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Getting Prospects to Say "I Do"

People often ask me, "How can I close more sales?" The problem is that they're asking the wrong question. It overlooks all the preparation required to get you to the point where you would logically ask someone to buy. It's like asking, "How can I get someone to marry me?" In both cases, the quality of your sales process strongly determines the quality of your outcome.

Selecting your target customers and then finding, qualifying, and presenting to them are essential prerequisites to closing. Just like in any process, the better you are at each step, the better you'll be at getting the order -- and the higher your closing rate will climb.

IT'S NOT MAGIC. I coached a woman who designs Web sites and had lost her last two deals when prospective customers decided to hire their young relatives instead. To overcome their objection, she had told them she thought nepotism was bad, and she gave them logical reasons they should buy from her, such as her knowledge of Web users' behavior and the predesign research she would do for their sites. She turned to me for the magical words to close the next client who raised this objection.

Of course, there are no such words. Instead, she needed to improve her sales process. I recommended that she start with the fundamental problem of hiring relatives. How about responding to the customer like this, I suggested: "Let me ask you, do you spend Thanksgiving or other major holidays with them?" That gets customers laughing as they start to imagine how uncomfortable it could be if they are unhappy with the relatives' work but have to smile and talk nice during their holidays together.

A response like this helps the customers to sell themselves. It also shows that the sales rep is down-to-earth and not pushy. If you just sit back and wait until your customers finish the movie playing in their heads, you're half way to a close.

MORE THAN WORDS. Then it's time to smoothly and confidently lean in and say something like, "There's a famous saying that it's better to make friends through business than to do business with friends. If you buy from me, you'll be sure you get exactly what you want and you also won't ruin your good time with relatives at every family gathering for the rest of your life. What do you say?"

The funny thing is, when it comes time to ask for the order, your exact words seldom make or break the sale. Here's a personal example: When my husband asked me to marry him more than 20 years ago, he said, "Will you be my wife?"

I admit, my first thought was to tell him I didn't want to be anybody's property. But thankfully, before those words left my mouth, I thought about what a great guy he was and how well we got along. I saw this darling, 6'4" hulk of a man down on one knee in a puddle of moonlight, looking into my eyes with excitement and expectation. Of course I said yes.

Most sales calls don't culminate in a scene out of a romance novel, but the lesson is the same. Preparation matters and when he proposed, I didn't respond to his words. I responded to the entire "sales process" that led up to the big question.

HOT LINES. I can't write a column on closing sales without giving you a few specific ideas on how to close. Here is a list of ways you can ask for the order:

1. Do you want to get started today?

2. Have you decided which color/size/model you think would work best for you?

3. Is there a deadline when you would need to have it delivered/installed/up and running?

4. How were you planning to pay for it?

5. We offer several great payment options. Do you want to discuss them now or later?

6. Is there anything holding you back from moving ahead with us today?

7. You say you need to get someone else's approval. Are they in this building? Could we go see them now, together, and try to get this finished?

8. If you don't buy from me, how else might you solve your problem?

9. We have a 90-day money-back guarantee. Why don't you give us a try?

10. Buying our services is such a small part of your job. You've done your homework and you know that our proposal is a good solution for your situation and our company has a long reputation for good service. Why don't you go ahead and give us your approval now and we can get the ball rolling so you can get back to all the things you needed to get done by yesterday?

11. Would you like to get finished sooner and start with our complete package or do you want to take it step-by-step and begin with our starter package?

ASK FOR IT. Exactly how you close doesn't really matter. What does matter, of course, is that you must ask for the order. I interviewed a marketing expert who said he never asks folks to buy, he just keeps giving them valuable ideas and, eventually, they buy something. Sorry, I don't agree. It's like dating forever. If you want to get married, at some point, one party has to pop the question.

Don't focus solely on the close. If you concentrate on doing a good job at each step of the sales process and remember to ask for the order, you'll close more sales.


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