Closing the deal

After my last article, a reader sent this question: “This morning I was reading your article on selling. I need tips on closing deals. I am at that stage where I feel I don’t want the buyer of my services to feel like I am coercing them.”
The query reminded me of an often told story. A man was in need of an axe and not having one he went to borrow it from a neighbour. When he got to his neighbour’s homestead, he thought it would be rude to straightaway ask to for the axe so he engaged his neighbour in a conversation. Another neighbour came and found the pair talking, apologised for intruding, and straightaway asked if he could borrow the axe. It was when the owner of the axe rose to hand it over to the second neighbour that the first neighbour cried out that he had also come with the purpose of borrowing the same axe.
The second neighbour closed the deal while the first one was still selling. Typically, a sales encounter involves about five elements: the customer inquiry, customer needs identification, product or service recommendation, building value and closing the deal.
The customer makes an inquiry about your product or service. In a restaurant, the inquiry could be “What is on your menu?” I am in the consultancy business and a common question that my customers ask is, “What do you do?” At that point I give a brief overview of our products and services, possibly breaking them down into two or three categories to set the ground for the next element in the sales encounter.

Next as the seller, whether of a product or service, you need to get information from the customer to enable you identify the customer’s needs. To do this, you ask questions and listen to the answers and other information that the customer is giving. Many times I find that selling involves more listening on my part than talking. By the time a customer makes an inquiry they may already be very clear about what they need and instead of rushing to recommend what you think is good for them, first listen and understand their need.

Identify needs
Next, you should zero on the most relevant product or service. The assumption here is that you as the seller have a very good understanding of the products or services on offer and can recommend the most appropriate one given the needs communicated by the customer. Do not behave like some real estate brokers – the client could have said they are looking for a two-bedroom house that is self contained – and the broker continues to show him or her all kinds of houses including single room tenements.

Value product
At this point, shut up about all other products, only talk about the one that most closely meets the needs of the client. This means that you need to understand the value proposition of your products or services and explain to your customer. Enable the customer not only understand what value the product or service offers to them but why you are the only one who can make that offer. Your job is done when the customer is convinced that what they will get will be more valuable than the money you are charging them.

Close deal
The final element of the sales encounter is closing the deal. It is basically giving the opportunity for the customer to agree to buy from you. Sometimes it requires you to ask a question that elicits the commitment. At times, it requires silence yes at times the seller needs to be quiet so that the buyer can make up their mind. Just like a door is either closed or not closed so is deal closed or not. Get that contract or local purchase order, close the deal.
Closing the deal is part of a process, you have got to know and master the different elements of the sales encounter and know how much time or effort to spend on each but whatever you do give your customer the opportunity to close the deal. Don’t walk away without the axe.

James Abola is the team leader of Akamai Global, a business and finance consulting firm. E-mail:

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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