Greetings from South Africa,
It’s beautiful here. The people are very nice. My hotel is amazing. But, I am all business this week.
Two weeks ago I told a client that his team needed to go back to the playbook I helped them build and the planned dialogues therein. He said, “To you those words are easy, but to our people they sound aggressive.” He’s not wrong. It’s contextual and cultural. I get it. But I don’t know anyone who uses softer direct language than I do. I don’t believe salespeople will say words that make them feel bad about themselves.
But you do have to ask for your dream client’s business.
Even a Child Can Do It
We teach small children to close by showing them how adults exchange value. We trade them dessert for eating their dinner. We offer to read them a story in exchange for their going to bed on time. We show that them grown up human beings trade value for value in order to get what we want. And they quickly learn to mimic what they see.
Children then become better closers than the grown ups who trained them to close by being far more persistent (if you have children, you’ll remember this painful period). Children ask for what they want. If they hear the word “no,” they ask again. Given another “no,” a child will ask “why not,” trying to understand how they need to change their pitch in order to get what they want.
When a child doesn’t get what they want, they’ll change tactics. They’ll change from happy and eager to angry and distraught. No matter how young they are, they look for a new angle to get what they want rather than giving up.
Beat the Ask Out of Them
But over time, we train children to give up. They go too far and ask for things we can’t give them, and we have to say “no.” In the pre-teen years they ask to do things we can’t allow, and so we say “No. Are you out of your mind?!” They offer to trade value, like good grades or a clean room, but there is no exchange. We then teach them to take “no” for an answer. We teach them to give up. We say, “Stop asking! I am never going to allow you to . . .”
We learn that an “ask” can get you a “no,” and that persistence is punished. So we stop doing both.
You Still Need to Ask
Closing isn’t a popular topic anymore. Very few people teach closing, and very little is written about it. This is unfortunate because most salespeople aren’t great at closing, whether that means asking for their dream client’s business at the end of the sales cycle or some other commitment earlier in the sales process. But you still need to know how to close.
You need to know how to say the words, “I very much want your business. Can we go ahead and get started?” I know salespeople who have never said the words “I really want your business,” believing that would somehow alienate their dream client or make them less consultative. But their prospective clients want them to ask. They want to give their business to someone who wants it.
No prospect knows that they have to ask their salesperson if it’s finally okay to buy from them.
You also need to know how to say, “If there is nothing else you need us to change, your signature right here is all I need to get to work.” Too many salespeople leave the paperwork with their client or email it, hoping that their dream client will sign it of their volition. These salespeople are horrified at the thought of asking for a signature.
A lot of salespeople are horrified by the idea that they have to ask a second time if their dream client says “No, we’re not ready to buy,” or “We need some time to think this over.” A child would persist and say, “What do you need to think about,” so that they could figure out how to change the value proposition. But grown ups say, “Okay, when would you like me to call you back,” allowing their dream client to try to sort things out for themselves—making the one person responsible for helping them sort things out, the salesperson, completely irrelevant.
If any part of this makes you uncomfortable, you likely already have a problem closing—and asking for all of the other commitments you need.
What language do you confidently use to ask for the commitments you need?
How do you persist when your dream client says “no” or says they need time to consider your offer?
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Do good work this week, and practice asking in direct, polite language for the commitments you need—you’ve earned them by creating value throughout the process. I’ll see you here next week!