“So that’s what I have to offer you, Mr. Prospect. What do you think?”
“Well, Ms. Professional, I’d like to think about it.”
“Okay, may I call you next week?”
Does this dialogue sound at all familiar? Yet another sales conversation is ending with a stall from the prospective client. Is he actually interested in hiring you, or was that just a polite way to say no? What exactly is it that he wants to think about?
In the sample dialogue above, the professional selling her services has made at least three mistakes:
- She didn’t ask the prospect if he needed more information.
- She didn’t recommend any specific action for the prospect to take.
- She never asked for the business.
These are easy mistakes to make. When preparing for a telemarketing call or sales presentation, we often focus most of our attention on the opening — how to get the prospect’s attention on the phone, or make a good first impression in a meeting. Then our selling script (if we even have one) typically lists our talking points — the features and benefits of our service that we want to be sure to mention.
If we’re experienced at selling, or we’ve had some sales training, we might also prepare a list of questions to ask prospects about their situation so we can get more information about how to address their unique needs.
But the most frequently neglected element in preparing to make a sale is determining how you will close your call or presentation. The winning formula for turning more presentations and sales calls into closed business includes these crucial steps:
1. Answer all the prospect’s questions before you ask for the sale. You can find out how well you are doing at providing any information he needs to make a decision by asking, “What else do you need to know?” Keep asking for and answering questions until your prospect seems satisfied with what he is hearing.
By doing this, you can address any concerns that are likely to come up in advance. Reassure your prospect that you have the right solution to his problem by responding to his questions with specific examples of how your service can help him achieve his goals.
2. Recommend a course of action for your prospect to follow. It’s up to you to spell out what the appropriate next step in the sales process should be. If this sale were to go forward, what would be the first thing you would want the client to do? Make an appointment to meet with you in your office? Schedule a working session with the project team? Outline the requirements for the work you will do?
Don’t make clients guess how to begin the process of doing business with you. By recommending exactly what should happen next, you will assure them that you have done this many times before. You will also retain more control of the sale, since if you provide a recommended next step, your clients will typically follow your suggestion about how to proceed.
3. Ask for the business before you leave the room or hang up the phone. Don’t leave this step out! Even if you know your prospect will want to see a detailed proposal first, plans to interview the competition before deciding, or needs to consult with others before signing on the dotted line, ask for the sale anyway. It’s the only way you will find out for sure how close you are to closing the deal.
Up until this point in the conversation, you may have been using open-ended questions to elicit more information. But now is the time to use a specific yes or no question, such as “Would you like to schedule our first appointment?” “Shall I draw up a contract?” or “Are you ready to go over the details so I can get to work?”
Whatever your prospect says in response to this final question will tell you exactly what issues you still need to resolve before your prospective client will buy. The more specific your recommendation for action and request for his business is, the more specific his objections (assuming he has any left to make) will be.
If you remember to follow these steps, maybe your next sales conversation will end like this:
“So that’s exactly how my service can meet your needs, Mr. Prospect. What further questions do you have?”
“Well, I think you’ve addressed all of my concerns.”
“Great! Since it looks like we’re a good fit, our first step would be to schedule a planning meeting with the whole team. Are you ready to set that up?”
“Yes, let’s do it next week.”