You probably know the old sales acronym “ABC” which means “Always Be Closing”. I firmly believe in asking for an order in the B2B sales environment and have provided a few of my favourite and more importantly proven ways of asking for the business below, but always closing, (in all circumstances) really?
Whilst I would never employ anyone in a sales role who does not know how to ask for business in a professional and courteous manner, I would be very wary about employing a person who would press for an order without regard to the circumstances. This is because doing this would demonstrate to customers that my organisation is not interested in listening to them, in finding out if our products and service are fully compatible with their business objectives. All B2B sales people need to know almost as much about their prospective customers business and its objectives as they do about their own before going anywhere near asking for an order. Listening to your customer might reveal the startling truth that your products and services are not right for them. If that’s the case only a fool would ask for an order anyway. Too many sales people press on regardless when it might be better to ask the customer if they know of anyone else in their organisation who could be interested in your proposition.
My advice to B2B sales staff just starting out in a Field Sales or office based sales role is “ABA” plus lots of “ABL”. Always Be asking (about your customers business). Always Be Listening (to your customers’ answers). A great questioning technique matched with excellent listening skills and then acting on the information received is the holy grail of sales.
Now to my favourite closes. A word of warning some of this will not go down well with sales trainers, authors of books about sales and others who have not actually worked for many years at the sharp end of B2B sales in the UK but I offer them up anyway and for no other reason that when used in the right way, with the right intonation, at the right time they actually work. I appreciate they may not all be suitable for your particular business but they are fairly easy to refine and adapt to most B2B situations.
Obviously no sales close can happen until all the customers concerns and objections have been identified and fully dealt with. Riding roughshod over a customer’s concerns and coming away with an order is not ethical or professional.
1. The Trial Close. This will tell you if you have done your job correctly by flushing out any concerns the customer still has. Sales Person – “Where would you store/display our products”? You’ve not asked for the order but you are talking about an event after the order has been placed. If the customer is ready to move on to that stage she will say so. The opposite is also true so you can deal with any issues that are still concerning the customer and consider using one of the options below.
2. The straight shooter. Sales person – “Based on our discussion today may I go ahead and organised your delivery for next Tuesday”? This is not considered a classic by some because it’s a “closed” question which means the customer can reply with a straight “No” but if she does so, you can ask why. It might be nothing more complicated than they only take deliveries on Fridays. Whatever it is, you will discover something you might not otherwise have known.
3. The Self Close. Get to the end of what you have to say and shut up. Wait 10 seconds. It is human nature to want to fill a void of silence (which is why most sales people don’t know when to stop, because they think the onus is on them to continue the conversation). However your customer might just want to be seen to make the decision themselves (imagine that) and need to be given a few seconds to take charge of the situation.
4. The Puppy Dog. Sales Person – “I can supply this material on a sale or return basis (either as a one off or as a permanent ongoing arrangement) there are a few conditions but the bottom line is there is no risk to you – shall I organise your first consignment for the first of the month”?
5. The Alternative (sometimes called The Assumptive). Sales person – “We can deliver next week or would you prefer to wait until the 1st of next month”? In this example the conversation is not about if. It’s about when delivery will be made and shows you are giving the customers cash flow/stock holding situations some consideration.
The important thing to remember is that you are there to do business for the benefit of your customer and your employer. Good luck and enjoy your time in sales.