What’s your best chat up line? - 19th May 2016

Regular readers know that we believe successful sales conversations – though all different – broadly follow a 4-step structure. 1. E arn the right to speak to client; 2. A sk questions to understand them and their needs; 3. S ell your product or service to the needs/wants/desires identified; and 4. Y es or no to the next step. E.A.S.Y. Selling of course is not easy but the structure of sales conversations are.

I write today about the final step – Yes or no – and how to do it well.

First, if you have done the first three steps well, then closing the conversation is relatively straightforward. If you’ve not done those steps well, closing is usually impossible. Closing questions are like chat-up lines in that their success is based entirely on other factors. Good closers don’t close because of their closing questions just as successful ‘chatter-uppers’ (do they even exist?!) don’t succeed based on their chat-up lines. The success of both is based on a whole range of information that has been digested and signals that have been given in advance of saying the words.

Back to closing sales, let’s assume you’ve done the first three steps well. What now? Closing well is about the right mindset and the skill to execute a simple structure.

Mindset first. Too many salespeople think that ‘No’ is the worst answer in sales. They are wrong. The worst answer in sales, the answer that kills more working minutes and more kilojoules of selling energy in sales teams across the world is ‘Maybe’. Oh, it sounds great, I know. Helps to boost that pipeline. Keeps the Sales Director happy with a healthy list of ‘maybe’ clients. Most of them won’t buy. But you’ll spend hours and hours of your valuable working time chasing them up. And oodles of motivation, energy and confidence will seep out of your pores as your great pipeline becomes good, then ordinary then job-threateningly bad. But they all said they were interested! They weren’t.

So, the mindset is about accepting that you are better positioned getting Yes or No out of a client than Maybe. No is not so bad anyway. You can ask them why it’s No. You may be able to overcome it. They may have misunderstood something. Or, if you keep hearing the same reasons for No, you might adjust the product or service you offer to address it. And No only means ‘Not now’ in most cases anyway!

Second, closing well involves a simple structure that takes a bit of skill to put into practice. Poor closing technique is often the result of jumping in to a closing question a bit too quickly and it surprises people with its forwardness. Don’t jump in (it’s like putting your hand on the leg a bit too early on the first date at the cinema. Or, to be au courant, on a Netflix ‘n’ Chill date).

A critical structural element before you ask any closing question is to put your client in a position where they can comfortably answer it. You do that by reminding them of all the great reasons to say yes. The simplest format is a summary of the conversation you’ve just had.

‘Mrs Client, I’d like to conclude our conversation today by summarising what I believe we have discussed, check that with you and then agree a next step.’ Your summary highlights the relevant points and makes clear the compelling reasons to say Yes, thereby reminding them of reasons to say Yes, before you ask them to say Yes. (NB. This only works if you’ve done the rest of the conversation well and these really are compelling reasons based on what you’ve learnt about them. Otherwise, it’s useless!).

Once you’ve reminded them and put them in a position where all salient points are front of mind, you can you ask your closing question. Don’t drop the ball. Keep it simple. And don’t rush it. “Shall we get the reservation form signed today?”