
Be sincere and honest. Make clients feel that one can be trusted. Do not make promises that cannot be kept. Avoid false flattery. Visual signs of sincerity include establishing eye contact when speaking to prospects as well as listening while giving them a complete, undivided attention.
Make the customer feel good about the entire transaction. Do not make too much of a profitable deal that the client would not want to engage in repeat business.
Principle Three: Assume The Sale
Make the assumption that people who listen to sales presentations are interested enough to want to buy the product. Thus, throughout the sales presentation until the sale is closed, keep assuming that the sale has been made.
How To Assume The Sale
Make subtle statements that assume the sale. When the prospect objects, ask for the specific reason and address the objection. Once it has been substantially answered, assume the sale and make another attempt to close.
Offer the prospect a choice of actions that he can take. This indicates assuming the sale. For example, “Do you want the red or blue model?” or “Would you prefer your package delivered by freight or by air?”
Provide the prospect an opportunity to experience the product or service. When selling a car, ask the customer to sit behind the wheel. When selling jewellery, slip the ring onto the customer’s finger, or assist her in trying on a necklace.
Use the right words that assume the sale. Use when instead of if. For example, say, “When you own this car”. Use we and let us. This way, the prospect does not feel being left alone to make a major decision.
Assume the sale on repeat orders. Continue to give your satisfied customer outstanding service.
Principle Four: Know How to Read Buying Signals
Misguided salespeople believe that knowing how to read buying signals is a natural talent that cannot be taught. On the contrary, learning how to read buying signals is an acquired skill.
Techniques In Reading Buying Signals
Observe the tangible. Look at people’s buying habits. For example, a prospect who wears expensive jewellery and fine clothing may likely be a potential buyer of the most expensive car model.
Avoid stereotyping. Buyer habits may be grounded on lifestyle preferences. For example, some prospects visiting a car showroom may not look like they have a lot of money. Surprisingly, they may pay in cash for the most expensive model!
Get the prospect to experience the product or service, and then observe. When the prospect becomes a participant rather than a spectator, a host of buying signals comes about.
Be a good listener. Outstanding salespeople are excellent listeners. A professional salesperson understands how the prospect thinks and feels by listening. Observe prospects in social environments.
Study the prospects’ egos. Individuals with big, healthy egos take risks. People with low self-esteem and weak egos often do not take risks and will hesitate on making expensive purchases because they are afraid to make a mistake.
Principle Five: Handle objections effectively
Salespeople must understand that objections are expressions of interest. This means that when prospects raise objections, the sales person must grab at the opportunity to state why the customer must buy.
Tips To Handle Objections
Weed out false objections from real objections. For many reasons, people provide false objections rather than say why they really do not want to buy. Unless one knows the real objection, a salesperson will have difficulty overcoming the true objection of the prospect. Never back a prospect into a corner. Avoid putting clients on the defensive.
Overcome the six most common objections that include:
- “I cannot afford it”. Many times when prospects plead cash strap, they only think they cannot afford it. Or they may not actually have seen the product’s real, outstanding value. On the first, offer a low-priced alternative or financing scheme. On the second, break down the cost on a monthly, weekly, daily and even hourly basis to reveal how economical the product or service is.
- “I want to talk it over with my spouse”. The best way to handle this objection is to make sure all the decision makers are there for the sales presentation.
- “I have a good friend in the business”. Emphasize how the prospect can better himself with the sale and how his friend, if he is truly a friend, will appreciate the good tide.
- “I want to shop around”. One way to handle the objection is to start a file on competition and subtly slip in information on negative reviews about a competitive product in the prospect’s mind. Another is to advise the prospect on the bait and switch technique where dealers or providers publish a low price but when the sale is closed, the customer is advised of unavailability of stock and prodded to buy a higher priced model.
- “Leave me some literature and I will get back to you”. This means that the sales person has not convinced the prospect enough. Thus, provide the prospect more compelling reasons to buy the product. This may include more attractive features, greater benefits, financing terms, etc.
- “I do not want to buy your product because…(host of reasons)”. Isolate the objection to one main, specific problem and provide the solution to the prospect’s problem.
Answer the objection and close the sales. Once objections have been satisfactorily addressed, move on. Leave the prospect the impression that the sales person’s role is to provide valuable information so that the customer can make an intelligent decision.
Principle Six: Learn How To Overcome Procrastination
One of the most unsettling objections faced by many sales people is the “I want to think it over” objection. In this scenario, the prospect simply does not want to make a buying decision. This is not because the prospect objects to the company, product or sales person but it is largely because the prospect is afraid of making the wrong decision. The prospect lacks the confidence to make the decision. Likewise, the prospect does not see the merit of making the decision immediately.
Help the prospect make the decision. Emphasize how they can benefit with the product or service and how it represents good value for money.
Help the prospect make the proper buying decision. If procrastinators lack the confidence to make the decision without consulting with a third party, make a complete presentation to the third party. Set the stage for avoiding procrastination by subtly letting the prospect know beforehand that a decision is expected. Stress how time is valuable to the prospect and seller.
Appeal to prospect’s ego. Understand the prospect’s opinion of himself. Make him feel important so that he will feel embarrassed not to make a decision when the time comes.
Use a quote or deliver the right words of wisdom at the appropriate time. Often, the right quote can motivate a prospect to make a decision. Pick and choose quotes that are appropriate for the occasion, and the procrastinator. E.g. “No decision is difficult to make if you get all the facts”. – George S. Patton, Jr.
Principle Seven: Control The Sale
The sales person must take charge of the sales process, not allowing sales presentations to get out of hand – i.e. lacking in direction and leaving customers floundering and remaining indecisive. This means that the sales person must assume the role of authority in the process.
How To Take Charge
Sell with intensity. Focus on the prospect singly without any distraction.
Hold all calls during a sales presentation. This makes the prospect feel important and helps the sales person keep the momentum.
Make the sales presentation a fact-finding session that encourages a two-way conversation between the buyer and the seller. It is a myth to think that salespeople control the selling process when they out talk the prospect, not allowing the potential customer to speak. On the contrary, encouraging a dialogue helps determine the prospect’s needs and creates an atmosphere of sincerity and real desire to help the prospect.
Act with authority by demonstrating appropriate stock knowledge and expertise.
When the salesperson is not ready to quote a price, avoid quoting. Even if the prospect asks for it. The seller must ascertain that the prospect understands the value he is getting for his money before the quote is made.
Principle Eight: Understand the different closing techniques
Knowing the different closing techniques allows the sales person to choose from a spectrum of possible closes resulting in the one appropriate close.
Choice of Closing Techniques
Assumptive close. The seller expects the prospect to buy and proceeds to write the order.
Assumptive statement and question close. The seller makes an assumptive statement and closes the sale with an assumptive question. E.g. “I definitely recommend that you buy these two dress shirts because they go perfectly with your new suit. Now, which of these three ties do you want to go with your suit?”
Minor/Major close. Help the prospect go through a series of easy, minor decisions, the total of which add up to the final major close. E.g. “Would you like to handle the payments monthly, quarterly or annually? Is it okay to use your home address for the billing?, Would you spell your wife’s first name for me? You do want her as your beneficiary…Please make the check to the company for this amount right here.”
Little mistake versus big mistake. Here the prospect is told that it is a big mistake not to buy immediately but under the worst possible scenario only a minor mistake to do so. E.g. An auto mechanic points out, “If we do not install a new starter this minute, in a matter of time you will have flywheel damage, which means removing the transmission to make that repair. Then, instead of looking at a three hundred dollar repair bill, we are talking about a lot of extra labor that could run to as much as twelve hundred dollars”.
Choice of Three. Provide the prospect no more than three choices. E.g. “Tell me ma’m, which of these three monthly payments would you feel most comfortable with?”
Compromise close. When all other objections except price have been eliminated and the prospect has not made a decision, offer a compromise. E.g. “I understand how tight your advertising budget is, so rather than go with the half page, let us go with the quarter page”.
Don’t keep it a secret close. Never be too proud to let people know how much their business is appreciated. E.g. “Look Jerry, I won’t keep it a secret. I want your business.”
Ben Franklin close. When confronted with a difficult situation, the sales person and the client can write down everything that is favorable about the sale under a “yes” column, and then write down everything unfavorable under a “no” column. Of course, the “no” column should be shorter.
Hard to get it close. This close is grounded on the insight that people want things that they cannot have, or have difficulty to acquire. Thus, the sales person’s role is to help the prospect get it. “Sell it with love” close. Capitalize on a strong emotional appeal. E.g. closing the sale by appealing to the prospect’s love for his family. “Wow, how lucky your wife will be to get this on her anniversary! I wish my spouse would buy me one!”
Follow the leader close. There are more followers than leaders. Thus, prospects will buy after learning that prominent people have made the purchase.
Principle Nine: Create A Sense of Urgency
The prospect must be given a reason to buy the product or service immediately. Otherwise, to fail to provide a compelling reason leads to the prospect’s procrastination. Prospects must be sold in anticipation of a future need and not just a present need.
Ways To Create Sense of Urgency
Use the limited offer. Make an offer that is good for a limited period.
Use the line “Buy before the price increases.” However, use the line only when the price increase is certain to occur. Do not misrepresent.
Use the “Clock is always running close” statement. Reference on prospect’s age, time, etc. E.g. create a sense of urgency to buy recreation homes among the elderly. After all, they deserve a life after the many years of sacrifice.
Sell the one-of-a-kind product. Selling a unique product or service that is not readily available creates a sense of urgency when it is time to close the sale.
Create an “auction” scenario and sell to the highest bidder. Create an environment where a group of buyers need to make an offer to acquire the desired product. E.g. when selling a desirable property, offer it to at least ten prospects. Set the bottom price and begin the bidding. Sell the house to the highest bidder.
Timing is everything. Continue to stress the value and gain of buying today and not tomorrow.
Principle Ten: Avoid Overselling
Listen to the prospect. Do not oversell or one may likely convince the prospect out of the sale.
Ways To Avoid Overselling
Avoid the “fear of rejection” mindset. Some sales people cannot take the prospect away from the stage of sales presentation to the closing largely because of the fear of the prospect saying no. It is important that a sales person must have healthy self-esteem and believe the prospect will buy.
Do not confuse the prospect with unnecessary details. Avoid information overload. Recognize that the prospect does not need to have an overflow of stock knowledge about the product or service before a decision can be made. Identify the prospect’s needs and focus on how the product or service appropriately matches her need.
Give the prospect breathing space and period of silence. Provide the customer sufficient time to think and process information before the close.
Use the sales close, “Have you sold yourself yet?” or should I continue to tell you more?”. Close the sale when you receive a positive reply to the question. Continue to present and try the close once again after an initial negative reply.
Principle Eleven: Go all or nothing
This means that a sales person must stack the cards in favor making sales closes within the first sales presentation versus closing during call backs. There is a greater chance to close a sale at first presentation.
Effective Make Or Break Selling
Do not let the prospect join the call back club. A call back club is a non-exclusive club of prospects who say that they will call back after thinking it over. A good sales person does not give the prospect a chance to join the call back club otherwise he faces disappointment of a possible lost sale. Understand the law of diminishing return. The first presentation is always the best opportunity to close the sale because the facts and the momentum are present. This is also the best time the prospect feels the strongest need for the product or service. The greater the lapse of time, the less chances of closing the sale. The prospect then cools off.
Use the line, “I am sorry but I do not make call-backs”. This emphasizes that the best time to make the buying decision is during the first presentation.
Go for the big orders. Sometimes small orders are impractical. It is best to generate orders large enough to make the work worthwhile. Create the scenario for big orders. E.g. “I’ll book you for one economy class ticket, Phil. Now, what auto rental company do you prefer? Which lodging would you like to stay at…?”
No single prospect can make or break a sales person. Bearing this in mind helps the sales person put pressure on prospects without fear of losing the sale.
Keep the best interest of the customer in mind. High-pressure selling techniques are not bad when they do not unsettle prospects but instead help them to make up their mind.
Principle Twelve: Prevent Buyer’s Remorse
There are cases when after the sales close, prospects feel that they have made an impulse purchase or they may have been duped into a buying situation. Prevent the buyer from moving into this stage, enough for the customer to cancel the order. Remember a canceled order is not a sale.
Keeping Buyer’s Remorse In Check
Say “thank you”. A courteous thank you must be automatic with every sale. Make the customer understand that he or she made a good buying decision.
Say congratulations. E.g. “You made an excellent decision. Congratulations”.
Use the line “You are lucky”. Address this statement to the person or family accompanying the buyer.
Do not take the money and run. Do not head for the door after the order has been placed. Show the buyer that only his best interest is in mind. Sell one’s self again after the sales. This reduces customer’s chance to go into buyer remorse. Moreover, a sales person generates referrals in the process.
Get the customer involved immediately. Make sure the customer takes immediate possession of the product or service.
Quick follow-up. Keep in constant touch with the customer. Phone them or when possible stop in to see them a day or two later.
Check why the prospect bought from you. Listen to the client as he states the reasons why. This process helps eliminate buyer remorse, affirms client belief in the sales person and provides the seller with more insights to effective selling.
Principle Thirteen: Remember sale begins after the sale
Outstanding sales service must not be a whim, restricted to a limited number of people.
Selling Does Not End After The Sale, It Is Only The Beginning
Successful salespeople are committed to providing outstanding sales service to customers.
Represent a company committed to serving customers.
Give the customers so much service that they will feel guilty thinking about doing business with somebody else.
Keep in contact with customers, building solid relationships in the process.
Always be prepared when facing the customer.
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