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How to Close Sales in the 2,000's and Beyond
by Michel Fortin
Are you a salesperson? Do you "close" sales? Are you often playing psychological tug-of-war with your clients? Most of us do. I did that for the greater part of my sales career. From the "assumptive close," the "trial close," right down to the famous "Benjamin Franklin close," I've used quite a few of them if not all of the tricks in the book. However, things have changed.
Today, the marketplace is just as educated and sophisticated as some of the most cunning sales champions. People hate to be marketed let alone sold, especially based on "needs." And when shrewd salespeople attempt a plethora of sales tactics on their clients, prospects not only see them coming but they also consider such techniques to be insulting.
I've been to all the seminars, heard all the tapes, seen all the videos, and read all the books on selling, negotiating, sales psychology, and sales techniques. And it wouldn't be fair for me to say that this education did not help my career in the last 16 years -- it certainly has. But in the 2,000's and beyond, the days of using 1,001 closing techniques are definitely over.
From Prospecting to Positioning
If you are specialized and focused on a very narrow niche, and have attracted prospects that not only need but also want that which your offer (in other words, they are pre-qualified using techniques such as those described in my book "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning"), then there is really no longer a need to close. All you need to do is to ask for the order. In fact, all you really need is just one simple, single yet powerful closing question. What's the question? Before I show it to you, you need to first understand how it works.
We all communicate through different channels, whether verbal or written. But there is also a metachannel (one beyond the channel of communication) that predominates. It is one through which people communicate with and understand others. If you want to appreciate metachannels, close your eyes for a moment and think back to when you were a child.
Either one of three things will happen. For instance, 1) you will remember how your favorite toy used to look like or recognize some familiar faces. 2) You will hear a song on the radio that was popular at the time or remember the voices of some of your childhood friends. Or 3) you will remember a certain pleasant event such as your 8th birthday party, or feel the warm touch of your mother's hand as she walked you to school one cold morning.
Do You See What I Mean?
As you can easily conclude, the three metachannels are: 1) Visual, 2) aural (or auditory, as it is often mistakenly called), and 3) kinesthetic. People will generally communicate through one predominant metachannel. While they do not use a single channel exclusively, more than any other a person will use a preferred metachannel to sensorially transmit and process information, thought, or feeling so that it is satisfactorily received or understood.
For example, if I called you on the phone and asked you "how's the weather," you will answer in one of three ways. If you're a visual person, you will probably say "looks like it's going to rain." If you're an aural person, you might say "I heard that's it going to be a scorcher." But if you're a kinesthetic person, then "it feels pretty cold" will probably be your answer.
Why are metachannels important in sales? You may have had the experience of once going through a sales presentation that seemed almost perfect. Your client not only needed but also wanted your product or service. A great conversation ensued with all the right questions asked and answered. In your mind, the sale was "in the bag." It was a done deal. However, when came the time to ask for the order, your prospect said "I want to think it over."
The problem may very well be due to poor sales skills or other circumstances. But oftentimes it is also because you were not understood by the prospect. Chances are that, if the presentation went well but did not end positively, your metachannel was not in sync with that of your prospect's. In plain English, you were not communicating on the same wavelength.
Metachannels are not limited to oral presentations but also include written ones. The words you use on paper are just as important as the ones you use in person. In either case, when you discover your prospect's metachannel you should choose words -- especially action words, verbs, expressions, and phrases -- that reflect their preferred metachannel.
For example, use words such as "I see," "get the picture," "show me," "focus on," "seeing is believing," "beautiful," "brilliant," or "keep your eyes peeled" with a visual prospect. With aurals, use "I hear you," "fine tune," "sounds good," "tell me," "listen," "hear me out," or "keep your ears open." With kinesthetic individuals, say "I feel," "I sense that," "my point is," "grasp," "sharp," "vibrant," "makes sense," "out of touch," "hold on," or "get a handle."
Nevertheless, one simple closing question is all you really need. In fact, I learned about this technique from Stephan Schiffman, whom I believe to be one of the most up-to-date sales trainers today (http://www.dei-sales.com). Although I adapted his technique to fit the prospect's preferred metachannel, the closing question contains approximately ten words -- no more, no less. For visuals, the closing question is: "Mr. Prospect, it looks good to me; what do you think?" For aurals, it's: "It sounds good to me; what do you think?" And for kinesthetics, the close is: "It makes sense to me; what do you think?" That's it.
One Question is All You Really Need
Obviously, one of two things will happen. The prospect will either answer with "yes, it looks good to me" or "no, it doesn't." With such a simple question, you can never go wrong. If the offer does appeal to the prospect, you can then complete the transaction. But if the offer failed to do so, you can then ask why and get as a result something concrete with which to work.
Having a great many closing techniques under your sleeve is still important. In fact, I'm still a firm believer in closing skills -- I've used quite a few in my time and still do in some cases. You should still use some of them as a backup. But by first using one universal closing question makes the sales process easier and less insulting to an informed client. There is indeed a great power in simplicity -- and that will be more evident in the days to come.
As a sales veteran, you might not agree with me on this one. That's fine, as long as you understand that it would be foolish to think that the marketplace will always be behind the times. Nevertheless, if you become a powerful magnet and attract pre-sold prospects, you will soon discover that the need to close will eventually disappear altogether.
About the Author
Michel Fortin is a consultant dedicated to helping businesses turn into powerful magnets. Visit http://SuccessDoctor.com to receive a free copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning." He is also the editor of the "Internet Marketing Chronicles" ezine delivered weekly to 90,000 subscribers -- subscribe free at http://SuccessDoctor.com/IMC/.
Tags: Sales and Marketing