Closing a sale is not, and let me emphasize the word NOT, an event, but rather a process.
The novice salesperson dreads closing the sale and often treats it as a necessary evil relating to selling. They isolate closing the sale and look upon the act very much like a “hail Mary” pass in football. You know, the final attempt to win the game when all else has failed and there is only one play left before the final buzzer sounds. For the professional salesperson, the one who has studied the art of selling and practices the correct principles and skills, closing the sale is the logical conclusion of a magnificent process keenly focused on presenting a logical and appropriate solution to the prospect’s unique situation. That’s right, selling is a process and closing the sale is the final step of the process.
One of my favorite lines from the movie, Jerry Maguire comes as Jerry is attempting to reaffirm his love for his wife, Dorothy, near the conclusion of the movie. The dialogue goes something like this.
Jerry: “Hello... Our little project, our company, had a very big night, a very, very big night. But it wasn't complete, wasn't nearly close to being in the same vicinity as complete, because I couldn't share it with you. I couldn't hear your voice, or laugh about it with you. I missed my wife. We live in a cynical world, a cynical world, and we work in a business of tough competitors. I love you. You complete me. And if I just had...”
Dorothy: (interrupting) “Shut up. Just shut up. You had me at hello. You had me at hello.”
The reason I mention this scene and dialogue is to demonstrate that in relationships as well as in selling, the sale is made long before you ask for the business. It could be made as soon as “Hello.” Selling is a process and every step of the sales process is directed towards closing the sale. Prospecting, assessing, presenting and completion are the four major steps of the process and each one requires the use of effective questioning in order to close the sale. The purpose of each step, or phase of the sales process, is to arrive at the next phase. The cumulative experience of asking and answering questions creates a dialogue that will naturally lead the prospect to arrive at the correct verdict regarding your product or service.
In the prospecting phase, questions help determine if the prospect has any need for your product or service. Questions provide the direction for the next step i.e., a meeting, a demonstration, plant visit, sending additional information, etc. Proper questioning in the prospecting phase will save time by eliminating uninterested parties.
During the assessing phase, you can discover the prospect’s true needs, wants and desires. One of the worst mistakes a salesperson can make is to assume a prospect has a need for your product or service just because they granted you a few minutes to meet with them. During the assessing phase, ask all the questions necessary to understand their unique situation and learn specifically their need for your product or service. You can also begin building rapport, which is essential to closing a sale. Remember, people buy from people they believe, like and trust.
The presentation phase is not a time for the salesperson to do all the talking while the prospect sits back and listens. The presentation is not a monologue, but rather a dialogue involving the prospect in the conversation. As you mention each point, feature or benefit of your offering, ask the prospect for their input. Allow them to discuss each factor from their point of view. Let them reveal their perspective relating to your interpretation of the proper solution to their needs. The presentation phase is a discussion of the solution to the problems or needs discovered in the assessing phase. Seldom is a sale made without meaningful dialogue.
The completion phase of the sales process is the natural and logical conclusion of all the preceding phases. Oft times, the prospect will simply ask to buy your product. At other times, you will need to ask for the business. Sometimes there will be concerns or objections that weren’t raised during the presentation phase. If so, answer them or resolve them as though they were just overlooked during the presentation.
Studies have shown an amazing 63% of all salespeople neglect to ask for the sale. Asking for the sale should be the easiest question if you have properly executed the prior steps of the sales process and applied effective questioning techniques. Remember, effective questioning is the key to more sales.