Sales Closing: Dont Close Sales - Open Relationships to Achieve Multiple Sales
A lot is written and talked about in regard to closing sales and in the traditional wisdom of sales experts, "closing" is regarded as the vital skill that sales people need to be successful. I would like to share my experience about "closing" and tell you why I think focusing on closing the sale is actually a non productive and destructive activity and tell you what, in my experience, has proved to be a better selling strategy.
In traditional sales books and training courses, a lot of time is given to closing and there is often a lengthy section on closing techniques. It is thought that if you have 57 different ways to close the sale up your sleeve, you can keep on closing until the poor customer gives up the fight and says, "Yes." My experience of this style of selling is that it creates confrontational situations which create resistance in customers, high stress selling situations and ultimately, highly stressed, burnt out sales people who become unproductive and eventually quit their job. Sure, there are the highly successful superstars of selling who operate this way and we can all look at them and say, "If they can do it, why can't anyone?" My answer to that is that there are some people whose personality is so strong that they never take no for an answer in any situation and they are usually quite obnoxious people when you get to know them. Most people aren't like that and most people cannot sell successfully using that style. Yet, as managers or sales people ourselves, that style is all we have been taught, so we perpetuate it in our selling approach and in training our sales people. And we end up being frustrated that our sales results just don't measure up and we have high turnover of sales people because they just don't get the results we expect.
One of the motivational tools used when sales results take a downturn is that we say, "Selling is a numbers game." Now that statement is true, but have you really taken a look at the numbers? Some of the ratios are so bad that I can't believe that we actually accept these results as the norm and keep pushing ourselves or our people to work this way. Yesterday I was reading about someone else's sales approach and they actually said that it takes them, on average, 600 cold calls to get a sale. His response to this was to suggest that the calls be short and to the point. Fair enough if that is the only option. My response, as any of you who are starting to get to know me will anticipate, was, "You've got to find a more efficient system." Even in less extreme cases, where I have experienced a one in ten success ratio, I have found that sales people cannot keep up a sustained effort in the face of continual rejection where they fail in 9 out of every 10 attempts. What would we say if the guy kicking for penalties or conversions in the football team missed 9 out of 10 attempts? Or what about a batter who struck out 9 times out of 10 times at bat? I'm sure they wouldn't be on the team for very long. Yet we persist in insisting that our sales people keep doing the numbers to get the one in ten that is a success.
I take my hat off to the sales people who can succeed under these circumstances. They must have the determination and stamina of an ox. However, having been taught the traditional selling approach, with the heavy emphasis on closing, I couldn't do it and I went on a search for a better way. The good news for any of you who struggle with the stress and low success rates of the traditional method is that I succeeded in my search. There is a better, less stressful and ultimately more successful way to sell. The approach is based upon finding people who really want and need your product or service and letting them buy it. I don't know what all the emphasis on the traditional approach is about, when the answer is really so simple. What could be easier than allowing someone who desperately wants what you have to offer to buy? I don't know about you, but I don't have any trouble selling in those circumstances. My strike rate is pretty close to 100% when I sell to someone who wants my services. It only gets difficult when I try to sell to someone who doesn't think they want it.
There are two major differences between the traditional approach and my less stressful approach. The traditional heavy closing approach is based on the premise that customers are scarce and if I get the opportunity to talk to anyone I must do every thing I can to convince them to buy. The second element is that the traditional approach is all about my need to sell, rather than what the customer wants. My less stressful approach, in contrast, is based on the knowledge that there are many potential customers in the market and my effort should be put into finding the ones who are ready and willing to buy my services. If I let enough people know about my service and let them experience what I have to offer in small samples, when the time is right, they will seek me out. The second part is that this approach is totally based on the customer's needs, rather than mine. My clients trust me because they learn that I am not out to rip them off, which is so much an element of resistance in the traditional sales approach. The emphasis in my approach is in "opening" relationships not closing "sales." Most of my effort goes into developing tools which attract the attention of my potential clients because they provide some element of value to the client. By consistently demonstrating my value, which is something I enjoy doing as opposed to the stressful tasks of cold calling or spending time in stressful "closing" situations with potential clients who aren't ready to buy, I attract enough interest to create sufficient inquiries from customers who want my services and are ready to talk to me with minimal resistance.
I have found that this approach doesn't just work for me, but it applies in most if not all sales situations. The approach means working more on the start of the process - opening - than putting the pressure on the end of the process - closing. You can develop effective and efficient sales processes by focusing on what customers want and finding low stress but high impact ways to let them know that you have what they want. If you do a good job of selling by identifying customer needs and matching your offer to what they want, you don't need 57 different closing techniques to finalise the sale. All you need to do is say, "That seems to be what you want. How would you like to pay for that?"
© 2004 Greg Roworth
Greg Roworth is a business consultant and author of "The 7 Keys to Unlock Your Business Profit Potential." With over 25 years practical experience in business ownership and management, Greg has, over the last 12 years, worked with hundreds of small and medium size enterprises, assisting the owners to grow their business profitably and at the same time reduce their stress levels. His successful business development program results in development of a business that works so well that the owner doesn't have to.