Closing is the single most important skill for sales staff, yet it is one of the least trained or understood skills in a sales person’s arsenal. It doesn’t matter how great the products are, or how friendly you are, or even what sales tactics are used if the steps to close the deal aren’t followed. Selling is not a contest to see how much product knowledge you have, nor is it an opportunity to build a friendship. In an HME retail store, selling is about laying the groundwork to exchange products or services for money. Selling lays the groundwork, but CLOSING seals the deal.
I once read a children’s riddle in a business book called 5 Frogs On A Log. Here it goes:
Five frogs are sitting on a log.
Four decide to jump off. How many are left?
Because deciding and doing are not the same thing.
Let’s reframe that riddle.
Five customers come into an HME retail store.
Four decide that a product would fit their needs. How many buy the product?
Because deciding that a product would be a good fit, and actually buying it are not the same thing.
Closing is how we get a customer to move from deciding to BUYING.
You are probably remembering some of the old sales tactics that were used on you in the past, or slick salesmen from movies. There is a reason that used car salesmen have a negative reputation; it comes from high pressure, old-fashioned closing techniques. Phrases like “What can I do to get you behind the wheel of this baby!” are examples of out of date, and often ineffective closing tactics.
This is called the Persistent Close. It is when you ignore a customer’s “no” and just keep pushing. “What can I do to get you to buy today?” This often makes customers uncomfortable, and most people involved in selling would rather lose the sale than be that kind of salesperson.
Another closing tactic that can work, but can also cause frustration is the Time Sensitive Offer Close. “Look, if you buy from me right now, you’ll qualify for this special offer, but that offer only works if you order from me now, so you need to order before you leave.” This tactic can make a customer feel bullied. Some might have been willing to buy, but are turned off by that tactic, and others may have been legitimately willing to buy, but needed to come back. If that is the case, your time-sensitive offer may prevent them from coming back.
The last classic closing technique that can have some success is the Free Gift closing technique. “But wait, that’s not all…” you’ve heard that before, right? The idea of offering a free item if they purchase now. Making a tray like our Omni-Tray free with the purchase of a lift chair is an example of a sales tactic that works.
A lot of people say that these closing tactics are outdated, and don’t work with a population of consumers who are cynical and wary. The fact is that those people are right if your closing technique seems impersonal or too slick-salesman like. Selling like that can turn consumers off. During the sales process, get to know the customer and their needs so that you can get a good feel for the types of closing strategies that will work best.
Classic closing techniques may have a use when developing your skill set. They can be used in combination with other tactics. Here are some closing tactics that we like better.
The Assumptive close is one of my favorites. The name is a clue. You are basically assuming that you have successfully closed the deal. When you notice the buying signals, you skip past asking for the order, and you move straight on through to the next question.
Statements like “Great, are you in the front parking lot? I’ll have someone carry the box out to your car while we ring it up.” Or “At what address do you want this installed?” These questions assume that they have decided to buy, so you can skip right to the details like installation, or what quantity they want.
This closing technique dovetails nicely with the next tactic:
The alternative close is where you ask them which options they want once you see that they are ready to buy. “Would you like me to get you the white pole, or the black pole?” or “do you want the straight pole or the one with the handle”. In these examples, both possible answers are a sale, and if the customer is ready to buy, they will go with the flow.
You need to start the Question Close a bit early, so pay attention to the customer’s initial statements, thoughts, or concerns. The Question Close will often be a response to an initial need identified by the customer. “Yes, I can help you find a solution for the issue of falling out of bed. If we find something that fits your requirements, are you ready to get it installed today?” This will prepare a customer to buy as long as you find a solution to their needs. Using the Question Close is a great way to overcome objections, so without further adieu:
The first thing I will say about objections is that they are actually a buying signal. I remember when I first heard that, I was unconvinced, but the more experience I get in sales, the more I realize that a customer’s objections are basically their roadmap for a sale. If you can overcome those objections, there are no barriers left, and the road naturally leads to a purchase.
I find that asking a few questions in response to most objections will help you overcome them without seeming argumentative. If a customer says “I don’t think this product will work for me” rather than doggedly trying to convince them that it will, ask “Why do you think it won’t work for you” or “What do you mean when you say that it won’t work”? Chances are that whatever reason the customer mentions can be explained further, or if a different product fits their needs better, a purchase becomes much more likely when you explain that the alternative product seems like a perfect fit.
Other good questions to overcome objections are:
“Why do you ask that?”, or
“Interesting, what makes you feel that way?”
These questions help a customer pin down their objection with a specific answer, and that is one of the best tools you can use to close the sale.
Once they have specified their initial concerns, you can ask “What if I found a solution that didn’t have that same issue?” Or “What if I could show you that this product can do that thing that you need?” You can end up changing minds with a thoughtful response to their objections.
I actually like to use bandwagoning early and often in the sales process. Bandwagoning is when you use specific examples of people who have had similar needs as the customer, and which products best met those needs. If a customer comes into your store and they are in the market for a walker, you can take them over to your favorite walker (Hint, this had better be one of your best ones. See our top-down selling strategies in the article The Importance of Sales Training for HME Stores) and say “Of all of my walkers, I have had the most positive response to this one. The other day a regular customer came in who I sold this walker to a few months back. She said that everyone in her book club has complemented her about it, and asked where she got it. Now they all have one!”
Knowing that other people have had success with a product helps them feel like they are making a good decision. The reason that I wanted to mention Bandwagoning in this article even though it is technically not a stand along closing technique is that it is a tactic that can be used to tip the scale with a hesitant customer.
The Satisfaction Guarantee close doesn’t work with every product. You need to either have a robust store guarantee or work with a manufacturer who has a friendly and liberal return policy. “Our #1 goal is to solve your problems! Take the pole home. If it isn’t the solution that you need, we’ll take it back and find something that works better.” This is a powerful incentive because it removes risk.
All of these tactics can be used together and should be used early. Find your own voice, and practice how you would use these strategies in your own style. I have sold in the retail setting, and I was very competitive. I even hated going home if it was busy because I knew my arch-rival, Steve, would pass my sales numbers if I let him. He had a slick salesman style that drove me crazy, but it worked for him. I tended to interact with my customers in more of a trusted consultant role, and that worked well for me. Adjust these closing tactics in ways that fit your style, and you’ll see that they work!The last thing I’ll say about closing is that nearly every
The last thing I’ll say about closing is that nearly every salesperson waits too long to close. While it may sound crazy, closing can often be the very first thing you do with a customer, even before all the “sales stuff.” I have even seen a sale get blown by selling too long, and trying to close too late. If the customer needs one critical feature, and you rattle off seven extra perks, then you might have a customer who suddenly starts to think that the product you are showing them is too feature rich (and therefore, too expensive for what they need) and walk away from the sale. Watch their body language, and pull the trigger early. As long as your products are good and you know how to solve the customer’s problems, they’ll thank you for getting them taken care of quickly and efficiently!