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The Clincher

August 20, 2012 14 comments

In Sales parlance we called it the Close – that is when the Sales Professional prompts the prospect to take a decision and reward her or him with the business.

It is a critical phase of the Sale and in some ways all the actions taken by Sales Professional during the sales process are intended to facilitate that event.

I have mentioned in the past that there have been instances where a sale developed by one member of my team was brought home by another member; and I don’t have to repeat here that it causes a lot of dissonance and as leader I have a tough time in restoring order and in pacifying the irate loser.

The buyer had been primed to make the purchase but the first guy just wasn’t able to clinch the deal. There are some critical activities to be done close to the business end of the sale. The man who got the business was more conversant with these than his team-mate.

1.       Reduce complexity

Sales Professionals know that as the Sales Process moves forward they have to change the nature of questions and the way their responses are structured. The questions become more specific and tilt towards finding all the key elements of solution sought by the buyer.

It also makes sense not to give too many options to the buyer as they near the decision – increasing options can only confuse them. Hence, even if a number of options exist in your portfolio it is best to choose the most appropriate 2-3 and suggest them to the buyer – two would be ideal. If the buyer is looking at more than that you have to get them to eliminate a few based on the buying criteria.

2.       Facilitate the decision

That uncertainties are an unavoidable accompaniment of decisions is well – known and that makes people postpone or pass-on the responsibility. It is either fear of a negative impact or the possibility of discovering a better option post the decision that clouds thinking.

Hence, the Salesman needs to work with the prospect and show them that the parameters they have set for making the purchase have been met and the necessary safeguards would be offered by the solution-provider. It is also important for the seller to show them what they stand to gain by taking the decision.

Let the customer know that there may be other solutions in the market, but since they have already seen enough and analysed each option it is time to move on – delay can only increase worry and loss that comes from running with a suboptimal solution.

3.       Use language & tone that is assertive

While you show the client the benefits of buying it is also important to emphasis the negative impact of delays. The seller cannot be half-hearted here. A strong stand has to be taken to show that the client’s indecisiveness is stopping them from using something better.

But let me emphasis here that there is no room for condescension or ridicule or pushiness – and don’t ever sound desperate. Such attitudes can only annoy the customer or make them suspect your intention. A balance is needed to understand when to push ahead and when to slowdown to make the buyer comfortable. Also keep the language positive and be firm with what you suggest – no room for iffiness.

4.       Build buyer confidence

Like I said earlier the buyers are worried about the consequence of their decisions and hence it is necessary for the seller to make them feel good about it and also show them that help is available at every step of the way before and after the decision.

When the decision is made, congratulate them for doing so and continue building confidence with appropriate actions and words during the Close and the After-sale steps.

A smart Sales Professional stays with the customer during this process and never permits doubts to creep in.

It is said that a good sale is one in which the customer ask for the solution rather than the sales person pushing him or her to take it. Victory for the Sales Pro is the knowledge that a series of smart actions and words used by her or him caused that.

But if that does not happen ask for it – you never become a good salesperson without making a sale. You need to feel good about asking for business.

If you sense that the customer is ready to buy, go for it … Close that deal!

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So near yet so far away!

February 13, 2012 4 comments

Close?

Not quite, seems to be the case for many Sales Professionals. They just can’t ask the important question. The need is ascertained and the customer has agreed unequivocally that a new solution is essential to remain effective, but the Sales Rep is still unable to ask for the business – or he completely misses the point. One blink and the moment is gone.

As Sales Manager I have witnessed many scenes where Sales Executives watched haplessly while a smarter colleague pocketed a case he had carefully nurtured and built over 2-3 months; but had either forgotten or baulked at the crucial last step. The smart guy went in, found a ripe apple ready to be plucked and made off with it.

Customers indicate in many ways that they are ready to buy; they would ask questions as though they are already using the product or service:

–          So if I call for the extra fittings you can come in at a day’s notice?

Or he will check out the product by placing it his pocket or the portfolio bag to see how it fits – a lady purchasing a dress would check herself up in the mirror and ask for approval? They would indicate their interest one way or the other.

These and other cues indicate that the customer is ready to buy – a smart Sales Pro would not miss the cue. But there are some who fail to notice. They need to develop a keener sense of observation to pick these tell-tale signs and boldly ask the important question. Diffidence does not pay in this game. While you are working on your skills there are some ways to increase your strike-rate.

Three useful methods to achieve a “Close” with less pain would be:

  1. Referral Business: Nothing can move a case forward like the word of a happy user. If you can get the next sales prospect from a happy customer the sale has the best chance of reaching a close without many roadblocks. Half the work is done for you by the happy adopter and you just need to avoid screwing-up. It’s not as if the business is available for free but the effort won’t be as intense as in the case of a prospect where you started from scratch. The chances of objections are lower because the recommendation has come from a user.
  2. Demo – Providing the prospect the opportunity to sample the product or service without insisting on purchase is a great way of getting the prospect interested. When they are able to do a “No obligation” test the customer feels favorably inclined – that’s because he has had ample opportunities to check the product; it removes many of the Objections faced by Sales Professionals.
  3. Benefit Selling – Here we are operating in the Consultative Mode – identifying the pain areas of the prospect and provide lasting solutions. This will mean that the Sales Professional works with the customer and categorically chips away at the problem to find the root cause and then suggests the cure – if this is done effectively the prospect usually agrees to buy even without the seller asking for the commitment because there is realization that this is the best way ahead.

In all these cases you have built the case up sufficiently for the customer to say “Yes!” before you pop the question. If it doesn’t happen voluntarily, don’t wait – it pays to ask when you know the time is right.

Do you still hesitate to ask for a Close – the next guy probably wouldn’t!

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