Getting Comfortable Asking the Big Question
Dave Chace (firstname.lastname@example.org) is
president of Training Allies, a CE-focused training firm in Philadelphia.Ask any custom integrator what they love about their job and chances are, “I love asking customers for money” won’t top their list. More likely, they love the technology, solving problems, and bringing great systems to life. They enjoy working with (most) customers, too, and making people’s dreams come true. But while the process of meeting prospects and discussing potential systems may be well within their comfort zone, the actual selling part often isn’t, especially when it comes time to ask the big question.
Asking people if they want to buy can be gut wrenching, even for veteran salespeople; so they often just avoid it, hoping instead the customer will eventually get the hint and offer to buy without actually being asked.
Unfortunately, the reality is that if you’re not asking every customer to buy, you’re losing business. Period. Like it or not, many customers won’t buy unless you ask them. Sometimes they have concerns–many of which could be easily addressed–that you’ll never uncover unless you ask for the sale. Other customers might just need a nudge to get them off the fence. After all, systems cost money–sometimes a lot of it–and unless asked to make a decision, they just won’t.
Perhaps they’re comparing you to another integrator, or contemplating an entirely different purchase of similar value, like a boat, new landscaping, etc. If you don’t make it a point to ask for the customer’s business, rest assured, the other guys will.
Volumes have been written on how to close a sale, but when it comes right down to it, you just need two things: some courage and a comfortable way of asking the big question. The courage is up to you, but if you’re struggling to find an easy way of asking, “Do you want to buy it?” here are some effective techniques that might work well for you.
The Trial Close
The trial close is an easy way to find out where you stand, without sounding like you’re asking for a commitment. The idea is to ask questions that take the customer’s temperature and provide insight as to how hot or cold they are on the system, without seeming pushy. If they respond favorably, it paves the way for an easy closing conversation. For instance, if you ask, “Do you think we’ve covered all the bases with this system design?” and they reply with an enthusiastic “Absolutely…this looks fantastic,” consider it green light to move forward. The optimal time to close is when the customer is most excited, so now would be a good time to ask if they want to go ahead with the system. However, if their response to your trial close is more tepid, don’t fret. You’ve got more work to do, but thankfully you haven’t lost the deal by asking for a commitment prematurely.
If you don’t make it a point to ask for the customer’s business, rest assured, the other guys will.The Minor Point Close
The minor point is a simple way of gaining a commitment on a large purchase by asking for a commitment on a small (minor) part of the purchase. If the customer agrees to the minor point, he is essentially agreeing to the full system. For example, if you ask, “So should we go ahead with the ceiling speakers in the kitchen?” and he responds with a yes, then you’re in good shape–proceed to locking down installation dates for the whole system. But if his response is more like, “Let’s see how it all adds up, and I’ll think it over,” then clearly you’re not out of the woods yet.
The Alternative Close
The alternative close is a powerful and effective technique, and offers an easy way to engineer a win-win situation simply by presenting the customer a choice. Whichever they choose, you’ve essentially closed the deal. For example, installation date choices are an easy opportunity: “I can block off the week of the 16th to do the installation…or would you prefer to get started sooner?” Whichever they chose, you’re writing up the deal. This technique works for virtually any element of the system, as long as the choice implies that they will be making a buying decision. Other examples might be, “Do you want to go with the 55-inch TV, or should we do the 60-inch?” or “Should we locate the control pads near the door, or do you prefer we set them up next to the bed?” Again, whichever they pick, you win.
Asking for the sale can seem a little daunting, but once you’ve found a comfortable technique, it gets easier quickly. Keep in mind, you’ve invested a lot of time and effort to get this far in the sale–so you’ve absolutely earned the right to ask for their business. Why run a marathon only to quit in the last mile?
Finally, remember that the golden rule of selling is ABC: Always Be Closing. Get in the habit of asking every single customer for some kind of commitment, no matter how small (like getting their email address, or a firm date for the next appointment), and soon you’ll find that asking for the big-ticket commitment has become second nature.