The Case for Closing Sales
I do not come from a ‘high pressure’ sales background. In fact, prior to embarking upon my sales career, I had worked as a therapist in the field of complimentary medicine for several years and so high pressure sales does not fit comfortably with me at all. However, for the first ten years of my sales career, I worked on a commission only basis and that really focuses the mind on getting the order as quickly as possible. No sales equals no commission; no commission means no food on the table and I really do like to eat – regularly. I still sell almost every day, I still ask closing questions frequently throughout the sales process, and most times I get the order.
In one of my various roles as a sales consultant and sales trainer, I frequently accompany my clients’ salespeople on appointments to coach them in the field. Without exception, those that ask the most closing questions sell the most and those that do not ask closing questions sell very little. I therefore get quite irritated when I hear some modern so called ‘sales gurus’ and sales managers tell their sales team that closing sales is old fashioned and that closing sales techniques no longer work. In my opinion that is absolute twaddle.
The fact of the matter is that we owe it to our customers or clients to make the decision making process as easy as possible for them. If, having demonstrated our product or service to them, obtained their agreement that we can solve problems for them and bring additional benefits to them, we should make it as easy as possible for them to invest in our product or service by asking them a closing question and getting a response that affirms their agreement to move ahead and purchase from us. If we do not ask that closing question, we leave the responsibility for making the decision entirely to them and that decision is frequently too much responsibility for them to cope with and they do not buy.
‘Closing sales is pushy’ I hear these modern sales gurus cry. Well in my experience, if you want something or someone to move, generally speaking you have to give them a push or, at the very least, a gentle nudge. Done professionally, courteously and with a genuine desire to do the very best for your customer or client, a closing question does not antagonise your prospect; quite the opposite in fact and to illustrate this point, here is a true story.
I was recently hired by a large law firm to coach several of their Senior Partners. Like many other law firms, for many years they had been extremely busy and could almost pick and choose the work they wanted. Following the onset of the recession, obtaining new business had become considerably more difficult, turnover and profits had fallen and these lawyers wanted and needed to learn techniques for prospecting for new business, presentation skills and obtaining new instructions.
Amongst the various techniques and skills I taught them over a period of several months was the need to be frequently asking closing questions. As lawyers, they naturally had a resistance to this at first, but as they started to see results, they started to realise just how important it was. The turning point in their attitude to closing sales came a few months into the project and was not really down to me but more so to one of the partners who asked if he could relate a story to the team before we started our formal session one morning.
He and his wife had decided to buy a new kitchen. They had a local tradesman around to their home who had come highly recommended by several friends and who sketched out several designs, one of which they liked very much indeed. They selected the finish they wanted on the various units, the type of sink they required and the mixer taps and the tradesman gave them a price which they told him they thought reasonable. He did not ask for an order or a deposit and simply asked them to contact him when they were ready to start. He did not close the sale!
The evening before the training session, there was a knock on their front door and when they answered it, a well dressed salesman from a very well known double glazing company who had recently also started installing kitchens was standing on the doorstep. He talked his way into their home and got to work on selling to them.
The Senior Partner told us that this salesman was very professional, really knew his product and did not come across as the least bit pushy, even though he was with them for nearly three hours. “He did however keep asking me closing questions” he said. “I knew what he was doing because of what you taught us Bruce” he said, “but it was done so well that I wasn’t in the least bit offended. In fact I was really enjoying it because he made buying so easy. And not only did we give him an order and a deposit for the kitchen that night, but we also ordered a new double glazed front porch. So closing sales really does work Partners – so let’s get to it!”.
Ladies and gentleman – I rest my case.