Closing Sales or Closing Relationships?
By Tim Connor, CSP
salespeople focus on just closing the sale.
Successful salespeople focus on closing the sale and the
relationship. Which is
your approach? For many
salespeople, the close of the sale, typically comes at the end
of the sales presentation.
It represents for many, the final act in the sales process.
It is unfortunate that these poorly informed and/or trained
salespeople, lack adequate understanding of the role of selling in
today's competitive world.
is not about only closing the current prospect on a particular product
or service that solves one of their pressing problems, needs or
desires. It is about
building a trusting relationship and partnership with them, by
becoming a resource, and helping them solve their on-going
problems, or satisfying their continuing and evolving needs and
for years have been taught that to close a sale, they need to use
devices or 'closing techniques'. For
example; "the which would you prefer or get it before the price
goes up", closes. These
techniques, although sometimes successful, tend to focus only on
how the current product or service solves a prospects
problem, or satisfies a current need or want.
The sales relationship must begin somewhere.
The question is, how can you become a resource for a prospect,
therefore beginning the relationship or partnership,
before you have sold or closed
must first evaluate your selling intent or philosophy that underlies
the sales process and how it impacts your ability to close this sale
and the future relationship. If
your focus is on the short term vs. the long term, your intent is most
likely only on moving products or services now.
If your intent is to develop a long term mutually beneficial
relationship with this new prospect, you may not sell this order, but
that does not prevent you from beginning to build a positive
relationship that can one day end in success.
also depends on how you choose to define a successful sales
relationships, sales or otherwise are dynamic.
They are either getting better or getting worse.
In order for a relationship to be getting better there are
several areas that need constant attention.
They are: trust, respect, acceptance, integrity, communication,
intent, the relationship direction, personal agendas and a willingness
to make the relationship work.
is possible to begin to develop all of these with a prospect that you
have not sold or "closed" yet.
You can provide information, guidance, recommendations,
solutions, feedback and a variety of other services that would move
the relationship from its current non-relationship status to one that
is getting better.
am not suggesting that you give away that which you sell.
If you sell information or guidance for example, don't give it
away. That only weakens
your ability to build a positive and successful win/win future
relationship. But, if you
sell wigits for example, is there some other area that you can help
this prospect that strengthens your position in their eyes.
Let me give you an example.
During the past twenty plus years as a speaker and trainer I
have given away hundreds of books and audio tapes, by other speakers
and authors to clients and prospects.
You might wonder why I would introduce a competitor to a
client. Do I have
philosophy has served me well for years for a number of reasons.
One, it shows the prospect or client I just as interested in
their success as my own. Two,
it communicates that I am secure enough in my own business, and that I
am not threatened by other potential resources that are available to
them. Three, it shows them I am on the lookout for information or
ideas that may or may not be related to what I do, that can contribute
to their long term success.
have been many instances where I have sent these materials to
prospects, and I have not as yet done any business with them.
But there are many more instances where this approach has
helped me distance myself from my competitors.
Customers want value today.
By showing an interest in them before closing the sale, I am
creating the impression, "if Tim does this much before he has
sold us, we can assume he will do as much or more after we buy from
him." Granted once I
sell them I have set up a high expectation for service and results, so
I better work as hard to keep and develop the business as I did to get
it. Otherwise, not only
will I lose this business, but the potential of using them to get
referral business or the right to use them as a reference.
takes more time, resources and energy to generate a new customer than
it does keep an existing one. It
is also easier to do more business with a present customer than it is
to find more new ones. What
is your approach? Are you
investing a greater proportion of your time and resources to continue
to find new business or satisfy, develop and keep existing business?
I agree that a continual flow of new business is the lifeblood
of growth and success in sales, however don't underestimate the
ability to use your present customers to help you with that mission.
few customers will just give you their business.
You must ask for it, but you also have to earn the right to get
it. In my opinion, closing
is more of a philosophy than a skill.
It is more an attitude than a strategy.
It is more about giving than getting, and it is more about
service than your sales compensation.
What is a closing philosophy or attitude? A closing
attitude or philosophy says, "I am here to help you.
I am here to do business with you. I am not on an educational
crusade nor am I a professional visitor."
We all make the same income, regardless of what we sell, on the
sales we don't close. Nothing. But,
successful salespeople leverage their time, energy and resources by
earning their customers willingness to either directly sell new
business for them or indirectly
support their overall sales
efforts with other potential customers.
the sale or relationship is not something that begins at some magical
point during the sales process. It
is the attitude you bring to every good prospect selling situation.
Notice I said good prospect.
You will never turn a poor prospect into a customer with a
quality product, effective and persuasive sales message or tricky
close, however a well qualified prospect will help you sell them.
Keep in mind most people like to buy, but few people like to
feel they are being sold to.
The most successful closers are effective prospectors. I recently
read a survey of sales managers, the results of which were published
in a national magazine. One
of the questions was where they felt salespeople needed more regular
quarterly training. The
results of the participants to this question were as follows: 47
percent needed more training in consultative selling, 19 percent more
training in closing and only 5 percent in prospecting. There were
other statistics, but I am only concerned here with those that dealt
with closing and prospecting.
That's like wanting your doctor, if you were going to have
surgery, to focus 66 percent ability to present or close the sale and
5 percent devoted to prospecting, getting information from a patient
history, evaluation, tests and so on.
I don't know about you but, I am just as interested in an
accurate evaluation or assessment of my condition as I am their
ability to relate to me, interpret the data and then operate
ultimate success will depend on the accuracy and timeliness of their
earlier findings, and their ability to uncover the real cause or
These managers just don't get it. Prospecting
is the most important sales skill when it relates to sales success.
In the time you have spent reading this article there have
probably been at least a million salespeople try to close a sale
somewhere. The ones that
will have been successful will be those that were giving presentations
to well qualified prospects. The
others are living in fantasy land and are not fooling anyone.
They are only "logging" as many sales calls in a day
or week as they can to either satisfy the demands of management for
adequate sales activity, or some misguided personal approach that will
end with frustration, discouragement and failure.
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