Grant Leboff: One of the big things for any salesperson is about closing a sale. Do you have any advice that you'd give salespeople as to the best way to do that?
Nicola Cook: Absolutely. Well, the first thing is, as you would only ever go to moving to closing a sale if you've set it up correctly. So if you've engaged them, if you've qualified them, if you're convinced that you've compelled them in the right way and that they've bought into your proposition, but at some point, salespeople make their money when they actually walk the deal across the line, and there's three key parts of closing.
The first one is gaining the emotional close, which is them verbally saying yes. Again, depending on the context that you're engaging with your client, whether it's over the phone or on email. In fact, most of my emotional closes today in my business, tend to happen on text (SMS) - believe it or not. So it's like they've got the proposal, they've said yes, you know, but you just need them to just nudge them and that's all the emotional closing. But then you need to get the legal closing. The legal close is the commitment. If it's a consumer based buying set up, it will be making a purchase or in a business that will be getting the purchase order number or signing the contract or agreeing a start date for a project, whatever that might be. And then the third part is the collection. In the emotional close, there is a number of ways in which you can use language to help you with that and it's normally through questions again. You use a test closes with your buying signals to make sure that they're really bought into it and one should lead into the other.
So if you've used a test close - something like; If you were going to move ahead, which option would you prefer? Option A or option B? Option B is always the one you want them to choose because it's the last thing they're here. Usually the first thing that they remember. And if they choose option B, then you can just assume the sale and say, okay, great, that's excellent... so what will happen next is... and you start to talk about next steps. Then in those next steps you'll explain; this is going to happen, our ‘onboarding’ process is this, you need to sign this documentation, blah, blah, blah, blah blah. And that's the emotional close. Or you can just assume the sale. You can say; do you have any more questions? They say no. You say, great, so what will happen next is, and you welcome them on board.
If they hesitate at all at that point, that's when you'll get any objections that come out. Otherwise you've just lead them through that emotional close quite easily. But what you must do is you must make sure that your signing process is as simple as possible. In today's technology, gone are the days where we used to have order forms in triplicate that we carried around with us face to face and you signed the form and leave one copy with the customer.
Usually you walk away without a signed order or you finish a conversation online without the signed order. So you need to make sure that you're signing process for your legalities of closing the sale is streamlined. Send them the documentation using an e-sign app of some kind that they can sign straight away. Give them an incentive to make sure it comes back within 24 hours, so make that part of the deal; we agree that if you get this paperwork back to us within this timeframe, we can start on this date, or you can have this extra thing in the deal and make sure that that's really easy for them to do.
And then I'm a great believer that salespeople should also be responsible for the collection. Too many companies build a sales team were they'll just go around and sign up anything and not think about when the money actually comes into the business - and if you're running a small business, you'll know the cash is king. So again, make part of the deal and part of the process, gaining cash into the business. Either through the payment plans that you put in place or the financing that you put in place or gaining a lump sum up front to get some form of commitment. Although that's not a skill set per se, it's a strategy to make sure that you also keep the business well cash flowed. So emotional, close, legal close collection are the three parts of closing.
Grant Leboff: And how important is it for salespeople to be part of that process? I mean with the business, because often when you get into legal processes and things like that sales people don't get much of a say do they? So then it becomes a bit of a grey area for them. So you think salespeople should be involved in how that process is going to work and should have a say in a business?
Nicola Cook: Yes, I do. I don't think there should be involved in chasing in bad debt. Let me just be clear about that. But I certainly think that they should have the tools. So, the templates for your legal agreements are already set up so it's dead easy for them to just merge a document, hit a button and it's out - because you don't want to use your sales team for spending hours and hours and hours filling in admin or whatever. If needs be, hire a sales admin person to do that part to work alongside them. But I definitely think that, depending on what it is that you sell, you can give some parameters to what sales people can have. Some leeway as to what the deals are that they can structure. Particularly if it's a solution based sale that you're involved in. Give them the clear guidelines that says these are the parameters within which we can work, so we can incentivise people in this way and to help them structure deals in a way that help get those deals across the line quicker.
Grant Leboff: And what about when it doesn't work? So what I mean is if you've done this closing and then you find the paperwork hasn't come back? You've set it up but it hasn't come back. What advice would you give a salesperson at that point?
Nicola Cook: Number one follow up. You'd be amazed how many people don't. I'm actually waiting for a deal to come in today. It's the end of the month. And I made it part of the deal that, for the agreement that we had and the payment plan that we put in place, that the paperwork was returned today - and they've had a week and it hasn't come back - but I had a conversation with the client last week, so I suspect one more nudge for me and it will come in. But loads of people don't do that, so being tenacious and being really good in your follow up is point number one. And if there's a clear reason why somebody has said yes, they've emotionally close but then not legally closed, then you need to keep that dialog going and you would need to then start to dig a little bit deeper to understand why has that happened. And again, it all starts with questions.
Is there a reason why you've not been able to get your paperwork back? Has anything changed from the last time we spoke - because things do. Sometimes there are blockages further back, internally in their business, that you haven't been aware of up until that point. So follow up, good follow up and keep the dialogue going. And if you get to a point where a deal is not closing, then I do a thing that I call 'take the dog for a walk', which is an analogy that; you take your dog for a walk in the park, you let it off the lead and it runs around like a lunatic. Then the minute you want to try and get it on the lead, the more effort you put into trying to chase it around the park. It runs around and runs around and runs around and you're left going around, 'errrrrgh' and sometimes it can be a bit like that when you're chasing a client.
But the minute you turn around and you say, 'well stuff you, I'm going home for me tea, you can stay here if you want' and you show confidence and you walk away the other direction, the dog kind of goes, ohhh hang on a minute! Ohhh, you were serious, alright then. Then they start coming running after you. So there's always a point in that follow up process where I know that they just need to be left alone and I, literally, will write to people and say, look, if now is not the time, that's okay, but I don't want to keep bugging you, so I'm just going to leave it with you for now and I'll talk to you again. I'll follow up again in say three months time. If things change in the meantime, then you know where we are. But I'll cancel the deal that we had in place.
As soon as I say that, 50 percent of people come straight back at that point. So that's 50 percent more deals that you'll close by being that brave and saying it's okay. It's okay, I'll leave it with you, but I'm going to cancel the deal that we had in place and we can re-look at it again in the future when the timing is better for you. And sometimes people just need that little nudge to make them go, oh no, no, no, no, we did want to do it. We just got busy.
And the other 50 percent? You've saved yourself the time wasting chasing them up.