The Green Sheet Online Edition
November 24, 2008 • Issue 08:11:02
Ask and ye shall sell
Maybes are the death of salespeople. But you'll make millions if you can get business owners to say yes or no. It doesn't matter whether they decide for or against you - as long as they decide.
Business owners need help in deciding, whether they acknowledge it or not. If you can get past their objections, consternation, procrastination and equivocating, and bring to light the real reasons they won't make decisions, you will have done them and yourself a great service. And it will lead you to a thriving sales career.
If you just take orders from customers, you're not a salesperson. Selling is both an art and a science. It is creative and analytical. Develop the qualities of the scientist and the artist as you work through the steps of selling. And remember, build quality relationships with your prospects and customers - relationships that provide mutual benefit to both seller and buyer.
Keeping that in mind, here are the keys to unlocking sales and closing deals:
- Ask for the close at least five times before walking away. Do this because, after you build rapport, it will be hard for your prospects to say no to you five times. Ask for the close, and close your prospects today.
- Discover the real reason for a potential customer's sales resistance. If you can bring someone to a decision (yes or no), you will earn six figures in sales. Four sales are better than 12 maybes.
- Resolve to bring prospects to a decision. Don't let buyers procrastinate. Your job is to help them find the appropriate solution for their businesses. You're the expert; make a recommendation.
- Whatever your potential merchant customers say, agree with them, and proceed.
- Make closing the sale a game of wits, persuasion and skill for yourself.
- Grow what is commonly called a thick skin.
- Really believe in what you are selling; your clients will believe in it and in you, too.
The final step in the sales process is the close. This step should be easy and quick. It is the cumulative effect of all your preceding hard work. If there is no sale at this point, something was missed in your qualifying or presentation stages. Customers should know you plan to ask for the sale after the presentation. In fact, they should be surprised if you don't ask for it.
Most salespeople never ask for a potential customer's business. At the appropriate time, it is imperative to ask for the sale. This is best done with trial closes and honest discussions. Be careful. Attempting to close too early can put clients on the defensive and jeopardize sales. For this reason, it is important to recognize where you are in the selling process. Do not jump ahead.
Three's the charm
Assuming you've done the necessary groundwork, here are three closing techniques to use right after your presentation:
#h4 1. Offer two alternatives
This is the classic alternate choice close. After presenting the savings, benefits, value and so forth of going with our company, give your prospects two alternatives for doing business with you, and ask which option they would prefer.
For example, let's assume you propose leasing two different styles of terminal. You could say: We have this machine that is both a terminal and built-in printer for only $39 per month, or may I recommend this one with a terminal, printer, ATM PIN pad and built-in smart card reader, all for only $10 more at $49? Which would you prefer?
Now, shut up. Whether it takes 10 seconds or 10 minutes for a response, stay quiet.
Always give the merchant two choices here. Never ask a yes or no question at this point. If prospects want to say no, they'll tell you. Don't offer it as an option. Human psychology is to say no to anything new and unexpected.
Asking prospective customers which alternative they prefer gives you a sale with either option. Once prospects have responded after the first close, no matter what they say, agree and proceed. Identify with them.
For example, say: I can understand and respect that. While you're thinking it over ... (go to your next close, giving them more value and more reason to sign with you today).
#h4 2. Agree, proceed and annualize
Your second close is all about giving prospects more value and less reason not to close the deal.
Here's an example: Mr./Ms._________, I can certainly understand your wanting to think it over. While you're thinking about it, consider this. With a successful business like yours, I know a savings of $40 per month isn't necessarily going to cause you to do back flips.
However, it adds up to $480 per year. I don't know about you, but $480 would mean something to me. Just out of curiosity, if you were to proceed with one option or another, which one would you prefer?
At this point, prospects often pick one option or they state what their real sales resistance is. Remember, you're dealing with normal, natural sales resistance - not the end of the world. If you're calm and comfortable during the presentation and closing, the merchant will mirror your emotional state.
If, after the second close, prospects still want to think about it, it's time for the third close.
#h4 3. Root out the real objection
At this stage, if prospective clients are still hesitating or wanting to think about what you have to offer, you need to root out the real objection, namely why they don't want to do business with you. Indicating a desire to think about your proposal isn't an objection; it's a hesitation.
Here's one approach to finding prospects' real objections: Mr./Ms.__________, I can respect you wanting to think about it. My question is, What is it that you want to think about? I'm sure that you're not offended by putting (fill in appropriate dollar amount) of savings in your pocket. So there must be something else. If you don't mind me asking, what is it?
Now, really look at your prospective clients and listen to what they tell you.
Once you root out the real objection, you still might not be able to close, but you've discovered what really stands in the way of sealing the deal.
Ninety percent of the time, prospects will be fully forthcoming, but if they don't say anything, or if they say they don't know the answer to your question, ask the following: Is it that you're not sure you want to go with option A or option B?
If that is, indeed, the problem, you can easily provide further information about the options and proceed to the next step.
But if prospects indicate deciding between options A and B is not the problem, turn to the mission statement page in your sales book and tell them about your company. For example, tell them positive truthful statements such as, We've been in business six years and haven't had even one complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
If the prospect still hesitates, ask the following: Is it that you're uncomfortable with our company or with me? If you're not comfortable with me, I can get another one of our account executives to assist you.
The point is you need to find out the real cause when prospects hesitate.
What your potential customers say will always determine the appropriate closing technique to use. Most often, the reason someone cannot make a decision is that there is a missing element (a missing partner or spouse, for instance). If a partner is absent, can the parties who are present call the individual? Is the person at home?
Often, closing occurs after a salesperson has made multiple trips to a prospect's place of business. I've always thought it would be easier to get the first four noes or stall tactics out of the way on the first visit so you can just leave with the deal on that visit. To facilitate this you should know eight to 10 closes, minimum, off the top of your head.
Following are examples of effective closes. The idea is to keep asking.
What would it take?
Ask the following: Mr./Ms.________, Just so I can be certain I have done my job properly, what would it take to earn your business today?
Let your prospects answer and hope the answer is a request you are able to fulfill.
The assumptive close
This close is very useful after a presentation. It assumes the merchant wants whatever you're offering. After a thorough presentation, you simply ask the following: What's your full legal business name?
While writing the answer in your paperwork, you can also ask, Are you a corporation or a sole proprietor? Keep asking questions, and as long as merchants are answering, take them through the paperwork process.
Feel, felt, found
This close is highly effective because it demonstrates your empathy. It also works with virtually any objection, regardless of whether a merchant is currently processing.
Using this method, respond to an objection with the following: I understand exactly how you feel. I have had several other merchants tell me they felt the very same way. But after changing to (or establishing) our services, what they found was ... (tell your prospects a success story or two from merchants who are happy with your services: a merchant who found business increased by 30 to 40 percent, or a retailer who realized there is really no hassle at all getting started, for example).
Again, this works with all manner of objections.
For this, you relate a story about someone (very likely a prospect) and how the individual bought your product or service and how satisfied and pleased he or she is. Emphasize how a problem was solved and the various benefits that resulted.
Prospects will identify with the hero of the story and realize that if they buy, they will enjoy similar benefits.
Here's an example of a story: I knew a guy who owned a hobby shop. He didn't feel credit cards would help his business because for 13 years he'd never accepted them. He reluctantly agreed to a test run.
Today, four years later, he's one of my happiest merchants, doing over $10,000 in credit and debit card sales alone each month.
Helping to corroborate the story should be satisfied customer reference letters or names of customers who will give you glowing references when prospects call.
The impending event
A technique that can be useful in obtaining an immediate decision is the impending event. As the name implies, something is about to happen in the very near future that makes it sensible for the prospect to buy now rather than wait. For example:
- Prices are going up.
- Smart cards are coming. Are you compatible?
- Truncation regulations are now in place. You could be fined if your machine isn't truncating card numbers.
- The special offer ends tomorrow.
Ask for the order
There are many stories about sales staff who have done everything perfectly and been asked to make a quote. The quote given is complex, and its presentation is thorough and comprehensive. The proposal is completely justified, and the customer will definitely go ahead with whatever the project is.
After duly delivering and presenting the quote, the salesperson asks the potential customer when a decision will be made. The prospect asks the agent to call back in two weeks. Two weeks later to the day, the agent calls, and the conversation goes like this:
Agent: Have you decided to go ahead?
Prospect: Yes we have, but I'm afraid we placed the order with another firm.
Agent: (Mortified) Was there anything wrong with the scheme proposed?
Prospect: No, it was excellent.
Agent: Was it the price?
Prospect: No, that was fine.
Agent: Then, may I ask why we didn't get the order?
Prospect: Because you never asked for it.
Learning to close is an art, a skill to master, a game to win. It's real white-knuckle, churning your guts stuff. Only the strong, persevering, tough sales professionals stick it out. You must want success.
I can't teach or coach desire; it must come from within. But I can tell you this: Ask for the order.
Jason A. Felts is the founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Florida-based Advanced Merchant Services Inc., a registered ISO/MSP with HSBC Bank. From its onset, AMS has placed top priority on supporting and servicing its sales partners. The company launched ISOPro Motion, its private-label training program, to provide state-of-the-art sales tools and actively promote the success and long-term development of its partners. For more information, visit www.amspartner.com, call 888-355-VISA (8472), ext. 211, or e-mail Felts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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