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Training Tuesday:Confirming the Sale

Training Tuesday:Confirming the Sale

In the trucking industry, a lot of credit is given to a salesperson who is a proven closer. That has always been my reputation – a guy who always asks for the sale and expects the customer to say “YES”. Being known as a “Closer” is a big compliment. The only downside, as far as I’m concerned, is the negative connotation of the word Close. I appreciate being recognized as a Closer, but I think it’s more accurate to call what I do Confirming the Sale. Whatever you decide to call it – there’s no magic to confirming the sale. Right from the initial approach to the very end of your presentation, bit by bit, you should be confirming the sale. It’s when you find out if you did your job properly. I go with my instincts. I close the sale when my customer lets me know it’s time. Closing or confirming the sale is the most natural thing about selling. It’s the only reason for your job. Confirming the sale should be automatic. Don’t hesitate to ask a shipper for his or her business. The only time you shouldn’t be outwardly confirming the sale is when you’re on the fact finding call, and even then there will be a series of opportunities for minor closes that prepare your prospect for your next sales call.

You have to have complete confidence in your ability to close the sale, if not, the prospect becomes consumed with doubt. The prospect can sense when it’s time for you to confirm the sale, and it’s up to you to ask for the order. He knew you were a salesperson when he agreed to see you, and if you lack confidence to ask for his business, he’s going to lack confidence in making a decision. It’s like driving onto a car lot, walking the entire lot looking at each car, and never having a salesperson approach you.

Confirming the sale is simply demonstrating a confidence that you’re ready to provide the prospect with the service that he wants. When the prospect feels comfortable with you in this regard, it’s time to say, “Okay, when are we going to handle your first shipment?”

It’s contagious. When you confidently ask for the prospect’s business, the other person becomes confident too. The prospect should feel like it would be a mistake not to act. It’s only when a salesperson is full of doubt himself that people hesitate and feel as though they’re being put under the gun to make a decision. Hesitation is as contagious as confidence.

Your sales presentation should be smooth. The close should have a rhythmic flow that naturally blends in with your proposal so that the prospect is unaware of a precise moment when he can think, ‘Ah, now he’s putting pressure on me to buy.’ Pressure selling is outdated and counterproductive. People who make decisions on who to trust with their freight are resentful of a sales rep who tries to stuff their transportation offerings down their throats—the buyer will resist such pressure.

“I’m the world’s worst Salesman, therefore, I must make it easy for people to buy.”
– F.W. Woolworth

Ask for the customer’s freight. At the very least ask for a trial shipment. When an attractive transportation solution is properly presented to a prospect, it becomes obvious that the prospect’s problem can be solved. Therefore, there’s a built-in urgency to go ahead and switch to Sunteck as their carrier of choice. It’s a matter of demonstration that your proposal is so cost and service justified from the customer’s point of view that as a prudent business person, he or she readily recognizes the value that Sunteck offers. When you accomplish this, the prospect is ready to sign.

One technique that I use is the minor-major close, a method of selling used by many successful transportation sales specialists. The premise of this close is to avoid asking a prospect to make a major buying decision. Instead, I ask a series of relatively minor questions to which the prospect can easily answer yes. It’s often easier for the customer to make several minor decisions than one major one.

Instead, I ask easy questions that require little thought to answer, such as:

• Would you like me to send a letter and routing guide to your vendors?
• Would you like a monthly detailed report of all inbound and outbound

None of these questions are hard to answer. On the other hand, imagine the difficulty a prospect would have when asked, “Will you give me all your shipments to your biggest customer effective today?” There’s too much anxiety created by that question. Most prospects would have trouble saying yes to a closing question like that.

As previously explained, most people simply don’t like to make major decisions. They don’t want to risk making a mistake, so they tend to procrastinate. However, it’s not difficult to make up one’s mind about things that are relatively insignificant. Sometimes the least threatening question and the most effective is, “How about giving Sunteck a try?” It’s an effective request for business that gives the customer a chance to test your service.

The odds for success are in your favor if you close the sale while the prospect is still hot. Some people simply cool off. The best time for them to make buying decisions is while all of the facts are fresh in their minds, and that’s immediately after you’ve presented an explanation of your service. The more time that expires, the less people’s memories retain what you’ve told them. They can’t remember the reasons why they need Sunteck, and in some cases, how to use our service (dispatch phone number, lanes where we’re strongest, etc.). But they do remember how much it costs. With each day that passes, they remember less and less about your service and its benefits and simultaneously the price seems proportionately higher for the benefits they think they will get. For this reason, you should confirm the sale during the presentation call.

The longer a customer has to think it over, the lower the odds become that you’ll make the sale. I go with the odds and always make a strong attempt to close the sale while eye to eye with the prospect.

I confirm the sale bit by bit throughout the presentation. Relatively early in the presentation I let the prospect know that I expect him or her to make a decision at the close of my presentation.

It’s important to bring up again that you must make sure all decision-makers will be present before you make your sales pitch. When I call to set the appointment for my presentation, I always make it clear that whoever is necessary to make a buying decision should be present. Sometimes it’s the VP of sales, Purchasing manager, Traffic manager, Maintenance supervisor, Comptroller, or maybe even the CEO. Because I’ve prepared them in advance, I’m rarely told at the end of my presentation, “I need to talk it over with….”

Ask for a customer commitment at the appropriate time—after you’ve done a good job of probing, exchanged information about the customer’s needs, and shown how your service can help meet those needs. Then the customer and you are ready to make a decision about how to close the sales call and what steps should be taken next.

One of the best times to confirm is when you get a clear signal of the customer’s readiness to commit. The signals that successful salespeople look for include:

• A smile, nod, or expectant look.
• A clear statement of satisfaction, such as “That sounds like what we’re looking for.”
• A statement that shows the customer wants to close, such as, “What’s the next step?” or “How do we proceed?”
• Questions about hours of dispatch support, costs, etc.

When you get these signals, it’s important to recognize them and not try to discuss other things and miss the moment to ask for a commitment.

Do not oversell! Some salespeople enjoy a successful close so much that they want to hear it again – even if it re-opens the door to a “NO.” When the customer says yes – you should SHUT UP! The sales pitch is now over. You and the customer are now business partners. Do not oversell. Learn to take YES for an answer.

I’ve made sales calls with dozens of successful sales people and every one of them is unique. Each one closes or confirms the sale in their own way, but there are some recurring techniques. While you may have found certain closes work better than others, that shouldn’t deter you from using a variety of closes or confirming techniques, depending on different situations. By learning the ten closes listed here, you’ll stand a better chance of getting more sales, more often, from more accounts.

Emphasize the benefits you know the prospect finds irresistible. In the following script, the sales agent uncovers low freight costs as one of the prospect’s hot buttons and emphasizes that the more expensive transportation solution will actually save him money in the long run:

Prospect: “I like your service, but it costs too much.”
Salesperson: “It costs too much? Most carriers who are cheaper than we are more frequently damage freight, deliver late, and miss pick-ups. Our service is designed to eliminate those headaches for you and your customer. Obviously, that will save you money, and increase future business from your customers who’ll be more satisfied.”

Help the prospect see themselves using your service. Speak to them as though they already use it, and tie in a hot button benefit to its use: “When you use our next day service to Dayton, after only a few shipments you’ll notice that your customers are happier that they’re now receiving their shipments when they were promised. Then you can move on to something else, and quit wasting ten hours a week on trying to fix your Dayton problem, and that’s what you really want isn’t it?”

The Minor-Major close builds a chain of affirmative answers to questions you ask to help lead the prospect into saying yes to the sale. To put the prospect in the habit of saying yes, ask questions you’re sure will get affirmative answers:

Salesperson: Do you believe in giving your customers great service?
Prospect: Yes.
Salesperson: Do you agree that meeting your customers’ shipping deadlines and requirements improves your chances for future sales?
Prospect: Yes.

The “If I can” close uses the prospect’s questions and comments to help you get them to buy if you can provide what they want. Instead of immediately assuring the prospect that you can meet all of their wants and needs, ask them if they’ll buy from you if you can…:

Prospect: I need a carrier who can guarantee deliveries to O’Hare by 3:00PM.
Salesperson: If I can guarantee deliveries to O’Hare by 3:00PM, would you give us a try?

If the prospect is waiting for an invitation to buy, give him one. Make a persuasive argument for choosing Sunteck, including the reasons why the prospect should buy, then invite them to do it. Say, “Why don’t you give us a try?” or “Would you like to get started right away?”

To build credibility and reassure the prospect that he’s making a wise decision, tell him about the success other companies have had with Sunteck. Collect letters or stories and share them with your prospect to settle buying anxiety:

Prospect: I’m not sure this will work with the way we currently handle your traffic needs.
Salesperson: These companies use our service and they’ve had fabulous results. “You will, too.”

To use the “All that” close, simply reiterate the client’s needs and wants, and how your service satisfies them: “From what you’ve told me, you want a carrier who will pick up by 7:00AM in Atlanta and deliver by 6:00PM in Birmingham. Sunteck can do all that. This is a service that we have experience with, and this would fit your needs perfectly. Don’t you agree?”

Since few salespeople can offer prospects the perfect transportation service, it’s often difficult to overcome every one of a buyer’s objections. When an unanswered objection stands between you and a sale, make a list of benefits vs. objections (Just make sure that the benefits far outweigh the objections) and present them to your buyer and say, “As you can see, the reasons for buying outnumber the reasons against.”

The reverse close turns prospect’s reasons why they shouldn’t buy into reasons why they should buy. When your prospect voices an objection, think of a benefit to that objection: “That’s the very reason why you should use Sunteck.”

Prospect: Your price is too high!
Salesperson: That’s the very reason why you should use Sunteck. The slightly higher price buys you a higher quality, faster response time and a safer transportation service that will save you money on damage and shortage, and will result in more repeat business from your current customers.

The more closes you know, the better you’ll be prepared to face that moment of truth at the end of your presentation. With so many effective ways to confirm a sale, odds are you’ll be able to choose the appropriate one to confirm a sell on your very next call.

It’s no secret why you’re making the call in the first place. And, it’s no secret why your prospect is listening. He knows you’re there for the purpose of selling him your transportation services. He’s listening in the hope that you’ll make his job easier and the performance of his job more efficient.

Be a closer (confirmer). Your main objective is to get new business. At the end of the presentation, a real sales professional will confirm with their prospect that they’ve done a good job. That confirmation will come in the form of a sale.

Never give up and never give in.
Go for the Close!