A number of years ago, as a consultant, I was asked by a contractor to help one of his salesmen. Let’s call this fellow Jim.
Jim was an affable fellow, kind, caring, likable. Jim had been a parts driver. The contractor had decided he would make a good salesman.
With no training and very little help, Jim was thrown to the wolves. He had a lot of activity but not a single sale in three months.
Jim had a number of problems right off the bat. Dress, for example. He still looked like a parts driver. Baseball cap, coat with “Jim” on the lapel and company-issued pants that were just a little too small. The broad mind of his youth had traded places with his narrow waist.
Having said all that, he did a great job of following up on leads that came in. He had 15 proposals outstanding but no signature. We scheduled three appointments for the day.
The first was a pet store in a mall. He had a $1,500 Test and Inspect Maintenance Agreement in hand ready to present. We arrived at 9 a.m. to a very receptive owner. He had a triple net lease, which meant he was responsible for maintenance and repair. He had been referred to the contractor by two of his neighbors who were using this company’s services, and they were delighted with the service. It should have been a slam dunk. I just sat backed, watched and listened. Jim talked about the weather, the baseball team and pets. At 9:20 a.m., he ran out of small talk. It was time to ask for the sale. It’s a tense moment for a new, untrained, unassertive sales rep. You could smell the fear. He opened his mouth …
“Are those guppies?” he asked, like Thor, the God of Thunder, breaking the silence and my faith in him in one swift swing of his hammer.
“Yes,” the owner said, walking over to the tank. You see, prospects don’t like to talk about closing the deal any more than a new sales rep does.
I couldn’t stand it anymore. “I hate to interrupt your conversation about fish, but can I ask a couple of questions?”
It was 9:24 a.m. The Iron Gate in the mall was going up in six minutes.
“Sure,” the owner said, shifting his focus to me.
“Did you want Jim’s technicians to come out in the morning or afternoon?” I asked.
Pausing for a moment to ponder the question, he said, “Mornings are best for me.”
“Fine,” I said in a serious tone, writing his answer down. “Did you want this service agreement to bill monthly or quarterly?”
Again, the owner answered quickly, “We do everything monthly.”
I scribbled again.
“Did you want to authorize this agreement on Jim’s back or would you prefer the table?”
He shook his head with a big smile, “NOOOO, I wouldn’t use his back!”
He came over to the table and signed the agreement without reading it or looking at the price.
You see, he trusted Jim. He wanted to sign. He had already made a decision to buy. But he had to be led.
In sales, you still have to ask for the order. In this case, I used the “Trial” Close blended with an “Alternative Advance.” I also used a little humor to break the tension.
The owner was grateful. Jim was confused.
I said, “You probably want to finish preparing to open your store.”
We left. Mission accomplished.
In sales, if you can’t or won’t ask for the sale, you are just a nice conversationalist. Sales studies by the American Management Association show that a sales person has a 64% chance of closing the sale after the fifth request to buy.
Remember that the next time you visit a prospect with the clear expectation to close. In my sales training seminars, I suggest to audiences that they begin the meeting with this, “At the end of this meeting, I am going to ask you to make a decision, is that fair enough?”
It’s better than saying, “Are those guppies?”