Could this simple mistake be costing you a lot of sales?
Seminars and trainings on how to improve sales and selling can be tremendously useful, but before you spend a lot of money on them, you absolutely need to check that you are, in fact, implementing this simple strategy.
Have you ever sat through an hour-long meeting with a potential customer where you go through the features and benefits of your products, answer all of their questions and build a good rapport… but then they leave and say “Thank you very much for the information” and don’t buy? You have no idea why. Let me explain…
It will seem painfully obvious in retrospect, and still you would be surprised how many people can forget about it, even sometimes seasoned sales people.
If you’ve done all the hard work, but you’re wondering why your results aren’t reflecting your efforts, you need to double-check that you are, in fact, doing this:
How to improve sales immediately… by asking for
This “simple” strategy is to ask for the sale. Often people do all the hard work of opening the lead, having the meeting and following up with information, but don’t ask the question if the lead wants to buy and deal with the final issues.
80% of the effort is done and yet, this 20% of final action yields 80% of the results.
Why you should ask for the sale:
the buyer is taking their cue from you
Let us think about this for a second. You don’t need to sit down for a sales meeting with somebody doing their grocery shopping. You don’t need to cold-call prospects to sell them petrol for their car.
If you are employed (or self-employed) in sales, it’s likely that you sell bigger-ticket items. Either they are expensive and an investment, or there is a lot of competition to choose from, or the thing you are selling requires a commitment of some sort, like an internet package or a gym membership.
In other words, the buyer needs to think about it. Whatever you are selling is not a thoughtless purchase, but needs reflection – and the help of a human seller in order to answer questions and address objections.
“Selling is quite simple. All you need to do is show the customer that what you’re offering them is of more value than the money in their pocket.” – Tony Martin
Your customer has a lot on their mind when they’re buying. As a result they are waiting for YOU to lead them through the steps of the buying process. While their mind is busy making a decision, they need you to spell out the next step and tell them what’s expected of them, where they need to go next.
That is also valid for sales that happen “remotely”, through a website for example: there needs to be a very obvious, very visible “buy” button, and it does need to say very clearly “buy now”, or a variant of “buy now” that is crystal clear (“Subscribe”or “Book” or “Register”).
But isn’t asking for the sale a little, well, …
Personally, I don’t believe in “hard selling”, pummelling your buyer until they ask for mercy. This is the most effective way to be out of business very quickly.
“You don’t close a sale, you open a relationship if you want to build a long-term, successful enterprise.” – Patricia Fripp
I’m in this for the long haul, and I want to establish lasting, respectful, mutually beneficial and even enjoyable relationships with my clients. As a result, I want the sales process to be both useful and pleasant for them, and for me. I want my customers to feel that I am listening to them, that I am attentive to their needs and wants – not that I’m trying to fob them off with a high-pressure hard sell.
But I still ask for the sale. In a very obvious way.
No, it’s not obvious – until you ask for the sale
On many, many occasions when I’ve delivered sales training for corporates and entrepreneurial organsiations, some delegates balk at the thought. After all, isn’t it obvious that you’re here to sell, and they’re here to decide whether they want to buy? If they want to buy they will tell you, won’t they?
First of all, no, it’s not obvious: there are lots of potential buyers who are quite happy to sift through the information, take it away with them and mull over the idea. Remember, the client doesn’t know how long your sales cycle is. They might think you have planned another meeting with them to show them a proposal, or your portfolio, or to discuss the terms, etc. They don’t know how you sell, and they’re happy to be led through your process.
If you don’t ask for the sale, they will assume the selling process is not over yet. So they may not ask to buy, because they will assume you have more information to share, and they might need that information to make a better choice.
Trust me when I say that they are waiting for your cue.
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky
Second, wondering “Isn’t it obvious? Why should I spell it out?” is just an excuse to hide fear. It happens to the best of us: we would love sales to just happen, contracts to just land in our lap. Selling means potential rejection, and rejection is painful so we try to avoid it. That is the reason why we “forget” to ask for the sale or think we don’t need to do it.
But if you’re confident that the product or service you sell will solve the problem your prospect is trying to solve, then all that remains is the perfectly understandable, albeit irrational, fear of rejection.
There are ways and means to deal with this fear of rejection and if I was to outline them all, this post would turn into a book! For some of the techniques I personally use to overcome this fear, listen to my podcast on selling.
Fear of rejection does decrease the more you sell. You will learn to recognise it and you will learn to gently tame it, but you will have to work with it, because it is a psychological fear that is tied to our deepest instincts. That’s why I use scripts for the nerve-racking part of the sales conversation: I’ve said the sentence before my fear has had a chance to stop me!
How to improve sales: a step-by-step guide
A great way to circumvent this fear is to use what I call the “milk into coffee effect”. As you put milk into your coffee, do you ever question if you’re able to? Of course not, you simply lift the jug, go through the motions unthinkingly and pour the milk in successfully. That’s what I do when I’m held back by nervousness or fear of an inability to deliver.
That’s when a script will be very helpful.
Now, sales script have a bad reputation, because many of us have been on the receiving end of a sales spiel that sounds fake and tired, as if the salesperson is on autopilot and isn’t actually listening to us, just selling at us.
However, I am not recommending you inflict a rigid sequence of sales tricks on customers. Effective selling has a lot more to do with listening than with speaking.
No, I suggest you use the scripts below so that you can just go through the stressful part of the sale more easily. Just say the words – that’s it.
Quite simply, make things easier for yourself in situations that make you nervous, by being able to fall back on one practised sentence. That way, the sentence can be out of your mouth even before you’re mustered up the courage to ask for the sale!
Depending on what you are selling, what your own personal selling style is, and what rapport you’ve established with the prospect, you can use the sentences below word-for-word or tweak them to suit your own purpose. I have used all of them at different times in the past, with great results.
1. When you feel that the time has come to ask for the sale:
“Have I addressed all your concerns?”
“Are you satisfied that I have addressed all your question?”
“Is there anything else you would like to know about (service/product)?”
(listen to the customer’s answer)
2. Actually asking for the sale:
“In that case, would you like to buy now?”
“Would you like to proceed?”
“Shall we start on the paperwork?”
“I would love to work with you on this project. Are we ready to move forward?”
“All we need to do now to proceed is…. (fill out the registration form/process your credit card details/finalise the logistics). I can do this for your right now if you’re ready to go ahead?”
If you are selling a service, an appointment, etc:
“Shall we put a date in the diary?”
“I have the date provisionally held in the diary, would you like to confirm it?”
3. If the client says the infamous “I need to think about it” or “I need to ask my wife/husband/business partner/boss about it”
Don’t give up just yet! Here is how you respond:
“Of course. Shall I call you back in two days?”
If they say “No, I’ll call you back”, there is a high chance that the message is “Don’t get back in touch, I don’t want to buy”. That’s ok. You have “closed” the sale, since you have brought the process to a close. You did what you had to do, and sometimes people just don’t want to buy.
If they say “Yes, why not”, agree on a time and follow up promptly.
For more sales scripts that will help you structure a natural, empathetic sales process without wasting your time on people who have no intention to buy, please check out my book The Savvy Guide to Making More Money.
Are you on the list?