Now that you have your sales pipeline sorted, the final part of the sales process is asking for the business.
Let’s start with the “alternative close”. If the meeting has gone well, you could use this. In my world a successful sale is typically when somebody agrees to do some kind of workshop, so I might say “would you like to do the workshop in October or November” – it’s not cheeky; it’s an open question and it does work!
The second option is the “summary close” and this is helpful if you have done more than one meeting and if there is more than one decision maker. I had one situation where there were five directors and three meetings with a different mix of directors at each meeting.
At the final meeting I said, “We have had three meetings, you have identified over those meetings half a dozen benefits, so for these six reasons would you like to agree a date to do this?” This time you are risking the answer “no”, but by reiterating the benefits message you are reminding them of all the different things that they have told themselves – remember they did not all attend all of the meetings.
The third option is the “assumptive close”, where you make the decision for them. The meeting has gone so well you make the decision.
I did one meeting on the south coast with a husband and wife team, who ran a very successful engineering company. I had persuaded them that they needed to do the workshop off-site and the husband and wife then had an interesting debate about which pub in the town they should use.
One had a romantic view; the other did good real ale. It was fairly obvious that they had already made their buying decision so I said, “why don’t we settle on the first Friday in December and you let me know which one of the pubs you have booked”, and then left them to it!
The “buy signals” were so strong. You can do that when it is clear they have made the decision; you just need to be brave and make the decision for them.
The fourth option is the “concession close”. This is particularly helpful if you are doing design or consultancy work where it’s clear you need to give something away to get the business – but trade time not money. If there is nothing tangible that you can throw in you are probably reduced down to some sort of trade and I would always trade time and not money.
To keep the maths simple, if somebody says to me “what is this going to cost?” and I say, “it looks like it is a day’s work so that is £1,000” they might respond: “I did not expect to pay that much”, so I might respond “Let’s have a look at the seven parts to this job; we could defer a couple of these to another day, one you could do yourself, so if we work hard on the other four parts we could get it done in a half day, so that would be £500”.
They might say they agree to that. I have not given it away; I have traded time for money.
The worst thing I could have done is say that I would do the whole day for £500 because that devalues me in their eyes. Try to find out if trading time for money works; it often does, particularly if you have pitched in a modular format where you can take components out of your solution.
The key to each of these ‘closes’ is planning. Do you research on who you are meeting with; do they have enough funds to actually pay you for what you do, or are you more likely have a concession close and trade time for money? If so, you’re going to have to do some sums before hand so that you don’t seem underprepared in the meeting.
In my next article we’ll continue on how to successfully close business meetings, looking at a further two ways that you may find useful in future. In the meantime, do contact me if you have any queries or simply want more advice.