Following is the last of a three-part series:
By Bob Clements
“Yes, I’ll take it!” That is the one sentence that an OPE dealership salesperson hopes to hear from each and every customer. While it would be great to hear, in reality it seldom happens. As a matter of fact, as much as we like to believe that when customers are ready to buy, they always say “yes,” the opposite is true. In most cases, customers don’t say anything; they just stand beside you, wanting the equipment, but don’t want to make a commitment. That’s where we come in as professional salespeople who help customers make decisions that are good for them.
Many salespeople in dealerships are terrified of forcing a customer into buying a piece of equipment for fear of being too pushy or aggressive. Yet, the reality of the situation is that the customer walked into the dealership and spent time with the salesperson looking at, talking about, and trying out a specific piece of equipment because that person wanted to buy the equipment from that specific dealership or salesperson. That is why in this article, I want to help salespeople focus on the final stages of the selling process — negotiating and closing — and provide some simple techniques to make the process painless.
During the first two articles of this three-part series, I covered the sales process from the greeting to handling objections. So, in this article, I’m operating under the assumption that you have worked on mastering the other aspects of the selling process and are now in front of a customer who is ready to buy. The presentation is coming to an end, and you have created that “yes” momentum that I wrote about in part two.
The Trial Close
At this stage in the selling process, make a quick check to see if the customer is ready to move toward a buying commitment. You may not know for sure at this point, which is precisely why you need to do a quick check. To determine where the customer is at in the process, do what is called a “Trial Close.” The Trial Close is simply asking customers a question that will determine if they are close to making a buying decision. It should involve having customers envision themselves using the equipment and then elicit a response from them about their perceived satisfaction. For example, you may ask, “How do you see this mower working on your yard?” Now you may find out by asking a Trial Close question that the customer stops and says, “This is exactly what I was looking for.” In that case, your Trial Close became your closing question and all you have to do is say to the customer, “Well, let’s get the paperwork done, and we can have you and your equipment on your way.” The moment the customer has made a decision to purchase, shut up and begin the paperwork. By continuing to sell, you can move a “yes” into a “let me think about it” and literally un-sell a sold customer. (I bring this up because it is something that I have done, and it’s not a lot of fun to watch a potential sale walk out the door.)
On the other hand, if the customer says, “I think it would work great on my yard, but not sure how easy it would be to handle on the road banks,” you now know that there is a perceived problem, which may prevent the customer from moving forward. At this point, the Trial Close acted like a compass and pointed us in the proper direction. Up to this point, you may not have known the customer wanted to mow the road banks and not really focused on the customer’s level of comfort using a zero-turn mower on a slope. By using a Trial Close, you can redirect your efforts toward how simple a zero-turn mower is to control with a little practice. If you have a slightly sloped area where the customer can try out the mower, it is an even better situation. Thanks to the Trial Close, you now know what’s on your customer’s mind, can address those questions or concerns, and move to the Final Close.
Use the Trial Close after you present or demonstrate a key feature that the customer wanted based upon your qualification process. If a customer was interested in three specific features, a Trial Close should be used after each point. Keep in mind that you are just trying to get a sense of where the customer is at in the buying process and working on continuing to move in the right direction.
Look and listen for signs
At this point, the customer has answered in a positive way toward your Trial Closes, and you can see signs and hear sounds that make you believe the customer is ready to move from “looker” to “owner,” so you will want to begin the closing sequence. Customers always give signs about where they are in the buying process. For example, in the first article in this series, I wrote about watching customers’ eyebrows to determine how they want to be approached. Watching customers lean forward or pull back from equipment will also tell you a lot about their readiness to make a buying decision. Little nods of the head and positive moans, groans and sounds are all signs that you should look and listen for to let you know if and when it is time to move to the closing sequence of the selling process.
Closing the sale
For most salespeople, closing is the most difficult and feared part of the selling process. They would rather have their fingernails pulled out than ask a customer to buy from them. The main reason is that they have never been taught the proper selling process and just fumble their way through with limited success. Again, if you have followed the process I have outlined in the past two articles, closing becomes a very simple and natural thing to do.
Understand that you have been in front of a person who is looking to make an investment in equipment and felt comfortable enough with your dealership to pass through the front door and look at what you have to offer. You qualified the person based on wants, needs and desires, and presented a product that met all of those requirements. Objections were handled as they arose, and you have Trial Closed the customer, so you know that you are headed in the right direction. The customer has been giving you positive signs, so all you have to do now is ask for the business.
The Assumptive Close
I’ve been involved in selling since the mid-70s and personally trained thousands of salespeople either in person or through my videos, audios and DVDs. When it comes to closing, I always preach the same message — just assume the customer is going to buy. As you have done your Trial Closes and the customer has given you positive signs, use the Assumptive Close and simply give the customer a command or direction. At this point of the selling process, I would say to a customer, “Based upon what you told me earlier and our conversation up to this point, it (looks, sounds, feels) like this mower is exactly what you and your wife need. Let’s all step over to the counter and get the paperwork done. Now, do you want us to deliver it to your home, or do you want to take it home with you?”
Notice, I didn’t ask if they wanted to buy it. I assumed they did and started giving them directions (let’s move over to the counter) and then followed up with an alternate-choice question (delivery or pickup). In most cases, the customers will simply do what you ask, and the sale is complete.
The Summary Close
If the Assumptive Close doesn’t work — and you will know it if the customer hesitates in following your first direction (let’s move over to the counter) — then you need to move to what is called the “Summary Close.” In this close, you have to assume there is something that the customer is not willing to buy or is not sold on yet, causing that person to have reservations. The customer might say, “I’m not sure that I am ready to move forward yet.” Then, I want you to say, “I don’t want to have you buy something that is not right for you and your wife. Let’s go back over what you told me you were looking for in a mower to make sure I didn’t miss anything.” And that is exactly what you do. At that point, take the time to go back over the areas of interest that the customer told you from the beginning of the sales process (do a summary). Then, using a Trial Close, make sure the customer agrees that the equipment you presented will do what the customer told you was needed.
When you have finished with the summary, simply ask a final question: “Is there something that I have missed or overlooked that you would be willing to share with me?” If the customer says “no,” then move back to the Assumptive Close. If the customer says something else such as, “I don’t want to spend that much money,” or “I don’t really want it with that brand of engine,” then you will need to deal with those issues based upon your ability to either negotiate the money or sell the mower with a different engine.
While we are on the subject of negotiation, I want to spend just a little time to help you understand some simple ways to improve your odds. In today’s business climate, most customers want a better deal. Any money they can save is a plus for them, but unfortunately is a minus for you. When it comes to negotiating a price or an accessory with customers, the first and most important thing you have to do is get a commitment from them that if you can meet their demand, they will make the purchase from you before they leave. If they can’t or won’t make that commitment, then there is absolutely no reason for you to make any adjustments.
My first question to a customer will always be the same, “So, what you are telling me is, if I (lower my price or add a bagger), then you will be in a position today to go ahead and move forward, is that what you are saying?” If the customer says, “yes,” then reply, “I don’t know if I can, but I am sure it’s something that two fair-minded people can work out; don’t you agree?” At that point, you can sit down with the customer and look at negotiating with “funny money,” which is anything that doesn’t cost you 100 percent of its value. When it comes to negotiating, never give customers everything they ask for and never give away cash. If they want to buy a chain saw and ask you to throw in a chain, instead give them a card for a free chain when they bring back the original for sharpening. A high percentage of customers will lose the card or never bring it back. If they do bring back the card, you give away a chain, but you charge them for sharpening the original chain and have the potential to sell them oil or another item. Think about what you can offer for “funny money” as a part of your selling process.
Let’s say they respond by saying “no” when you ask the question, “So, what you are telling me is, if I (lower my price or add a bagger) then you will be in a position today to go ahead and move forward, is that what you are saying?” In that case, you should ask, “Would you mind sharing with me why you wouldn’t make a decision to move forward today?” and wait for them to give you their reason. It could be they need to talk to their wife or business partner. Remember when we qualified them, we asked, “Who other than yourself will be involved in making a decision on this equipment?” They probably said “no one,” but now we find out that wasn’t exactly true. At this point, you need to work with them to get the other decision maker involved and restart the selling process. Keep in mind that whatever reason they give you, there is no value in making any changes in what you offer or the price until everything is aligned and they are in a position to move forward.
Selling is an exciting part of the business if you understand and follow the process. I want to encourage each of you to take time before the season kicks in to high gear to fine-tune your selling skills, so you can take advantage of every possible opportunity. Practice, drill, and rehearse each part of the selling process, and watch your sales and profits soar.
Bob Clements is the president of Bob Clements International, Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in the development of high-performance dealerships. His organization works hands on with dealerships throughout North America, helping them attain the personal freedom and financial wealth all owners strive to achieve. For more information, contact Bob Clements at (800) 480-0737 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.bobclements.com.