GS Logo
The Green Sheet, Inc

Please Log in

A Thing
Article published in Issue Number: 061201

Closing, closing, closing, sold!

By Ken Boekhaus, Electronic Exchange Systems

Two columns ago I discussed how to begin a sales call with a 30- to 60-second sound bite. That's how you get your foot in the door with a prospect. My last column addressed consultative selling, or the middle of the sales call.

With consultative selling you learn what merchants are doing, what they like and what they don't like. You also gain clues about new products and services merchants may want or need.

But a sale is not a sale until you close. Entire books have been written on closing, so this column will be a light overview of the topic. Hopefully, it will stimulate you to study closing skills in more depth.

ABC's of closing

In the 1992 movie "Glengarry Glen Ross," Blake, played by Alec Baldwin, delivers a hardball motivational sales training on closing that is ridiculously over the top. Still, a meaningful message is in his tirade: Always be closing (ABC). Unlike moving from sound bite to consultative selling, there is no single point of transition to the close.

Progressively, through the sales presentation, you want to do closes that ease you seamlessly to the final close. So, always be closing.

Think of it as baby steps. Other than impulse purchases, a purchase decision is not a one-step process. It is actually a series of decisions that build to the final purchase decision. Therefore, you want to do partial closes and trial closes as you go through the selling process.

Partial closes

A partial close is getting buy-in from the prospect to part of your sales proposal or to the steps in the buying process. It can be viewed as soliciting small commitments from prospects that are investments they are making in the sale.

One partial close might be getting merchants to provide you with merchant statements. Merchants are not going to invest the time to pull statements for you unless they have interest in buying from you.

Setting a next appointment can also be a partial close, but there is always the chance a merchant will not actually buy in and will only humor you by setting an appointment to get rid of you for the time being.

Just getting merchants to agree that they need to consider changing providers or need an additional product or service is a partial close because it is moving them to the purchase decision in incremental steps.

Trial closes

Trial closes move you closer to the final sale just as partial closes do. Trial closes also tell you where you are in the sales process. If you are waiting until the end of the sale to attempt your first close, you may get surprised.

If you don't know where you are in the sale throughout the sales process, then you aren't controlling the sale, and you are greatly reducing your probability of success.

A trial close is testing a prospect's orientation toward buying what you are selling. It can be phrased as a hypothetical question.

One example might be, If I can show you how you can increase sales by implementing loyalty cards, would that be something you would consider? You can also use a "would you agree?" question to see if someone is being convinced by your sales proposition.

Trial closes need to be carefully crafted. First, come up with questions that will lead to meaningful answers that add to your grasp of where you stand in the sale. Second, phrase questions in a way that makes it difficult to say no, so that you are building toward the final close.

Finally, you want to position the partial close in such a way that if a prospect does say no, you haven't killed the sale. Leave yourself room to retreat a little, so you can come back to the discussion from a slightly different angle.

Watch for buy signals

During the sales process, look for buy signals. These are verbal and nonverbal indicators that the prospect is moving toward buying or is ready to buy. If you are not keenly looking for buy signals, you may miss them. They can be very subtle.

Does the prospect's body language indicate he is very interested, or does it indicate he just wants you to leave?

If a merchant is thinking about where to put your new terminal, that is a strong buy sign. All too often, salespeople miss or misinterpret the buy or no-buy signals.

Know when to hold, when to fold

Trial closes are invaluable. They help you avoid wasting your time on a sale that is not going to happen. Sometimes I have avoided trial closes because I was afraid of their answer. All this does is waste the prospect's time and your time. If a sale is not happening, it is better to know that early on, and bail.

All too often, salespeople hang on in sales calls gone sour when they should be walking away. Your time is better spent looking for the next opportunity than trying to salvage an unlikely sale.

Just ask

When you reach the end of the sales process, it's time to ask for the sale. This seems so ridiculously obvious, but I am continually amazed at how many salespeople don't ask for the sale in their closes. When I interview job candidates for a sales position, I put a lot of stock in whether they ask for the job at the end.

If you have been building commitments from the prospect throughout the sale with partial and trial closes, it is much harder for them to say anything but yes when you do ask for the sale. You should be eager to ask for the sale because you have been getting buy signs along the way.

If, on the other hand, you hesitate to ask for the sale, then you likely have not been getting buy signs during the sales process, and you either have not been doing trial and partial closes or have ignored the negative responses you received.

Now zip it

When you have made the sale, stop selling. This is one of my pet peeves: I can't tell you how many salespeople I have seen make the sale prematurely in their sales presentation, but keep going through their entire spiel. Don't talk yourself out of a sale. If a merchant is ready to buy, close and then put away the sales pitch. Always be closing

As I said before, a sale isn't a sale until you successfully close. You can't wait until the end to do your first close or you might be unpleasantly surprised.

You should be doing little closes throughout the sale to know where you are in the sale, to know what the prospect is willing to buy and to build the prospect's commitment to your sales proposition. Closing is a learned skill for most of us; it doesn't come naturally.

What works for one person, doesn't work for another. As you reflect on each sale (or lost sale) consider how you could have done the closes better, and apply your insights to the next sale.

Develop your own personal approach and style for closing. Just remember, closing is as simple as ABC.

Ken Boekhaus is Vice President, Marketing and Business Development for Electronic Exchange Systems, a national provider of merchant processing solutions. Founded in 1991, EXS offers ISO partner programs, innovative pricing, a complete product line, monthly phone/Web-based training and quarterly seminars. For more information, visit or e-mail Boekhaus at . EXS is a registered ISO/MSP for HSBC Bank USA, N.A.

Article published in issue number 061201

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.
Back Next Index © 2006, The Green Sheet, Inc.