Before You Close, Ask Yourself 6 Questions

Last Updated Jan 31, 2011 2:10 PM EST

Many sales professionals avoid closing deals because they're afraid that they'll be told "NO", especially after spending time developing the opportunity. Fortunately, there's a very easy way to tell whether or not the customer is going to say YES -- and it's not what you think.

You're probably assuming that the decision to say YES is all about how well your solution matches the problem, or how well your offering's features and functions play against the competition. Well, those things are necessary but not sufficient. What's really going to get you that YES is quite different.

Dr. Robert B. Cialdini, the world's foremost expert on the psychology of influence, conducted extensive scientific studies of how persuasion, compliance, and negotiation actually take place in real-world business situations. In this post, I've taken his "six principles of influence" and made them into six simple questions. Here they are:

  • Q1: Have you already helped this customer? If you've already helped the customer in some way, that customer will feel obligated to say "yes" when you move to close. Have you, for example, provided a unique industry perspective, or brought your customer a referral for a potential customer?
  • Q2: Does this customer think your offering is unique or rare? Customers peculiarly value products that are rare or difficult to get. Have you established that your firm is the only viable source for what the customer actually needs, so that customer will perceive your offering as uniquely valuable?
  • Q3: Does this customer consider you an authority? Have you revealed anything about your specific background or experience that might increase the customer's perception that you're an authority and that your firm is reputable?
  • Q4: Would buying bolster the customer's self-image? Customers are more likely to buy if buying is consistent with a prior commitment they've made in your presence. Have you gotten the customer to define himself or herself as the type of person who truly needs what you're offering?.
  • Q5: Does the customer know peers who've bought from you? Customers are more likely to say "yes" when presented with evidence that their peers are also saying "yes." Have you provided the customer with examples and references that match the profile of that customer?
  • Q6: Does the customer like you personally? Customers are more likely to say "yes" if they know and like you. Have you found similarities between yourself and the customer and raised them to the surface? Have you communicated that you truly respect the customer?
SCORING:
Award yourself 1 point for each YES answer.
  • 1-2 Points. If you ask for the business, you're going to get a MAYBE at best. You still have a lot of selling to do before asking for the close.
  • 3-4 Points. If you ask for the business, you've got about a 50/50 chance of closing the deal. If you're pressed for time and can't think of any way to strengthen your influence, go ahead and ask. But you'd be well advised to wait and keep selling, until you've gotten to the next level.
  • 5-6 Points. If you ask for the business, you'll probably get a YES, providing that your offering really does meet the customer's needs.
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