Would it be easier to ask for the check if we thought about it differently?
I have always thought about asking for the check as a way to move the process forward and begin a new relationship.
I enjoy teaching non-salespeople how to sell and teaching experienced salespeople how to sell like crazy. No matter who you are or where you stand on selling, nothing gets a more emotional reaction or is more misunderstood than the importance and purpose of asking for a check during the sales process.
“Closing” is not closing at all. The act of getting a commitment from a prospect to stop shopping and start (planning, living, growing or doing), something they really want is better defined as a service; at the very least, the first step in opening a brand-new relationship.
The Purpose of the Close
The purpose of closing is to ask for a simple yes or no. The purpose of closing is to get the two, three or four no’s out of the way so the prospect can feel good about saying yes.
I feel strongly that most salespeople could really benefit from understanding the process of closing a little better.
Recently, I mystery shopped an assisted living property in Texas that was occupancy challenged. The community seemed to have adequate traffic but sales were anemic and the owners wanted to understand why?
The salesperson was pleasant and professional and the community was gorgeous. The residents I met were positive and engaging and by the time I was at the halfway point of the visit, I was beginning to wonder what the actual challenge might be?
At this point the salesperson began share her version of a close and the picture began to crystallize. The salesperson stated, “I want to let you know that we are offering a special deal for this week only. If you make a decision and hold this apartment with a deposit, I can discount the price by $1000 a month.”
Even though I had not yet expressed an interest in a specific apartment, she repeated the offer a few more times before I left. This was good, right?
On the contrary, this was a train wreck and this style of closing could quite possibly be contributing to the occupancy challenge they are facing.
When to Negotiate
First, my rule is never, ever negotiate until someone is in love with the offering and has made some sort of commitment to move forward. Offering a discount before the prospect has been given a chance to share their interest and asked to make a decision can actually weaken the overall perception of value and introduce additional questions in the prospect’s mind, including these:
How low will they go?
Are they desperate?
What don’t I know that I should know?
Explaining the process is not enough
Explaining a process is simply not enough. A close needs to be a clear and specific request that requires the prospect to say yes or no. In this case a salesperson could have said something like the following: “Mr. Nowell, I should mention that if you feel this community and specifically this apartment would be a good fit for your mom, Let me suggest you take the next step in the process. At this point all we need to secure this apartment is a signature on a simple reservation agreement and a check for $500. I know you may have some questions, but if you get them answered today, could you do that? Sign the agreement and give us a check to secure the apartment so you and your family can stop shopping and start planning your new future here in our community?”
In this case the prospect would have to say yes or no and provide the salesperson with an opportunity to ask the customer to explain if the answer is no.
Without this critical step taking place, the prospect — in this case, me — is about to give a vague answer and leave, never having expressed real feelings or concerns.
I am sure that if this salesperson had a little more confidence and some additional understanding of this important skill they would experience more success with the same effort — and the owner would be much happier.
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