“Closing” – the moment of truth and when the customer is ready to commit to the order and sign on the dotted line.
This is also the part and where most salespeople fail, especially new salespeople because at this stage, the salesperson is wide open to something we all fear…rejection.
That is why I never teach any salesperson to close a sale.
Sales are the lifeblood of any organization and whether you are a business owner who has to do all of the selling yourself, employ salespeople or are an online business where your selling is done via sales copy and not people, you don’t need me to tell you how critically important this business function is.
If you are new to selling, have a fear of selling or are over-awed by the process then this article may help you.
If you are an experienced salesperson or a sales trainer, then the headline of this article will seem at best counter-intuitive and you may even think I have totally lost the plot!
Anyway, try to stay with me on this.
I have sold literally on the doorstep in my direct selling days, working my way up to selling into the boardrooms of some of the worlds leading technology companies and I still sell to this day.
When I began my career, I went through many sales training courses and each one without exception, placed a great deal of emphasis on the “closing process.”
In fact, after one course, we were told never to refer to ourselves as mere salespeople as we were now officially “closers” and had reached the ultimate standard in the world of selling.
I hated all of those courses as I was effectively being trained to be an actor and if I had wanted to be an actor, I would have tried to get into drama school, which was never going to happen anyway as I always hated drama lessons.
I either left or was fired from my early sales jobs because I simply refused to “act” and be someone I was not and I had my own ideas of how to sell, but who was going to listen to an unproven twenty-year-old someone?
As I progressed I would start to “do my own thing” and try out my ideas and when I started my main technology staffing business, it was my chance to prove it to myself without any constraints.
I am going to outline the process for you here, without going too much into the detail because I would need a book rather than an article, but I can tell you that it works and that I still use and teach it to this day.
So let’s get straight into it:
Selling like most things is a process and if you follow it correctly, you will at the very least, hold your own in any sales situation and you will certainly increase your chances of success.
- You have to be yourself and also be true to yourself. People can see through “actors” and that serves to build barriers and not bridges in the sales process. If you are an online business using the copy to sell, then make sure you are reflecting who you are, in your sales copy and one of the best ways to do that is to “write as you speak.”
- Think like a buyer – the Internet has turned us into a world of “buyers” and we are now so much more informed than before. Just think of Amazon and also the ability to instantly find information, particularly reviews of a product before you buy it. Many buyers in organizations now know more about the companies that they are buying from than the salespeople! It’s a sad fact but beware. The good news is that it has put an (almost) end to the sleazy sales tactics thanks to an increased awareness of the sales process.
- Do your homework – this is where ninety-percent of salespeople fail. You need to know your market, your customers, their objectives and goals before you engage them and it is the most vital component of the whole process. When I was selling to the large technology corporations, I would telephone their marketing departments to find out as much information as possible. I would explain that I wanted to invest in their companies and would ask them to explain their differences and advantages over their competitors. They duly obliged and became an invaluable part of my research. I would also study world geopolitical events as well as the world economies and stock markets to see how much money was pouring in, or out of the sector and also to look at the risks. It doesn’t matter what your business is, because it will fall into a business sector that you can easily conduct research into. Your job is to find out what your customers need before you engage with them and in this way, you work in anticipation and automatically you are ahead of your competitors, as you don’t have to ask the time-consuming questions that most salespeople ask in the first meeting! Most importantly, I wanted to form my own opinions as to where the market was heading and that would be crucial for the next part…
- Engage your customers at the highest level – I cannot stress the importance of this. I targeted CEO’s and although I never reached most of them, I would speak to their executive assistants and ask for their help. I would ask them to look through a proposal that I had prepared for the “boss” and tell me if they thought he or she would be interested in it. It worked a treat because I engaged the assistant and didn’t try to work through them. If you are selling car-leasing services, for example, engage the CFO or head of finance. If you are pushed down to a lower level, then you have at least come with a referral from the top and this has also worked like a dream for me.
- Make sure your proposal is delivering value – we have all heard of the term “value,” but I can tell you that most salespeople fail to deliver it. If you have done your homework as described above, you will already be ahead of the game and you can start to provide solutions to problems even before you have met your customer. They will be far more generic than the solutions you will provide after the meeting, but you will have demonstrated to your customers that you have understood their business; their challenges and can provide specific solutions to them.
- You should now be at the meeting stage and I don’t have space here to cover this fully, but the advice here is to again be yourself and present a compelling value proposition based on the work you have done previously. Remember, when you are engaging at the higher levels, you need to be very succinct and get your point across quickly and efficiently. Don’t waste time. Senior executives, decision-makers and business owners simply want what’s best for their businesses and they are committed to making them successful.
It really isn’t rocket science and I have taught hundreds of salespeople to sell in this manner and in fact, the most successful results came from those people who had no previous sales experience.
I will leave you with something else that I believe in passionately and that is we are all hardwired to sell.
The human race needed to barter goods and services to survive, long before the creation of a commercial monetary system. Also, I will say for all of you sales managers, leaders and directors out there, leadership skills were transferred from the battlefields into the boardrooms and maybe that is why such books as “The art of war,” from Sun Tzu, were so successful!
If you really want to understand the process and go a little deeper, then just look at children – they are fearless, imaginative, relentless, determined and will get that ice-cream cone from their parents just before dinner!
Are they not some of the qualities that you expect to see in a successful salesperson?
Well, we all had them at one stage of our lives and for some of us; it is a matter of re-connecting with them!
Blog by Neil J C Franklin Entrepreneur Coach Mentor