Great Sales People don’t just close more deals. They make it LOOK easy. They don’t chase prospects who string them along, only to say “no” a few weeks later. They don’t wrestle with objections or give up half their commission to make the sale.
Most important, Great Sales People enjoy selling. They aren’t afraid to ask for the sale. But they don’t “pressure” their customers to buy either. Why is this? Ammeter Sales People assume it’s because Great Sales People “aren’t afraid of rejection.” The truth is, great selling is a skill. And like any other skill, it can be learned and mastered.
In this blog, I’ll share five simple techniques for closing big sales deals. Any Sales Person who masters these can easily double or triple their income over the next 18 months. I know that sounds hard to believe, but I think you’ll see why as you read these. Let’s lay a quick foundation before we dive in…
What Does it Mean to “Always Be Closing?”
“Always Be Closing,” doesn’t mean you should assume the sale every 90 seconds. It means you should seal up ALL possible objections BEFORE they happen. If you’ve been in sales more than a few weeks, you’ve already heard every type of objection…
- Timing Objections: “Let me think about it,” or “Get back to me in 6 weeks.”
- Money Objections: “We can’t afford it right now,” or “We’ll come back when we have the money.”
- Decision Maker Objections: “I need to talk to my __ and get back to you.”
- Competitor Objections: “Your competitor offered me a better deal.”
Ordinary Sales People try to address these objections AFTER their presentation. Not only does this kill their momentum, their presentation often doesn’t fit the prospect’s buying needs. But in many cases, they discover that the prospect never planned to buy in the first place.
Great sales are different. They close ALL objections either BEFORE they make the presentation OR during it. Sometimes they start this process before they even set an appointment. This is why Great Sales People seem to attract more “lay downs.” They’re not lucky. They’re just following a process from start to finish.
Here’s an illustration. Imagine a room with five doors. Imagine yourself in that room. Your prospect is there too. The first four doors represent four types of objections…
- DOOR #1: Timing Objections: “Let me think about it,” or “Get back to me in 6 weeks.”
- DOOR #2 Money Objections: “We can’t afford it right now,” or “We’ll come back when we have the money.”
- DOOR #3: Decision Maker Objections: “I need to talk to my ___ and get back to you.”
- DOOR #4: Competitor Objections: “Your competitor offered me a better deal.”
Imagine DOOR #5 is behind you. It represents a closed sale. At the end of your presentation, your prospect WILL walk out one of these five doors. Your job is to close DOORS #1-4 and lead them through DOOR #5. This, as you’ll see in a moment, is what it means to “Always Be Closing.”
True, 50% to 80% of your prospects will leave by one of the other four doors. Your goal is to make these prospects leave as soon as possible. This means, less time wasted on people who weren’t going to buy in the first place. And that means, more time to invest in serious prospects.
These five steps make it simple. With Steps #1-4, you’ll close DOORS #1-4. With Step #5, you’ll lead them through DOOR #5. Master all five and you’ll be doing that a LOT more often…
Step #1: “How soon do you want to ___?”
Make this your FIRST question. Before starting your presentation. Here are some examples…
- “How soon do you want to move into your new house?”
- “How soon do you want to take your new car home?”
- “How soon do you want to hire someone for this position?”
- “How soon do you want to have your alarm system installed?”
Notice each ___ represents a “closing action.” Notice also that I use “your ___” wherever possible. This question accomplishes two goals. First, it reveals how serious your prospect is. Will they buy sometime soon? Or are they wasting your time? In my experience, rejection isn’t a Salesperson’s biggest hurtle. Their biggest hurdle is discerning between idle curiosity and genuine interest.
When you ask this question…
“How soon do you want to move into your new house?”
You should know the difference between this…
“Hopefully August of this year.”
“I don’t know, we’re just looking right now.”
Of course, the second response isn’t always a lost cause. It’s a matter of HOW they say it. What does their tone of voice tone and body language tell you? Are they idly curious, or are they REALLY just in the information gathering stage? I know, some sales managers push you to convert EVERY prospect into a sale. I’m not saying you should cherry-pick.
But, don’t be fooled by stories about “that one prospect” who bought the whole store after EVERY sales person wrote him off as a looky loo. For each of those, DOZENS of similar stories end with the Sales Person chasing a Tirekicker into the black hole of “call me in a week” followups.
But most will pretend right up until you ask for the sale. Then, their “let’s make-believe I can afford this ___ “ fantasy crumbles, they hit you with a flurry of objections and disappear like a cuttlefish into a cloud of ink.
The first goal of this question is to smoke these Time Vampires out early. The second goal is to reveal where your prospect is in the Buying Cycle. Are they just looking for information now? Are they evaluating a “short list” of you and your competitors? Or, are they closing in on a final buying decision?
Ordinary Sales People treat everything like a one call close. They assume prospects at the information gathering stage will never buy. Sometimes, this is smart. Other times, it’s a throw away of a good lead. In my book “The 24 Hour Marketing Miracle,” I lay out a specific plan for pitching each of the Five Buying Stages. But that’s an advanced topic for another time.
For now, your goal is to use this question to determine, in advance, how far along your prospect is in the Buying Cycle. This will go a LONG way in helping you apply these next four steps…
Step #2: “How much have you budgeted for your ____?”
- “How much have you budgeted for your monthly payment?”
- “How much have you budgeted for your new bedroom set?”
- “How much have you budgeted for your project?”
This question reveals a couple things. First, it tells you whether you’re dealing with a “Price Shopper” or a “Value Shopper.” This is the most important thing you can know about your prospects. I’ll tell you why in a moment.
Price Shoppers typically give you this objection at closing time…
“I can get the same thing from [INSERT COMPETITOR HERE] for less money.”
In most cases, they’re NOT getting the “same thing.” They just think they are. This is because the first, and last, thing a Price Shopper looks at is the price tag. Even when you pitch them on quality, they’ll respond with something like…
“Yes, I want quality, but….[INSERT RANDOM PRICE OBJECTION HERE]”
Sure, sometimes this means you’re not clearly communicating the value of your offer. But in most cases, you’re dealing with someone who cares more about cost than value. Such people make horrible prospects and even worse customers. Even when they DO buy, they’re always ready to leave you for the cheaper alternative.
Price Shoppers also complain more. They create more drama for your customer service team and hence have a net negative impact on your employee churn. On top of this, they’re typically grumpy, negative people who won’t refer anyone else to your business. If they do, their “friend” probably won’t trust their advice anyway.
The good news is, Price Shoppers are rare. If you’re attracting a lot of them, these questions, especially this one, will change that. And if you DO get them, set up referral program with your cheaper competitor and send them there. Don’t try to convert them into Value Shoppers. You’ll be trying to change a belief system they’ve probably had for decades. Even Professional Psychologists have a hard time with that.
So, that’s the first goal of this question. The second is to reveal your prospect’s expectations of cost. If they’re expecting to pay less than what’s realistic, you’ll need to prepare them for the surprise when you reveal the price. And beware of people who say “money is no object.” People who have a lot of money don’t typically brag about it. Especially when talking to a Sales Person.
In fact, people with money are usually ruthless negotiators. Some of them will act broke just to get a better bargain at the close. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a Sales Person fall for this trick, only to later discover their prospect was a millionaire. It’s a lesson many sales people never learn.
Now, a lot of prospects will dance around this question or give vague answers. That’s when you follow up with softer question like this…
“That’s okay, what’s your ballpark price range?”
“Just so I don’t overshoot your budget, what’s your ballpark price range?”
And yes, you should ask this question! True, some prospects won’t like it. They’ll assume you’re asking so you can start with your most expensive offer. But that’s their perception, not your problem. Just assume all your prospects understand why you’re asking, and let them imagine whatever they want. More often, they’ll understand that you’re trying to help.
Finally, if your prospect gives you a specific figure, pick a response that best suits the situation. For example…
- BUDGET TOO LOW: “Can you invest a little more for the best ____ ?”
- BUDGET JUST ABOUT RIGHT: “That’s just about right. Sounds like you’ve done your homework!”
- BUDGET TOO HIGH: “Good news, you’re gonna have some cash left over!”
Again, when they respond, pay attention to their voice tone and body language. Even prospects who give vague, defensive or dishonest answers will reveal a LOT with their non-verbals.
Once you’ve cleared this hurtle, lighten the mood. Try asking them WHY they’re shopping for your particular type of product or service. Make it casual and conversational, like this…
- “So what made you want to move to your new house?”
- “So, what made you decide to replace your bedroom set?”
- “So, what made you want to hire someone a copywriter?”
Such questions are important for two reasons. First, it reveals your prospect’s buying motives. That’ll become important in question number four. Second, it breaks up any tension you might have created by asking the first two questions. Once you’ve chatted for a minute or two, move on to step two…
Step #3: “Who will be making this decision with you?”
This question smokes out any last minute decision makers your prospect might call on. And believe me, you NEED to know this upfront. Ordinary sales people are afraid to do this. They just cross their fingers and hope this momentum killing objection never comes up.
But remember, Great Sales People deal with objections BEFORE they happen. That’s why they close more deals with less stress. And trust me, if your prospect plans to call on a last minute decision maker, they’ll do it whether you ask in advance or not. So you might as well ask.
Now, your prospect can answer this question in one of four ways. So let’s take these one at a time and I’ll show you how to handle each one…
- RESPONSE #1: “No one. It’s just me.”
This is what we want. If you’re talking to the real decision maker, you’re probably looking at a low-drama negotiation. But you should never assume it without a little more probing. So use this question as a follow up…
“Will anyone be advising you on this decision?”
This should smoke out any “hidden” decision makers. And since your prospect could call on this advisor at the last minute, it’s better to find out sooner than later.
- RESPONSE #2: “Yes, my [HUSBAND/WIFE/BUSINESS PARTNER].”
In this case, get a meeting with BOTH decision makers as soon as possible. If there’s more than one, find out how many you’ll be dealing with. In my experience, more decision makers mean more drama and delays. Your deal could also be derailed at the last minute by a rogue advisor, and for the dumbest reason possible.
Again, your goal is to present your offer to ALL decision makers (at once) as soon as possible. If this is out of the question, consider walking away. Sure, some of these multiple decision maker deals might close. But most of them descend into the murky whirlpool of deliberation and delay.
With husband/wife decision makers OR duel business partners, again, find out WHEN you can talk to both decision makers. If you’re not talking to the primary decision maker, try this question…
“When can we meet with your [husband/wife/business partner] and discuss this together?”
Again, listen closely to HOW they answer this question: their body language, tone of voice etc. If they don’t agree to introduce you, try this…
“If your [husband/wife/business partner] is part of this process, we should include him/her to shouldn’t we?”
Again, pay attention HOW they answer. If they start tap-dancing, you might be dealing with a “decoy decision maker.” By this, I mean that the other person might not be a decision maker at all. They’re just an excuse to duck out of the deal instead of giving you a direct “no.” So pay attention to their non-verbals and trust your gut.
Whatever you do, don’t count on your prospect to sell your offer to the absent person. You have the training and expertise, they don’t. So get a meeting with both/all decision makers as soon as possible.
- RESPONSE #3: “It’s just me. But I’m a liar.”
Okay, I’m being a little facetious here. Your prospect won’t actually TELL you they’re a liar. But some prospects will claim to be the decision maker when they’re not. In my experience, this typically happens in two cases…
- You’re talking to the husband, but the wife is the decision maker (what man want’s to admit that?).
- You’re talking to someone who is gathering information for their boss (See RESPONSE #3 below).
My best advice here is to go with your gut. If you’re dealing with a middle man, the FIRST thing you want to know is whether they CAN close the real decision maker. For example, in 2001, I negotiated a $250,000.00 proposal with a “Marketing Director” of a company you’ve probably heard of. His parents owned the company and had to ink the final deal (that should have been my first clue).
First, I was talking to a 30 year old “man” whose parents had plopped him directly into an six-figure, executive position, right out of college (there’s clue #2). It was the only job he’d ever had (there’s clue #3). After weeks of talking by phone and email, my prospect presented deal (alone) to his Dad, the CEO. I hear Daddy shot the offer down in a record 90 seconds.
After the deal died, I tried calling the father myself. By that time, his son had already “burned the lead.” Turns out, the father wasn’t even happy with his son’s job performance. He’d plopped him into the position out of raw nepotism. And since the father didn’t give a damn what his son thought, I became “that guy from the company Steve thinks we should hire.”
I know. I broke my own rule by not asking for the meeting with Dad. But learn this from my mistake. No matter how good your message is, the messenger is the common denominator. The same is true in domestic households. If you sense you’re talking to a henpecked husband whose wife has his balls in her purse, don’t waste your time. Even if he wants to buy, his wife could shoot your offer down as “another one of my husband’s silly ideas.”
Get in front of the real decision maker, or get the middle man out the door and get on to your next prospect. If you decide to talk to the middle man/woman anyway, do this…
- RESPONSE #4: “I’m just gathering information for my boss.”
This is the most challenging scenario, for several reasons. First, because you’re dealing with an employee. Not a manager or an owner. Employees don’t think like entrepreneurs. They think like ordinary consumers. They’re likely to shop you on price OR, at best, on the commonly known features of your product or service.
But I’m guessing it’s the sophisticated features that set you apart from your competitors. A business owner, or a manager, will understand why these features are important. They’ll understand the VALUE they add to the bottom line. But employees don’t think this way. They’re not invested in the business. So if you pitch your salient features to them, they just won’t “get it.”
So what should you do when you’re approached by a middle man instead of the decision maker? Give them the information they want, bu don’t try to turn them into a master “Middle Man Sales Person” for your product. Instead, get enough information about about the company AND the Boss to contact them on your own time. Don’t interrogate the middle man. Just be charming and pepper the conversation with a few strategic questions.
Ask what competitors they’re looking at. Ask what their experience was like talking to those competitors. Do this using the tips we cover in Step #4 below. Once the Middle Man is gone, treat it like warm lead. Drop something in the mail, or pick up the phone and make a call directly to the Decision Maker.
If you’ve built up some report with the Middle Man (or woman), open your conversation with the Decision Maker by mentioning that conservation. The fact that you took the initiative to call could be enough to put your offer at the top of the pile.
Step #4: “If I can ___ , will you ____?”
Before you ask this question, you’ll need to know two things. First, find out what competitors your prospect is considering.
“What other offers/companies are you looking at?”
Next, use these two questions find out what your prospects hot buttons are….
- “What did you like about [competitor #1]’s offer?”
- “What did you NOT like about [competitor #1]’s offer?”
Notice you’re asking what they LIKE about your competitors AND what they don’t like. The same question applies if they’re already working with one of your competitors. Then, you’re ready to ask one of the most powerful negotiating questions. I call it the “If I can____ will you ____” question, and it has two parts…
- An “If I can ___ “ offer from you.
- A “will you ___ “ request to your prospect.
Ideally, this question should include one of BOTH of these…
- An offer to match OR to beat what your prospect LIKES about your competitor’s offer.
- An offer to minimize OR eliminate what your prospect does NOT like about your competitor’s offer.
“If I can give you [COMPETITOR #1 POSITIVES] without [COMPETITOR NEGATIVES], will you [CLOSE ACTION HERE]?”
Or, f you can only offer an increase in positives, your question might look like this…
“If I can give you [COMPETITOR POSITIVES PLUS], will you [CLOSE ACTION HERE]?”
Or, if you can only offer an decrease in negatives, your question might look like this…
“If I can give you [COMPETITOR POSITIVES ONLY] without [COMPETITOR NEGATIVES], will you [CLOSE ACTION HERE]?”
If you get a yes, you’re probably looking at a sale. Make your pitch. Taylor it to the two selling points in your “If I can ____ will you ___” question. Then, close with confidence…
Step #5: “Any more questions, or are you ready to ____ ?”
- “Do you have any more questions, or are you ready to sign your agreement?”
- “Do you have any more questions, or are you ready to set your first appointment?”
- “Do you have any more questions, or are you ready to make out your check?”
If you’ve followed the other four steps, your prospect should be good to go. But, there’s ONE super important thing you MUST do RIGHT after asking your closing question: SHUT UP!
I don’t care how uncomfortable the silence is. I don’t care if it lasts for a full two minutes. If you speak first, you’re three times more likely to lose the sale. Let your prospect come to their own conclusion. If you’ve done a thorough job with the other four steps, the most you’ll get is a “reassure me” question.
Worst case scenario, your prospect will back-peddle on a previous answer about timelines, budgets or decision makers. For example, if they told you there were no other decision makers, they might stall by saying…
“I need to talk to my wife.”
Or, if they said their budget was $10,000.00, and your offer is in that range, they might say…
“I need to see if we can afford this.”
If this happens DO NOT take the “objection” literally! Remind them of their previous response, and ask them what’s holding them back. Most of the time, they’ll realize what they’re doing and move directly to yes. Other times, they’ll repeat one of the four common objections. But if you’ve gotten them this far, you’ve got an 90% chance of getting a yes if you remain confident and relaxed.
Handle the objection by reminding them of THEIR previous answer. Then they hear their own words repeated back to them, most people will close themselves. Once you’ve dealt with the second (or third, fourth, fifth etc) objection, modify with a more direct close like this..
- “Okay, go ahead and sign your agreement and we’ll get started.”
- “Okay, is morning or evening better for your first appointment?”
- “Okay, go ahead and make the check out to ___ .”
And that’s all there is to it.-Stay Awesome