Category Archives: closing the sale

Find Out What’s On Their Minds…

The following reprint of today’s “” sales tip is a solid testimonial to the importance of probing, trial closing, and listening within the sales process…

In most states you can turn right on a red traffic signal, but the law requires you to come to a full stop before you do.

In sales, it is vital that you work with a specific detailed pre-call objective so you know exactly where you are going (or want to go). Before you get into gear, come to a full stop!

Not just a “How you doin’ today?” or “How are things?”

That’s not a full stop.

You have to ask specifically, “Is your quarter coming in on schedule?” “How is the new production manager working out?” “Is the new product launch of your competitor having any real effect on your key customer?”

Then let them say what they want to say. Let them tell you what is on their mind. They might tell you some things that you can play to when it’s your turn in the barrel. They may tell you they are having a “bad hair day,” and in that case you might decide to cut them some slack, cut short your call, and sell in a future appointment as a professional courtesy.

One way or the other, test the water before you take the plunge.

Not only the temperature, hot or cold, but the depth and what’s on the bottom as well. Give them a break. They will give you the business in return.

The Winner?

cards_on_the_table_400_clr_14651“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal. Nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” W.W. Ziege

Selling is a people business. People buy from people, and most often, from people that they like. But what makes one sales rep more likable than the next? Surely all, or at least most sellers try to be likable!

Attitude makes the difference.

A positive attitude is not only easily recognizable, but it’s catchy. Sellers who possess truly positive attitudes honestly expect the best from customers and prospects, and they offer their personal best as well. They tend to react to things in an upbeat way and, more importantly, tend to bring about positive return reactions.

Every sales person and every sales manager should recognize the importance of developing and maintaining such an attitude within themselves and within their organizations.

A final testimonial to this discipline is a poem, author unknown, entitled The Winner. The final verse:

Life’s battles don’t always go
to the stronger or faster man;
but sooner or later the man who wins
is the fellow who thinks he can.

Ask All to Buy!

salesOur previous post referenced a well-known quote in which Arthur “Red” Motley defined the selling process in fifteen words: “Know your customer, know your product, call a lot of people, ask all to buy.”

That post focused on the quote’s opening three words, “know your customer.” Today’s focus is on the ending… “Ask all to buy.”

Clearly this part of the definition is all about closing the sale; but there is more to it than just asking for the order. If we consider the various steps in today’s consultative selling models and extended business development processes, the “close” might be better described as a “call to action.”

Further, if one is to maximize effectiveness, then every prospecting call, selling appointment or business development interaction should include a call to action.

Since many of these conversations with customers and prospects are not “transactional” — i.e., they do not involve the execution of an order — the “call to action” frequently does not take the form of asking for an order but rather asking for a next step; some type of action step that keeps the overall process moving forward.

These next steps might include a follow-up meeting, an exchange of additional information, a time to present a proposal, a subsequent appointment or conference call involving higher-level managers, or a follow-up telephone call. Of course there will hopefully be instances when the next step will involve the completion of an order but, as a general rule, we typically suggest a next step based on the relative success of the interaction; in other words, we ask for whatever it is we believe we have earned the right to request during the sales call.

Fore-armed for Success!
To enhance the quality and execution of sales or business development calls, it’s best to anticipate the possible calls-to-action or next steps that we might request during upcoming calls, as pre-call planning is a best practice shared by the most successful sales professionals!

In addition, the ideal call to action will include a commitment of some kind or an agreement-to-act made by the buyer. For example, there is a big difference between ending a sales call by saying, “I will call you next Tuesday” versus “Can we schedule a follow-up cal for next Tuesday at 2 o’clock?” If the buyer agrees and schedules the follow-up call, then he or she has agreed to take action.

Read the full article… for a few guidelines you might consider when crafting your list of possible outcomes and when proposing them to your customers and prospects…

And also for a “top 10” list of the most common things a buyer is likely to think if we FAIL to ask for a next step or commitment! (HINT – none of them are good…)

“Send Me a Quote?”

salesadvancecontinueWhile in more transactional selling models success is most often determined on a “sale or no-sale” basis, more complex selling processes involve more steps and, therefore, take more time to complete. These facts can also make it more difficult to determine the degree to which each sales call within these multi-faceted sales processes has, in fact, been successful.

With this in mind, author Neil Rackham, creator of SPIN selling, has identified two important measures of success for more complex selling situations. And like all metrics, it is important for us to be honest in assessing our success, or lack thereof, after each sales call!

The two outcomes are:

  1. Advance
  2. Continue

The simple difference between these two outcomes is  defined by the level of commitment gained by the seller.

“Send me a quote…” – Success or Failure?
Any action that the buyer agrees to take which moves the seller closer to completing the sale is termed an advance and constitutes a successful outcome.

The outcome of a call that does not reach agreement on action that moves the sale forward is termed a continuation and considered unsuccessful. For example, a buyer’s request for a proposal or quote is not an advance unless the buyer also agrees to take some action – i.e., agreeing to meet or schedule a call so the seller can present the quote.

It’s crucial to set realistic call objectives that make advances possible, Rackham explains. His research also shows that the early introduction, qualifying and assessment stages are the most crucial in more intricate selling situations or processes. This is in contrast to the more old-school belief that closing is the most important step.

So, if your  sales effort is of the “more involved” variety, it’s important to be diligent in the earlier steps of the process and to obtain the right commitment at the end of each sales call. As noted in previous posts, maintaining a key awareness with respect to logical or ideal next steps is a good way to help us “advance” the sales process rather than simply continue it.


Sales Advice from Baseball Legend Ted Williams?

tedwilliamsAs you may know, Ted Williams was a star player for the Boston Red Sox from 1939 through 1960, except for the three years he spent in World War II… and one of his many nicknames was, “The Best Hitter that Ever Was!”

In fact, in 1941 he posted a .406 batting average, making him the last Major League  player to bat over .400 in a season.

So, you may be wondering how Mr. Williams might provide some solid advice for sales professionals…

Well, the story goes that one day a young newspaper reporter ran into Ted at a train station… as you can imagine, the youngster was quite impressed and found himself rambling on about what an “honor it was… meeting the best batter in baseball… and so on and so on…” And then he said to Ted Williams, “Gee Mr. Williams, you must be a great student of hitting.”

To which Ted replied, “No son, I’m a great student of pitching!”

Tying this into the sales process, as sales professionals we must understand both the selling process and the buying process; we must learn why people might be most likely to buy-in to our ideas and proposals, and then structure our presentations to match that thinking process.

Along those lines, in his book, “The Anatomy of Persuasion,” author Norbert Aubuchon shared his research on defining the buying or “buying-in” process. He identified the following five steps:

  1. NEEDS – a buyer has an unsatisfied need, either recognized or unrecognized
  2. RECOGNIZE – a buyer recognizes the need, and makes it a priority; the buyer is willing to act
  3. SEARCH – the buyer seeks information on how to satisfy the need
  4. EVALUATE – the buyer matches the information with requirements and rates the results
  5. DECIDE – positive ratings usually result in a buying decision; negative ratings result in continued search

Interestingly, these steps align nicely with the steps for selling a product or service, which are outlined in our previous post!


The Order of Things…

readyfireaimDoing things in the proper sequence is often critically-important.

For example, in mathematics we have the standard order of operations. If we’re to reach the right solution our calculations must be performed in the right sequence, which is “Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication and Division, and then Addition and Subtraction.” A common technique for remembering this sequence is the phrase “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.”

Similarly, a good chef will tell you that the key to success when following a recipe is to not only add the right quantity of the right ingredients, but also to do so at the right time.

And as depicted in the image above, if we fail to aim before we fire, we are likely to miss our target!

So… there is an order of things.

And this “order of things” certainly applies to the selling process. Consider this simple but not-always-easy sequence, which helps sales professionals establish personal value, engage their customers, and shorten selling cycles:

  • Sell yourself
  • Sell the company
  • Then sell products and services

Read the full article…


“SP” Selling Can Be Expensive!

missinglinkWe’ve observed a troubling habit that many sales people have fallen-into, which is costing them and their organizations significantly in terms of lost opportunities or unrealized profit.

Perhaps you are familiar with the “SPIN” Selling System, which is based on the work of British research psychologist Neal Rackham.

If so, then you know SPIN is a mnemonic representing a precisely defined sequence of four question types that enables a salesperson to move a selling conversation logically from exploring the customers’ needs to designing and presenting comprehensive, compelling solutions.

The question types are:

  • Situation Questions – to learn about bigger-picture issues and processes
  • Problem Questions – to uncover needs or objectives
  • Implication Questions – to confirm or determine the effect or consequences of the problem (s)
  • Need Payoff Questions – to quantify the benefits of the proposed solutions to the problem (s)

While we shared additional details about “SPIN Selling” in one of our previous newsletters, the point of this article is to share our observation that far too many sales people implement what we’ve termed “SP Selling” instead of a more complete process such as SPIN Selling.

In other words, these reps are pretty good at assessing situations and, to a lesser degree, simple or explicit needs (Problems, as defined by the SPIN method). But then they commit the cardinal selling-sin of making premature presentations.

These presentations are premature because without a more in-depth assessment that incorporates something comparable to the “IN” components of the SPIN Selling System, it is very difficult to establish sufficient value.

Consequently, the resulting “premature” presentation or value-proposition tends to come across as feature-rich and benefits-poor, or sounds more like an old-fashioned sales pitch based more on “what we offer” rather than “what you’ll get.”

One good way sales professionals can avoid this pitfall is to engage in more diligent pre-call planning – in writing!

When done right, this simple step gives the seller a straightforward guideline to follow during sales calls so they avoid the temptation of presenting solutions too early.

If you’re wondering how to define “too early,” consider that if we don’t know the answers to the following two critically-important questions — without those answers beginning with the words “we” or “I” — then we should continue to probe more deeply to uncover needs, implications and the “need payoff” as defined above:

  1. Why should the buyer listen to me or accept my proposed solution?
  2. What measurable benefit or benefits will the buyer’s organization realize if they should do so?

For an example of one simple planning tool that can help you plan the best sales calls in less time, you can download a free “4.0 Planning Tool” from our web site.

As you’ll see, the challenge will be to properly identify the fourth “O.”


The Next Step in Communication?

nextstepContinuing with the theme of effective business communication, most people agree communication is a critical component of success, whether selling, managing, marketing or just trying to get along with others.

One Simple Little Habit…
While there are obviously many facets of communication, there is one simple habit that, if well developed and consistently executed, will improve your business communication and success level in a BIG way!

It is the practice of specifically identifying and scheduling the next steps that are consequential to your communication – consequential to your discussions, your meetings, your teleconferences, your interviews, your sales calls, and so on.

If this seems too simplistic, please read on…

The Trial Closing Train…

trialclosingtrainIn a recent sales tip from author Jack Falvey suggests that rather than a formal presentation, a dialog is the method of choice in selling.

“Somehow you have to keep the train from going through the station. It has to stop if it is to pick up passengers (customers)!”

An ideal tool for conducting more interactive sales calls and for maintaining an open dialog during selling presentations is trial closing.

As Falvey states, a trial close, or getting agreement on little points as you go along, has two worthwhile results:

  1. First, you avoid going down a path without your customer being with you
  2. Second, if they stay with you with affirmative responses along the way, the close just becomes one more affirmative response

“Going in the same direction is important if you want to arrive at the same destination,” Falvey states. “Keep testing the waters all the way along.”

See related article: Trial Closing Versus Closing

Selling Attitude!

hole_hand_thumbs_up_sm_nwm“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal. Nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” W.W. Ziege

Selling is a people business. People buy from people, and most often, from people that they like. But what makes one sales rep more likeable than the next? Surely all, or at least most sellers try to be likeable!

Attitude makes the difference.

A positive attitude is not only easily recognizable, but it’s catchy. Sellers who possess truly positive attitudes “assume the close.” They honestly expect the best from prospects, and they offer their personal best as well. They tend to react to things positively and, more importantly, tend to bring about positive return reactions.

Christine Harvey asks a pertinent question in her “Successful Selling” book. “What are the chances that your customer will be positive if you aren’t? The answer is zero.”

But it’s not easy to be truly positive! Especially when so much of selling tends to be negative.

Read the full article…