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Closing the sale

In previous articles we have discussed the process called the "Circle of the Sale". To review, you greet the customer with a warm friendly greeting as you would a friend coming into your home. Should the opportunity present itself for a meaningful non-business conversation you take it. Sometimes the customer will resist conversation or appear to be in a hurry, in this case you move on to the needs assessment phase.

The Needs Assessment is the single most important phase of the selling process. Here you will discover, by asking open-ended questions, what the customer wants and why they want it. You will determine the type of presentation to give, either emotional or technical, uncover any potential add-on items the customer may need and continue building trust through having a meaningful non-business conversation based on the emotional aspect of the purchase, (i.e. a wedding, anniversary, celebration, etc).

Then you move on to the demonstration phase where you use the NA=A/DA theory (needs assessment gives you answers/so demonstrate those answers), selling based on why the customer wants to buy. In the demonstration you use Features, Benefits and Agreement Questions and use the various other demonstration techniques discussed in previous articles.

Let's review the Phases and the Goal of each phase:

Initial Contact Phase
Goals - Eliminate Fear; Create A Person-to-Person Relationship; Begin to Establish Trust
Needs Assessment Phase
Goals - Determine What the Customer Wants; Determine Why They Want It; Discover Potential Add-on items; Continue Building Trust
Demonstration Phase
Goals - Establish Value (Perception); Create Desire of Ownership; Get Customer to Say; "I'll Take It"
Closing Phase
Goals - To Close the Sale; Sell Additional Items

If your customer hasn't yet said those magic words "I'll take it", now is the time to take measures to close the sale. What is the definition of "closing"? It seems that the conventional definition of closing is to do anything possible to get the order, even drastic measures, no matter what affect it has on the customer. Many sales trainers put all of the emphasis on the act of closing the sale, with sophisticated closing techniques. My definition is different than the conventional one, in my opinion the step you take to close the sale is to simply ask for the order. Asking for the sale is, or should be, the natural progression of a successful sales presentation.

The PMSA Relationship Selling Program puts the emphasis on the beginning of the selling process leading the customers to close the sale themselves. Through Features, Benefits and Agreement Questions we are actually giving the customer mini-closes throughout the selling process. If the customer is agreeing with the features and benefits we are giving them based on what they told us in the needs assessment, the likelihood of a sale being made is greatly increased.

The art comes in developing the selling process through a great job of preparedness, initial contact, needs assessment, and the demonstration. If they haven't said, "I'll take it" by the time you get to this point of your presentation, then you should just nudge the customer by asking for the sale. The goal of closing the sale, then, is to make the sale, and (if appropriate) to add-on through the way you ask for the sale.

Asking for the sale
We have all heard the saying a thousand times, "If you don't ask you don't get." This is a simple but powerful concept. We have all had situations where we really wanted something and yet felt that the chance of having it was slim at best. Then after hours, days, weeks, or months of contemplating the situation, we finally got the nerve up to ask for what we wanted. To our amazement we actually got it. It was all a matter of asking. Thus the only art in closing the sale comes in your ability to ask for the order, every time, without any reservations.

Dr. Seuss wrote one of the finest books on sales I have ever read. It is entitled "Green Eggs and Ham" and was, and may still be, my oldest son's favorite book. He used to have me read this book to him at least a dozen times a day, and he probably asked me to buy him the book in the first place as many times as Sam-I-Am asked the prospect to try the green eggs and ham.

Sam-I-Am asked for the sale well over a dozen times, and was rejected well over a dozen times. But Sam-I-Am was relentless in his pursuit of the sale. While he didn't use any formal techniques for handling objections, he continued to ask, and in the end, he convinced his customer to at least try the green eggs and ham. To the prospect's delight, he actually liked the green eggs and ham, and thus Sam-I-Am closed the sale. The prospect was happy, Sam-I-Am was happy, and the result was another satisfied customer, just based on asking and getting the prospect to try the product.

The moral of the story is that you have to ask for the sale. There is no second place to asking, and if you don't ask, you won't get it! Your job as a sales professionals is to ask for the sale no matter what type of sales presentation you have given, or how great or terrible a job you think you have done in the selling process. I will be the first one to admit that the asking process is much easier after a terrific sales presentation, nevertheless, you must ask with every customer every time, without any reservations, limits, or second-guessing.

It is a fact that some people simply have a difficult time making a buying decision. Therefore it is up to us to say, "Do you want to buy it?" in one way or another. It has been documented that in 20% of all sales presentations the customer will say, "I'll take it" without being asked. In another 20% of sales presentations the salesperson will ask, "will you buy it"? Yet in 60% of all sales presentations there is absolutely no attempt made to ask for the sale. What a tremendous waste of time and energy in that 60%! It would be safe to assume that if even one of the prospects that weren't asked to buy was to say "yes" it would be worth the effort to ask for the sale. Imagine the affect that asking for every sale with every customer will have on your Closing Ratio Average. If you were to get just one more customer out of every ten to say yes, just by asking, your CRA would increase dramatically.

The professional jewelry salesperson knows the value of asking. We previously discussed the inner drive that a person needs to be successful in sales. Drive and the intention to make the sale are two very powerful forces in selling. If you intend to make every sale with every customer, then the process of asking for the sale will be much easier. The reason that many salespeople find it difficult to ask for the sale is because they lack confidence in their selling skills. Yet, if you have used the techniques that I have detailed up to this point, you will have earned the right to ask for the sale.

You will have:

 

  • Developed a person-to-person relationship with your client.
  • Eliminated the fear of you as a salesperson.
  • Determined what their needs and wants are through the needs assessment process.
  • Developed trust.
  • Demonstrated the answer to their wants and needs through a presentation using the NA=A/DA theory.
  • Established the value of the jewelry.

 

You've worked hard! You have now earned the right to ask for the sale. Again, using the "Circle Of The Sale" as salespeople we need to know when is the proper time to close the sale. The proper time to close is anytime during the sales presentation once trust and value have been established. That could happen immediately or it may take some work. As a professional jewelry salesperson we need to recognize buying signs and then close the sale once the customer tells us that he/she is ready to make the purchase.

Buying signs
Your ability to recognize a buying sign is one of the keys to maximizing your closing opportunities. With a buying sign, your customer is telling you, "Hey, if you'd be quiet and listen to me for a minute you'd know I am ready to buy now." In many situations the customer is ready to buy, lets the salesperson know through a buying sign and then gets confused or is talked out of the purchase by the salesperson continuing to sell. The professional will train themselves to listen to any clue or signal that will let them know that the customer is now ready to make that big decision.

Buying signs can be very obvious, very subtle, or in some cases your customers can tell you point-blank that they want to buy. A buying sign can be as obvious as your customer asking, "Do you take checks?" A subtle buying sign could be something as simple as a husband and wife giving each other a nod of the head or a wink of the eye. My broad definition of a buying sign is - Any question that is asked, or statement that is made about the purchase after both trust and value have been established in the customer's mind. It is time to ask for the sale the second that a buying signal has been given. Don't wait until you have given them that final feature and benefit, or told them the entire story as you think it should be given. Ask for the sale now.

It would be very difficult to detail for you every different buying signal or sign that you could receive, as they come in all different forms and at any time. However, some examples are: "Can we get this sized this afternoon?" "This diamond is gorgeous." "What do you think, Honey?" "This ring would look fabulous on her." "These earrings are exactly what we are looking for."

With these words your customer is giving you the clue that now is the time to make your move.

Another point you need to be aware of is that a buying sign could come at any time during the course of your presentation. You could receive a buying sign upon delivering your initial contact line. For example: A customer walks into the store and they say, "My sister got the most incredible necklace here last week." After a statement like this, the best thing to do next is to ask for the sale. "Sister" represents trust and, "the most incredible necklace," represents value. Close the deal by saying, "Would you like one just like it?" Assuming they say "yes," you have made the sale. Then is the time to go back to the other selling phases and worry about the details to complete your job responsibility.

By the way, if you're asking, "What's not complete? I made the sale, why go back to the other selling phases?" The reason is that at this point you still don't know what to add-on. In addition, you haven't developed a person-to-person relationship that will cause your customer to become your personal trade. Remember, it is still your mandate to sell additional items, and it is your goal to develop a relationship that will last into the future. In order to develop repeat customers, personal trade or referrals, and to add-on additional items, you will still need to complete the needs assessment step and ask all the pertinent questions. Don't just take the easy way out by taking the money and running to the cash register. There is still much to be accomplished.

Learn to listen to your customers and to recognize their buying signs and you will become a quota buster. It all seems so simple doesn't it? All you have to do is make contact with your customers as human beings, get them into a conversation, ask them a few questions to determine their needs, demonstrate those needs, and ask for the order. In reality it is probably easier to get a square peg into a round hole. However, with good strategies and techniques in place it can be done. It takes a lot of practice, a lot of preparation and there is no shortcut; you have to do the work in order to make it happen. If you do the work, practice the techniques and strategies to be prepared, it can be done with more success than you have experienced in the past.

Next month's article will detail specific Closing Techniques and in the coming months the process of adding-on as a closing technique will be the focus.

 

Author, trainer, consultant and speaker Brad Huisken is President of IAS Training. Mr. Huisken authored the books I'M a salesman! Not a PhD. and Munchies For Salespeople, Selling Tips That You Can Sink Your Teeth Into, he developed the PMSA Relationship Selling Program, the PSMC Professional Sales Management Course, The Mystery Shoppers Kit, The Employee Handbook and Policy & Procedures Manual, The Weekly Sales Training Meeting series along with Aptitude Tests and Proficiency Exams for new hires, current sales staff and sales managers, along with the new Weekly Jewelry Sales Training Series. In addition, he publishes a free weekly newsletter called "Sales Insight" For a free subscription or more information contact IAS Training at 800-248-7703, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.iastraining.com or fax 303-936-9581.

 

The Demonstration

This month we will examine the process of showing and demonstrating merchandise. The demonstration phase is your first opportunity to show your customer the features and benefits of the jewelry. During this phase, you will be presenting the jewelry to the customer using the knowledge you gained in the Needs Assessment step. Remember the formula, NA=A/DA, Needs Assessment equals Answers, and then Demonstrate those Answers.

The Needs Assessment: Open-ended questions

In the previous article we started discussing the topic of "The Needs Assessment" and how important asking questions is to the overall success of the selling process. Additionally, we talked about how important the NA=A/DA theory (Needs Assessment equals Answers, so Demonstrate the Answers) to the overall selling process. This month I want to continue the needs assessment process talking about the types of questions that professional salespeople should be asking. The proper questions professional salespeople should be asking are "Open-Ended Questions."

OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS
If you have taken any communication courses or journalism courses you would have learned that open-ended questions are those that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no response. The customer must give more information. As a salesperson you have to get the customer talking and giving you the maximum amount of information possible. Therefore all Needs Assessment questions should be phrased as open-ended questions. It is the extra information that an open-ended question can give you that contains the vital details and information that you will need in order to determine the direction of the balance of your sales presentation.

Open-ended questions begin with one of the following words: Who, What, Where, When, Why, How or Tell Me.
I find that many salespeople have fallen into the bad habit of asking closed-ended questions. Closed-ended questions are those that begin with words such as: Do, Have, Will, Are, Did, Could, Would, etc. My advice would be to listen to yourself and your fellow salespeople carefully. I believe that every time that you ask a closed ended question the customer loses a little bit of confidence in you and you sound uncertain in your sales presentation. With the groups that I speak to I like to plant a hypnotic seed in their heads. The seed is that every time you hear yourself or a fellow salesperson say the word "or" or "er" you just asked a closed-ended question. Questions such as:
  • "Did you want round or marquis er princess cut?"
  • "Do you want to get her earrings or a pendant er a bracelet er a watch?
  • "Is this the first place you have shopped or have you been looking?
  • "Do you have a birthday or anniversary or some special occasion coming up?"

 

As you can see from these bad examples it is very easy to fall into the trap of asking closed-ended questions. My experience tells me that this will be one of the most difficult habits for the majority of salespeople to break. You can also see how the customer can lose a little bit of confidence in the salesperson, and how easy these questions are to answer with a yes or no as opposed to divulging valuable information. With each and every closed-ended question it is very easy to change a word or two and turn them into a high quality open-ended question. The proper way to ask the above questions is:

  • "What shape do you prefer?"
  • "What type of jewelry do you have in mind?"
  • "What has she seen before that she would love to have?"
  • "What is the special occasion?"

Clearly these questions cannot be answered with a simple yes or no answer and the customer then must reveal the valuable information that you are looking to attain.
There are four basic types of open-ended questions that we will be exploring during the Needs Assessment step. They are:
  1. Information Questions
  2. Key Questions
  3. Business Questions
  4. Add-On Questions

Information Questions
The first type of open-ended question is the information question. This type of question is designed to get into the customer's shoes so to speak. Information questions are those that you would be asking while completing the Customer Profile Card that we talked about in a previous article. Through the customer profile system you would be asking questions to find out the customer's name, address, phone number, etc. In other words these questions are designed to find out as much personal information about the customer as possible. Other examples are:
  • "What type of work do you do?"
  • "Where do you live/work?"
  • "Tell me about your family?"
  • "How often do you wear your fine jewelry?"
  • "Tell me about your jewelry wardrobe."

Key Questions
A key question (or essential question) is one with more than one reason, benefit, or purpose, for asking. The majority of the following key questions should be asked with every client, as they are that important. I believe that in sales there is a logical sequence of "next best questions." In the majority of situations the key questions will give you the track which you can follow to determine the next best question for the particular selling situation.

A key question is a powerful question that will give you more than one piece of information, or more detailed information, both of which will help you complete the sale successfully. The Seven Key Questions and explanations for why each question is so vitally important for retail jewelry are as follows:
  1. Who recommended our store? This question is valuable in the sense that should the customer have been recommended by someone you know, you now have something in common with the customer and may be able to relate to an individual of which you are both familiar. Further, I would want to thank any customer who is recommending me and/or my store with a thank you note, gift certificate or at least a telephone call. An added benefit is that even if the customer wasn't recommended by anyone, based on the fact that you asked the question it implies that you get a lot of recommendation. Thus the trust factor is increased substantially.
  2. Who are you shopping for? When selling jewelry, it is essential that you know the gender and the relationship of the person that is to receive the merchandise. I know that a person is willing to spend more on their spouse's anniversary or birthday than they would on a graduation present for the daughter of a friend. One should never guess anything about anybody. Don't ask a closed-ended question like "Is this for your wife or girlfriend? You never know what kind of an answer you would receive from a question like that. You certainly wouldn't want to offend anyone for any reason.
  3. What brings you into our store today? As we have previously discussed, this question is the transition question between a non-business conversation and a getting to a business conversation. Let me reiterate this isn't a question that should be asked as a greeting or approach. It is used after you have attempted a non-business conversation or determined that the customer is in a hurry and suffering from "time poverty." This question will also cause many customers to simply tell you exactly what they had in mind.
  4. What have you seen before that he/she would really like? This is a key question because of all the valuable information that it can give you. You may find out that the customer has just started shopping, the competitors that they have been shopping, a price range, a category or a wealth of other valuable, usable information.
  5. What's the special occasion? This question will tell you the emotional reason behind the purchase. Thus allowing you to focus on the emotional reason rather than simply the technical aspects of the purchase. Should you find that it is a twenty-fifth anniversary and the customers are taking a cruise to celebrate you would want to share in the excitement of the trip and the occasion. This single question is the essential question to help build a relationship with the customer rather than a simple buy-sell relationship.
  6. What's important to him/her in selecting a new ___? This question is, with out a doubt, the most important question of the key questions. Yet, it is also the most frequently missed question. This question will give you all the information you need in order to determine the type of demonstration you need to give. You may find that the demonstration should be emotionally based, technically based, or you may find that the client needs your help in determining the quality and/or type of jewelry that fits the specific need. Additionally, you may find out what the client doesn't want, a price range, what other items the customer already has, and any multitude of other valuable information.
  7. When is the special occasion? This question is designed to put urgency to the purchase. Should the customer respond that the occasion is in the next couple of days, weeks, or even months, you would want to tell the customer "that it is coming up quick" or "Terrific, let's get this taken care of so you don't have to worry about it any more." The last thing you would want to do is to tell the customer that they have plenty of time to look around.

Business Questions
Business questions are the questions that you will use to get the information that you need to complete the NA=A/DA step. Again, the goal is to get the prospect to open up with you and tell you exactly what it is they need and want. To further explain, business questions are those that relate directly to the merchandise or jewelry that the customer is about to view through the demonstration. Questions such as:
  • What size diamond did you have in mind?
  • What shape do you think she would prefer?
  • What length has she worn in the past?
  • How often will she being wearing her fine jewelry?

These are just a few examples of business questions, but as you can see all business questions are used to determine valuable information about the product that needs to be demonstrated. Every selling situation is different and requires different questions to determine the appropriate items to show.

Add-On Questions
An Add-On Question is one, or several, that is asked in order to determine what appropriate add-on items you may want to introduce later in the sales presentation. Should you be able to determine a real need or desire for additional goods during the needs assessment step, I assure you the success you have in selling additional goods will be greatly increased, through asking questions early in the sales presentation.

For example, a gentleman is looking for an engagement ring. Somewhere during the needs assessment process you should ask, "What did you have in mind as a wedding day gift for your bride?" To which he may reply, "What, I have to get her a wedding day gift, too?" Then you might say, "Well, it is tradition to give pearls to the bride as a wedding day gift. I would hate for your new bride to be disappointed on her wedding, day wouldn't you?" Then later on in the sales presentation you would come back with, "How about we look at some beautiful pearls that will make a great wedding day gift?" This increases the likelihood of showing and selling the pearls.

Add-on questions are an area where I find many salespeople are weak in their selling skills. This component of the selling process will make a tremendous amount of increased sales for you. My suggestion is to look at every selling situation that you encounter and determine a set of add-on questions for each situation. In future articles we will discuss adding-on in much greater detail. However, I can tell you that most salespeople do not maximize the selling opportunity when it comes to selling additional goods. Having information that the customer has given you in order to determine what, if any, add-ons are appropriate is the key to success in the process of selling additional goods. Remember, adding on is a customer service. In all likelihood the customer is going to buy the additional goods anyway, it might just as well be from you as opposed to your competition.

In conclusion, asking questions is the key to any successful sales presentation. Be curious, find out as much as you can about your customer, and use every opportunity you have to make the conversation personal rather than a simple buyer/seller relationship. Therefore you will be able to establish trust and demonstrate the correct item for every customer that you serve. Remember to make your conversation, or needs assessment, conversational rather than interrogational through responding to the answers to every question. As mentioned in the communication article several months ago, the conversation must be two-sided, not just question/answer - question/answer. Your customer will become very uncomfortable in an interrogational situation. You will make more friends, find out more information and be more successful when carrying on a conversation where you ask a question, the customer answers and then you comment on the answer given. When customers are comfortable they are buying, when the customer is uncomfortable they tend to leave without making a purchase. This particular subject of the needs assessment process takes a tremendous amount of practice. Give the time and effort necessary to make yourself an expert at the needs assessment phase and the dividends will be enormous.




Author, trainer, consultant and speaker Brad Huisken is President of IAS Training. Mr. Huisken authored the books "I'M a Salesman! Not a PhD." and "Munchies For Salespeople, Selling Tips That You Can Sink Your Teeth Into," he developed the PMSA Relationship Selling Program, the PSMC Professional Sales Management Course, The Mystery Shoppers Kit, "The Employee Handbook" and "Policy & Procedures Manual," The Weekly Sales Training Meeting series along with Aptitude Tests and Proficiency Exams for new hires, current sales staff and sales managers, along with the new Weekly Jewelry Sales Training Series. In addition, he publishes a free weekly newsletter called "Sales Insight." For a free subscription or more information contact IAS Training at 800-248-7703, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.iastraining.com or fax 303-936-9581.

The circle of the sale

There are specific practical steps, which a salesperson must follow, in order to maximize every selling opportunity. In future articles I will detail more specifically the exact strategies and techniques that a professional jewelry salesperson must introduce into the sales presentation. However, to begin with, I believe salespeople need to know that there are specific issues that must be addressed, and an art and science to the selling process.

Demonstrating value

Product knowledge is one of those things that you have to have, you just may not need to use it in every sales presentation. During the demonstration you should describe your merchandise using features, benefits and agreement questions.

A feature is something that the manufacturer has made available in the merchandise. A benefit is what the feature will do for the customer, and an agreement question is getting them to say “yes.”

It is interesting to note that most salespeople are very feature driven. In other words they talk exclusively about the features of the merchandise. For example: It has this and it has this and it has that and it also has this.

However, customers don’t buy features, they buy benefits, or what the feature does for them. In many situations I have heard salespeople rattling off features in terms that the typical customer cannot and does not understand. Many salespeople talk in a foreign language using industry jargon. The customer then gets confused or won’t admit that they don’t understand and then make up an objection. Something like “I’ll be back” or “I need to think about that,” when in reality, we, as salespeople, confused them using words that only we understand.

Therefore we need to talk in terms of features (what it has or our industry jargon), benefits (what the feature does for the customer in easy to understand words) and agreement questions (getting them to agree with how important the feature and/or benefit is to their decision making process). For example: “One of the spectacular things about this ring is that it has a 6-prong head, meaning your diamond will be extremely secure, that is terrific isn’t it? Another nice thing about this ring is that the ring is white gold, meaning the ring will perfectly match your other jewelry, as you mentioned that is an important consideration, correct?”

In order to create the perception of value salespeople need to speak in terms that customers understand and using words that give a descriptive definition to the customer. Saying words like; exquisite, gorgeous, beautiful, spectacular, etc. will increase the perception that customers have of the value that they hold for the merchandise. Saying this jewelry is pretty or functional, or this chain will match, and last a long time, don’t do enough to increase the perception of value. Look at the examples in the previous paragraph and eliminate the adjectives that give value and you will hear a mediocre presentation at best. Keep the adjectives in and suddenly you are describing a valuable piece of exquisite jewelry that anyone would be proud to own.

As a sales manager the greatest help that you could give to your salespeople is to take the time and actually listen in on several of their sales presentations every week. Listen to see if they are asking the correct questions, hear if they are selling based on the reasons that the customer wants to buy. See if they get the customer to open up and reveal valuable information that will help the customer close themselves. Listen for descriptive words that add value to the presentation.

Being successful in sales does not necessarily require a gift of gab, it requires an ability to ask questions, really listen to the answers and react to the answers. Selling based on the customers’ perception of value or your ability to increase their perception of value will make all the difference in the world when it comes to selling higher priced merchandise. Selling items that the customer will be proud to show and that will last for years to come will increase your personal trade, repeat business and referral business substantially.

Author, trainer, consultant, and speaker Brad Huisken is President of IAS Training. Mr. Huisken authored the books “I’M a salesman! Not a PhD.” and “Munchies For Salespeople, Selling Tips That You Can Sink Your Teeth Into.” He also developed the PMSA Relationship Selling Program, the PSMC Professional Sales Management Course, The Mystery Shoppers Kit, “The Employee Handbook” and “Policy & Procedures Manual,” The Weekly Sales Training Meeting video series along with Aptitude Tests and Proficiency Exams for new hires, current sales staff and sales managers. In addition, he publishes a free weekly newsletter called “Sales Insight” For a free subscription or more information contact IAS Training at 800-248-7703, www.iastraining.com or fax 303-936-9581.

Selling Value!

Years ago, when I started my career in retail I was required to read a book titled, "Successful Shoe Salesmanship," by Dr. William Rossi. One statement from that book has stood out in my mind for over thirty years. The statement was, "Give your shoes a reason for being and you give your customer a reason for buying." In other words, it is up to the salesperson to create value in the merchandise they are selling,
whether the item is shoes, jewelry, electronics or space shuttles.The first thing that salespeople need to understand is the definition of the word "value." I believe that value is simply "perception." I know the value that I have for a hundred dollar bill is totally different than the value my children have for the same bill. They think, "let's party," and I think "let's hide it from them." I am sure that Bill Gates has a very different perception of a hundred dollars than I do and so on.
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