Closing the Sale
You have done all your homework on your prospect, you have interviewed your prospect and found what they do, how they do it, why they do it and who they do it for and you have given a solid presentation and are ready to go for the close. The problem is how do you close your prospect so they graduate to the class of being a customer?
I have heard all kinds of tricks and antidotes to use over the years and it is the subject of many books and magazine articles. Truth be told, if you have done your homework, it is the easiest part of the sales cycle. I am not just saying this and don’t mean to boast, but fact of the matter is my closing rate is almost 90%. Okay, to be exact, it averages 87% and if you employ the techniques I use to close sales I promise your closing ratio will improve too.
What do I mean by closing ratio? This is the ratio of the number of times I move to the closing stage and result in a signed contract. Some books on sales and some business colleges teach on sales numbers and the importance of keeping track of your ratios. By keeping track of your ratios, you know how much work you need to do to close a sale and also identify your strengths and weaknesses. To give an example, my current sales ratios for this year look like this: 20%.67%, 40%,87% my sales ratios for this week look like this: 100%, 100%25%100%
Now I will explain what these numbers mean. The first number is my call to contact ratio which represents how many times I must dial a number to get a live decision maker to get on the phone. I don’t include receptionists or the hard to get through secretary, but how many times I must dial numbers to get the person I need to speak with like a purchasing manager, owner of someone with purchase authority on the phone. According to these numbers, I am only averaging two completed calls for every ten numbers I dial.
The second number is the ratio of set appointments once I have made contact with the prospect. Sometimes the prospect might be busy that week and I need to call them back to try to get an appointment the following week, but basically, for every 10 prospects I actually get on the phone, I am able to set an appointment with 6 to 7 of them. The third number is how many of those prospects actually keep their appointments without canceling or rescheduling. And last is the closing ratio of presentations actually made.
To explain my numbers for this week, I dialed four numbers and surprisingly was able to get a decision maker on all four calls, I also set an appointment with all four decision makers but out of the four appointments two appointments called to reschedule for next week and one out right canceled by having the hard to get through secretary call me so I have not had the opportunity to confirm a new appointment date. Lastly, the one appointment that did follow through I was able to give a solid presentation and close the sale and am on my way to building what I hope to be a long term relationship with a new customer.
Why would anyone want to keep track of these types of numbers? The advantage is it allows you to predict your future and lets you know how to plan your schedule. Based on my numbers I spend a great deal of time on the phone dialing numbers that are not answered with the right person. Secondly, let’s say hypothetically I have ten appointments scheduled for a single week. My number averages tell me that most likely I will actually only make four presentations and of those four I will most likely close the sale on three of them.
This in turn also tells me how much lumber and plywood I need to keep in my shop. I order my hardware out of Canada so I use these numbers to know how many hinges, casket locks and swing arms to keep on hand as well because if I run out, it is not as simple as running to the local Woodcraft store to buy more because they don’t carry the type of hardware I need
You can tailor your numbers and what they mean to you anyway that works for you but what is important is that you keep a record to know how to set your personal quotas that will lead to the business revenue you need to generate and meet your goals.
Now, some of you that have been following my blog might say how can I have a closing rate of 87% if I said in an earlier blog that all your sales are divided into thirds and there will be one third that you will not be able to close no matter what you do. By that statement it would seem that a perfect closing ratio should be 66%. This is where interviewing your prospect comes in and finding the right information concerning your prospect and fitting your prospect to your product. When I boast an 87% closing rate, these are those that after proper interviewing and presentation I go into the close and am able to get the prospect to become a customer.
I am going to go out on a limb here and break the rules of every sales book and sales trainer out there and say I don’t always attempt to close a prospect. It has happened on some occasions that after the interview stage, I realized my product was not right for the prospect and I would rather gain their trust by admitting that my product is not a good fit for them rather than trying to muddle my way through a presentation and pressure them into a purchase that is not right for them.
But enough of that, this blog section is on closing, and how do you transition from the presentation stage to the closing stage? And what makes it so easy?
During my presentation I am looking for any type of body language from my prospect I can get. I am sure you are all familiar with the statement that the majority of communication is through body language rather than verbal. I don’t recall the percentage and that is not important. What is important is that you recognize body movement with your prospect and are able to read what they are thinking. For example, if your prospect is sitting with their arms crossed during your presentation this is usually a sign that they are skeptical of what you are saying. Either they have an objection that they haven’t brought to the surface or they have a problem with something about you or your product.
I will go into more detail on tomorrow’s blog on dealing with objections, but in a nut shell, do not attempt to close when your prospect is giving negative body language.
Proper body language I like to see on my prospects that I use as good non verbal communication is if they are leaning forward in their seat toward you. Their eyes are usually wide and bright and they are very engaged in conversation asking questions and giving positive feedback to your questions.
Do not rush into your close too early. Only close once you have wrapped up your presentation and then simply ask for the business. This can be done in many ways. I have known many other sales people who have said things like set a pen on their desk in front of the prospect and if they pick it up you know they are sold. Personally to me, a prospect picking a pen up off the desk tells me nothing. Maybe they just wanted something in their hand to fiddle with as a nervous habit while they are in a discussion with you and that pen was the closest item. However; about 9 or 10 years ago I was at a sales seminar by one of my favorite motivational speakers and sales trainers by the name of Stephan Schiffman who had what I thought was the most logical approach to going into a close I have ever heard. Simply give your proposal and then say: “Mr. Prospect, this proposal makes sense to me, what do you think?” Once I started using this approach I have found I close more sales than any other psychological trick or approach I have ever heard. It is not threatening and does not polarize the relationship that you have worked to establish. Of course this can be changed into several different variations. You could also say something like: “Mr. Prospect would you like me to get started this week?” Or if you are selling small craft type items like to a gift shop or retail store, you could say, “Mr. Prospect, I have X number of these in stock right now, if I delivered Y number of them to you tomorrow, do you think this would be a nice addition to your inventory?”
What I would not do is say something like: “How many would you like me to bring?” It might sound innocent enough but your prospect will interpret it as being sarcastic and they will respond with sarcasms or simply chuckle at the idea and not take it as a serious inquiry. However, if you simply ask for the business in a non threatening manor, you are likely going to here, a positive remark that confirms they are ready to move forward and make a purchase,or you might here an objection. If the reply is an objection, you must find out the root of the objection because truth be told, usually the first objection a prospect gives, is usually not the actual objection. However, we will go over handling objections in detail in tomorrow’s blog.
In summary, closing the sale should be the easiest part of the sales cycle. However; it is imperative that you performed your due diligence in the earlier sales stages of the sales cycle. Only after asking the proper questions during the interview stage and presenting the benefits and not just the features during the presentation stage will you be ready to successfully go into the closing stage and transform your prospect into a customer.
-- Michael Mills, North Carolina, http://www.scicaskets.com