It may seem obvious, but the first step in closing a sale is to engage your prospect in a way that makes them aware of, or reminds them of, a problem or goal that they have. Once engaged, you have the opportunity to explain and educate them (not sell them) on the ways that your product or service will help them solve their problem or achieve that goal. Most people like to buy, but very few people like to be sold.
There is nothing wrong with befriending the prospect. People like to buy from people they know and are comfortable with. In the process of getting to know your prospect, you have the ability to ask questions and to qualify what their real needs or goals are. This can be done in a very conversational manner so it doesn’t appear that you are selling them, because you really are not. At this point in the closing process, you should be focused on listening and trying to match the best product or service that will fit your client’s needs, not trying to sell them what you happen to have that day.
There is nothing worse than selling a product or service that the customer will be later dissatisfied with. One of the most commonly used questions in qualifying is to ask, “How will this be used?” Or “What will you be using this for?” Once you understand the prospect’s needs, you are in a much better position to recommend the right product or service for them. Be sure to offer as many relevant, appropriate products or services that you or your organization has to offer.
Offering is important in that it lets the customer know what you have available. If they don’t know, they can’t possibly ask for it. Even poorly executed offerings are better than not offering at all. Through experience, you will be able to offer smoothly, but don’t leave out the offering step, even if you can’t think of a graceful way of doing it.
In the process of making your offerings, listen and watch for buying signals from your prospect. Signals might come in the form of questions like, “How do you think this would work for me? Or “What product do you think is best for me?” Nonverbal buying signals (if you are selling face-to-face) should also help you indicate that a sale close is near. An example of a non-verbal buying signal might be the customer holding the product or using it as if they already owned it.
Close the sale. Once you observe buying signals, stop, or at least pause, the offering process. A common mistake that many sales people make is to continue to educate, offer and sell after the customer has already indicated that they are willing to buy. The most straightforward way to do this is to ask the customer if they would like to make a purchase. If they say yes, you can write the order, or if they are not, you can further question what their needs or wants are and proceed with another offering you have that might be a better match. Or you might be able to answer a simple objection with additional clarification or information.
Another way to close is to present alternate positive choices like, “Are you ready to sign the documents or should I send the purchase order into your office?” These questions put the prospect in a situation where they are not given the option of saying no to the sale. If they answer with either of the options you have given them, you have made the sale.
You can also close a sale by attaching accessory products to make the product they are interested in more appealing: “Let me get you (xyz accessory) to enhance (product).” If they accept your offer for the accessory, then you have made the sale on the original product.
Once you have made the sale, it’s very important to remember that you need to do post-sales follow-up. This is essential to keeping your customers happy and getting repeat customers. In the process of closing, you might offer to help the customer with any questions or concerns they might have about the product or service. Follow up and do just that, and verify that all products were received to their satisfaction. The act of following up will give you the opportunity to ask for referrals to anyone else your customer knows who might benefit from your product or service and more sales for you.
About the author: Scott Francis is president of Topline Development LLC, a strategic marketing consulting group that provides new product development and start-up strategies, advertising and marketing consulting, and sales support programs. To learn more about Topline Development LLC, visit their website at ToplineDevelopment.com or contact Scott directly at Scott@ToplineDevelopment.com