One of my trainers recently asked a course delegate what his favourite ‘closing’ statement or question was. We often invoke this kind of discussion on our programmes, just to see if anyone is still working from the old mindset of canned scripts or numbed rhetoric.
The delegate said he had been taught the one about asking the ‘trapped’ question, where no matter what the prospect says, he is opening himself up to be closed!
The example given was the question “If we could solve this problem for you today, would you move forward with us?”
How many prospects would seriously answer that with “No, we don’t want to solve that problem, we just want to continue throwing money away!” I’ve heard one or two sarcastic prospects answer that way, but only when they’ve become bored or simply want to end the meeting because they’ve lost respect for the salesperson’s tactics.
No, the main problem with that form of question is that it immediately makes the prospect go on guard. Trust is lost and there’s no room for manoeuvre. He feels trapped (hence the label given earlier) and he feels he has to fight back (sarcasm, avoiding the issue, etc) or he leaves the conversation, either literally or mentally.
You must make the prospect feel safe in their conversation with you. When people feel safe they tend to relax, be more open, more confident and trusting of the other person. Here’s an example of a question that may invoke the fight-or-flight reaction:
“Is the current situation causing issues for you?”
The immediate thought going through the prospect’s mind is “If I say Yes, this joker is going to try to sell to me. If I say No, it’s obvious I’m lying because that’s why I’m speaking to him in the first place!”
In other words, they are trapped in a place that makes them feel uncomfortable, under pressure and unsure of what they need to say.
Far better to say something like: “I’m unsure at the moment whether the situation is causing you major problems or not, but if they are, we may be able to discuss if these issues are costing you enough time and money for you to actually make efforts to solve them”.
This non-threatening approach actually helps the prospect to see the role he needs to play in the meeting, and it hands him a little more control in the conversation. He doesn’t feel threatened to the point where he needs to be guarded about his answers and it allows him to be clearer about his concerns and which way he would like to go. This confidence inspires trust and drives the conversation forward.
By concentrating on the effective questions you can ask, you stop the fight-or-flight response from being raised in the first place. So, unlike our example given at the start, think how your ‘closing’ questions can encourage openness and participation in the prospect. That way, you’ll keep the lines of communication open and resist any barriers that might be placed because of pressure being applied.
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Sales training 101 teaches that you must always maintain eye contact with the prospect during a sales interaction. While this is essentially true, it is not literal. In fact, there are three times during the sale when you do NOT want to look the prospect in the eyes.
Eye-to-eye contact is usually a good thing, helping you to gain trust and develop rapport and helping you to listen more effectively. However, there are a few times in the sale when you deliberately should not look directly at the prospect.
#1 – Showing or Demonstrating a Psychical Product
Whether you are selling and showing an automobile, a computer, a television, a piece of furniture, or a twin engine Learjet, when you are showing or demonstrating a tangible product, your eyes should be focused on the product and not the prospect. As you show the buyer the product, your eyes should relish at the sight of the greatest thing the world and you have ever seen. Glue your eyes to the product as your facial expressions show your delight.
If you focus your eyes on the prospect while showing your product, it forces the prospect to look back at you instead of the merchandise. You need to focus on the prize and that will direct the prospect to do the same. Of course, you will glance toward the prospect for confirmation and feedback often. However, concentrate your focus on the item and gaze upon it as if it is the greatest thing you have ever seen.
#2 – Using a Written or Multi Media Presentation
The purpose of a presentation book, pictures, or multi-media in a sales interaction is the powerful message that the combination of stimuli delivers. It is the combination of the prospect hearing your voice in addition to seeing the words in black and white and seeing the images that give the presentation power. Once again, you want the prospect’s attention to be on the material. Focus your eyes on the material and the prospect will do the same.
#3 – Having Multiple Sales People in the Sales Interaction
Whenever there is more than one sales person present during a sales interaction, it is crucial that ONLY the sales person handling the interaction or actually speaking and dealing with the customer be the one who looks the customer in the eyes. To do otherwise is a detrimental sales training mistake that will not only cost you lost sales, but lost sales talent as well.
As an example, you have two sales people in the presentation, one senior who is training the novice. During the sale, the trainee MUST focus his or her eyes on the senior sales person and NOT the customer.
When the trainee continually looks toward the prospect, it forces the prospect to look back at the trainee, consequently taking the focus away from the senior sales person and the presentation. In addition, the prospect is often looking for some reaction from the rookie who does not yet know exactly how to react. When the trainee, of course a little nervous, exhibits some trepidation, the buyer immediately concludes that there is something wrong.
The trainee or other sales person in the interaction should stare at the sales person that is in control and doing the speaking. This will direct the prospect’s attention back to the sales information and eliminate unwarranted problems.
It is not just about eye contact…it is about eye control!
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A great sales interaction is not an accident. While an expert-level sales professional can make a sales presentation LOOK like a casual, impromptu conversation, does not mean that it actually IS a causal, unplanned conversation.
In fact, a great sales presentation is very much like a good golf swing. Don’t worry, if you are not into the game of golf, I’m sure you will understand my analogy.
A professional golfer can make hitting a golf ball look easy. Tiger Woods steps up, grabs a golf club, let’s say a seven iron, and hits the ball 225 yards, it goes straight and ends up very close to the little flag. Ok.
To the average human, in particular those unfamiliar with the game of golf, the response is, “So what’s so special about that?” And understandably so. Tiger made it LOOK easy.
The fact however, is that what he did was the result of practicing that same swing, in that same situation, over and over again; not hundreds, but thousands or TENS of thousands of times.
That swing that looked so easy, is the result of a lifetime of training those exact muscles to hit that ball that way. That simple, easy golf swing is the result of thousands of hours of relentless study, countless hours of physical conditioning and dozens of years of repetitive rehearsals, scientific research and intense mental, emotional and psychological conditioning.
It LOOKS easy, but it is actually an unbelievably sophisticated, thoroughly complex, well-planned and orchestrated performance.
The Sales Interaction
Ask yourself, what is your sales interaction? Is it a well-planned, not canned, sophisticated strategy? Is it the result of countless hours of practice and study? Is your sales presentation something that you have mastered and can perform? Or is it just something that you threw together, so you just show up and throw it up?
A great sales presentation should appear to be a simple and spontaneous conversation. Yet it should actually be an extremely sophisticated and controlled plan executed by a master conductor!
Just how much time have you really invested into learning, practicing and perfecting your craft?
As for me, all I can say is…FORE!!!
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Often you get that prospect that wants to get you into a conversation about a sensitive issue such as political beliefs or theology. Also, there are those prospects that wish to use you as their personal sounding board for personal views on everything from racial issues to the sexual relations.
It does not matter if your personal views on such issues are the exact opposite of the prospect’s, or if they align perfectly. Views on unrelated personal beliefs are always a bumpy and dangerous road to travel in a sales situation.
Of course, you don’t want to be rude, and closing the sale is on the top of your mind. So how do you get the prospect back on track, without throwing away your chances to close the sale? Here are a few thoughts on that subject. In every case, you want to “side-step” the issue with a quick comment and then change the subject with a question.
#1 – That’s Interesting, but Deserves More Time
Let the prospect know that the subject matter is interesting but requires far too much time and in-depth discussion to engage in now. Then change the subject with a question.
“You know Steve, that is a very interesting point of view, and it certainly deserves a lot of time to discuss. Maybe we can get into that someday, but for right now, let me ask you… Do you know exactly how many of your web hits are being converted into solid leads for your sales team?”
#2 – Too Excited About the Product
Let the prospect know that you are so engrossed in what you sell, that you cannot even think about such other topics right now.
“Sarah, I can appreciate how you feel about that. However, I am so excited about our XJ2000 software that I can hardly think about politics right now…How many servers are you running at this location, anyway?”
#3 – Your Issues, Problems Are Too Important
Inform the prospect that his or her problems and issues are your paramount concern right now and you can only focus on that.
“Susan, I understand how you feel about that issue, but right now my main concern is that you are losing a ton of money in your warehouse. My job is to help you put some of that money back into your pocket. Do you have last month’s shipping report available?”
From the warm up to the close, keep the sales process on track.
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