In the selling profession, closing is the winning score, the bottom line, the name of the game, the cutting edge, the point of it all. You may do everything else right up to the point of closing, but if you can’t ask for the business and wait for the client to answer, you’ll never do better than average in sales.
There are lots of techniques for prospecting, meeting new people, building referrals, qualifying, presenting or demonstrating products and services, and overcoming objections (also known as addressing concerns). But, if you can't close the sale, you're like a football team that can't sustain a drive long enough to score. It does you no good to play your whole game in your own territory and never get across the other team's goal line.
You have to fall in love with closing if you’re going to succeed at it long term. If you don't love the closing process enough to master it now, start falling in love with it because this is where the money is.
True professionals are closing all the time. They close for names and contact information. They close for appointments. They close for opportunities to present their products or services. They are constantly trying test closes, and they can kick into their final closing sequence any time they recognize verbal or visual buying signs in their potential clients. Signs can include handling the product or asking for information they will need to know when they own it.
Many average salespeople get so wrapped up in their selling sequence that if potential clients decide to invest before they're through, they won't let them have the product. They feel compelled to finish their entire presentation. They just keep going in their set pattern of telling, telling, telling instead of selling.
Some clients do get sold quickly. If you keep talking instead of moving to the paperwork, you could very easily unsell them just as fast. More talk triggers more thought and has the potential to bring up more objections. Pay close attention. When you recognize that the prospect is ready, stop talking and start filling out those forms, getting that purchase order number or asking how they would like to handle the investment.
Next, I'm going to give you the eight most important words in the art of closing. These are the most powerful words I’ve ever heard spoken on the complex, demanding and well-paid art of closing. If you're just skimming this article, PAY ATTENTION NOW.
Whenever you ask a closing question, shut up!
The important words are “shut up.” That is why the Father of Modern Selling, the late J. Douglas Edwards used to shout this at his audiences.
I was sitting in the front row at his seminar the first time I heard these words. I was already jumpy from the excitement of the program and had my head down taking notes as fast as I could, when Doug shouted "SHUT UP!"
I jumped right out of my chair and dove for cover. That memory is carved into my mind, along with those words. They explain the single most important element that turned my previously disastrous sales career into the record-breaking success it soon became.
Ask your closing question then keep quiet! The first person to speak owns the product. If you speak, the product will still sit in your car or warehouse. If the client speaks, the majority of the time, they’ll own it! They’ll either agree to make the purchase or ask a question. Either way the sale is still moving forward.
Being quiet sounds simple, doesn't it? Believe me, it isn't. I had a real challenge in this area and I didn't have a clue as to what I was doing wrong until I heard Doug Edwards say those words. I was a talker early in my career. I thought if I just kept talking that eventually the clients would agree to something I said.
The first time I tried to ask a closing question and then keep quiet, I was prepared for the prospect’s reaction. I expected her to keep silent—thinking about her decision. What I hadn't prepared for was the intensity of my own reaction.
The silence felt like wet sand being piled on my chest. My insides were churning, I had to bite the inside of my lip and I was acutely aware of every nerve ending in my body. It was a gargantuan struggle not to fidget. I was wiggling my toes inside my shoes so I didn’t start jiggling my leg. Finally, the prospect did decide that she would invest, my body flooded with adrenalin and I never again dreaded that awful silence after asking a closing question.
Why is it so important to keep quiet? Let’s say the prospect hesitates for a few moments, wondering when he should take delivery. You become uncomfortable and assume that he is questioning the investment, so you blurt out that you'll give him another 5 percent off the total investment or something free, when that wasn't even the issue.
Now, you’ve just broken the trust you worked so hard to build to the point of closing. You’ll have to work twice as hard to earn the business because now he’s wondering if you truly have his best interests at heart.
There’s no way you can possibly know what potential clients are thinking when they’re quiet so don’t try to guess. Just sit and wait them out.
The average salesperson can't wait more than 10 seconds after asking a closing question before saying something else. If "Mrs. Jones" hasn't answered by then, they'll say something like, "Well, we can talk about that later," and go on talking, unaware that they have just destroyed the closing momentum.
And it's probably not just the one close that is destroyed. "Mrs. Jones" can certainly keep quiet for a few moments—almost all undecided buyers can. She may now start to wonder what else you’ll tell her or offer her if she keeps stalling her decision.
If you're true champion material, you can sit there quietly all afternoon if you have to. It takes concentration, but the actual silence after asking for the sale rarely lasts longer than 30-40 seconds. Try it now. Check your watch and just sit quietly for 30 seconds so you will understand what it feels like. If you’re compulsive like some of my students, you’ll find yourself counting “one one-thousand, two one-thousand” and so on. I don’t care how you get there, just learn what it feels like. Then you won’t be so quick to move on to another subject after you’ve asked your closing questions.
Having the skill, courage and concentration to sit still and be silent for at least half a minute is the single most vital skill there is in selling. Practice this until you get a feel for how long 30 seconds is, and then it won't be so nerve-wracking when big money is riding on how calm and quiet you remain in a real closing situation.