A WORD FROM DUANE SPARKS
Dear Sales Executive:
Are you at all surprised to learn that 64% of salespeople don’t close? Some of your peers in sales management are shocked into disbelief by the 64% statistic; others say the number probably is too low! However you may feel about it, that’s what our current research on the topic of Asking for Commitment is telling us.
In the last eCoach, I told you why I hate the term “close”. I used it in the title of this edition only to gain your attention. (Sorry about that.) “Close” connotes that you are ending something or shutting it down. I believe it’s all wrong to use that term after you have worked hard enough to build a relationship with a person and that the person agrees to buy from you. Why would you now want to bring the relationship to an end by closing it?
By contrast, I argue that the act of Gaining Commitment is a natural conclusion to a well-orchestrated sales conversation. I’ll go a step further: It’s a natural conclusion to ANY conversation.
The 64% number represents a dramatic failure. If we’re going to improve things significantly, we first need to look at the causes of the disaster. Once we understand why the problem exists, we can talk about solutions.
If you have a question about how to change the 64% failure rate in Asking for Commitment to a number that approaches zero, click on “Ask The eCoach“.
We are committed to your professional success.
Author of Action Selling
Why 64% of Salespeople Don’t Close
Since 1990, The Sales Board has been tracking the percentage of sales conversations that don’t end with a question that asks the customer to make a commitment—the act that usually goes by the mistaken name of “closing.” Scary as it may seem, the number has actually trended up recently. It used to be 62%. Now it’s 64%.
There are three primary reasons why failure to Ask for Commitment is huge problem that is only getting bigger.
Reason #1: Salespeople Don’t Have a Plan to Ask
Every time you leave a call or a customer conversation without gaining a commitment, the chances of getting a commitment later are reduced by 50%. Failure to have a plan for gaining commitment is the most frequent mistake made by salespeople. The mistake is even more common among other customer-contact employees.
Action Selling teaches sales and service teams to identify a Commitment Objective for every customer contact. Always. A Commitment Objective is a goal we set for ourselves to gain feedback, in the form of an agreement, that moves the sales/loyalty process forward. To lower the 64% number, we need to establish an action plan for every single interaction with a customer.
Reason #2: They Lack an Effective Procedure
When I was growing up in sales, I worked for a company that was extremely aggressive about asking for commitment. They used phrases like, “Close early and often.” They taught me 30 different closes that they said were “guaranteed to work.”
Oh, brother! Some of these ploys were so obnoxious and unbelievably manipulative that nobody in their right mind would dare use them. I’m thinking, for example, about the sharp-angle close, the puppy-dog close, and the Ben Franklin. All were methods to trick or trap a prospect into saying yes. They were sleazy then, and they’re utterly laughable today.
But…you do need to ask for a “yes.” The best way to do that is to have a proven, non-manipulative process for doing it. Here’s the process:
- Step 1: Summarize your solution and quote the price (be it money for a final sale or more of the customer’s time to take the next step in the relationship you’re building).
- Step 2: Ask: “How does that sound to you?”
- Step 3: Ask: “Would you like to go ahead with this?”
Simple, easy and painless.
Reason #3: They Miss Opportunities to Ask for Commitment
Buying signals represent opportunities to ask for commitment—at least, they do when they are heard at the right time during your conversation with the customer. The right time is just after you’ve presented your solution or after you’ve quoted price (or time commitment, if at this point what you’re selling is, say, another meeting with decision-makers).
All salespeople and customer-contact people miss buying signals on occasion. Buying signals sound like: “How much is it?” “Do you have it in stock?” “This looks good.” “How can I get more information about this?” “When do we need to make a decision?”
Each of these represents a great opportunity to ask for a commitment. Follow the procedure above and get your commitment accomplished.
For a vivid and enjoyable look at what Gaining Commitment fully means, get my newly revised and updated book Action Selling: How to Sell Like a Professional, Even if You Think You are One.
Action Selling in Action
Quiktron Inc. of Albania, Iowa, sells cable-connectivity solutions to the datacomm and telecommunications industries throughout North America. Christine Corbine, Quiktron’s Director of Sales, provides training for both an outside sales team and a team of customer-contact people—or Customer Relationship Professionals, as Action Selling calls them.
Corbine wanted to align all customer-facing employees around a common language for gaining commitment from customers and prospects. “We are well-known for our technology skills,” she says. “But, we found that people would tap our expertise and then buy from someone else. The training we got from The Sales Board fixed that.
“Now,” Corbine continues, “we connect our solutions directly to the customer’s needs and use the commitment procedure we learned to gain agreement to move forward. Our Customer Relationship Professionals are amazed by how well this works.
“You know your training is working when you overhear an employee from one department asking someone from another department, ‘What’s your Commitment Objective?’”
For information about how to make sales training pay huge dividends, contact The Sales Board at (800) 232-3485.
Get my newly revised and updated book Action Selling: How to Sell Like a Professional, Even if You Think You are One.