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Take 5: Five Steps to Closing the Deal

by Terri Akman
You may be the world’s greatest talker, but it’s what’s on the dotted line of your contract that counts. And when times are tough, knowing how to close the deal is more important than ever. Paul Szklarski, president of the Cherry Hill-based Sandler Training affiliate Rhine Associates, teaches his sales trainees that it’s all about having a system in place to differentiate you from the competition. Here are Szklarski’s five steps to sealing the deal.

1. The close is in the contract.
“When you arrive for the meeting and you expect to leave with a check, contract or purchase order, create a verbal ‘up-front contract’ to let your expectations be known,” Szklarski urges. “It may sound like, ‘Bob, thanks for inviting me back. Are we still good for 90 minutes? We will review the issues you brought up and at the end, we agree that if you say, ‘No,’ that’s OK, and if it is, ‘Yes,’ we will sign the contract and you will provide me with the purchase order. Is that what you see happening?’”

2. Ask what’s changed.
Even if you saw the prospect yesterday, ask him what has changed since you last met. Don’t be the executive that arrives for a meeting only to find out the CEO of the prospect company was indicted the day before. When your prior discussions have involved a specific problem, the problem may have resolved itself. “Recently,” says Szklarski, “a sales pro asked that question and the prospect said that they have an additional $25,000 to spend!”

3. Do not paint seagulls in the pros­pect’s picture.
Remember to sell today, educate tomorrow. Don’t talk yourself out of the deal by answering unasked questions. “The story of seagulls is about 6-year-old Mary,” Szklarski notes. “She came home from school with a torn picture that she had drawn of a lighthouse and beach. Mary told her parents she had become very angry when the teacher drew a seagull in the picture. Mary insisted, ‘I didn’t see the seagull!’” The lesson: Don’t offer features and benefits until the prospect raises the issue.

4. Don’t ask for the business; make the prospect give the sale to you.
“People love to buy but they hate being sold. Typically, the prospect has a clear reason to talk to you, and you will need to find out the personal and emotional reason they should buy from you,” Szklarski says. He suggests asking the prospect for feedback on your presentation on a scale of one to 10, where 10 means the prospect is ready to sign the contract and one means you should just give up and walk out the door right now. “Let him tell you that he is ready to sign. If he says six or seven, ask how you can get to 10. At five or below, ask what you did wrong. This last one is a powerful move and could get you the sale anyway.”

5. Don’t underestimate the importance of post selling.
“Post selling is a critical time because it can block the competition and secure referrals. For example, bring up the fact that your client’s current vendor has been with them 10 years, and ask how he will explain the switch. Offer coaching so there are no second thoughts when the old vendor cuts their price,” Szlarski suggests. “Also ask what it will take to get you fired. The answer will tell you what not to do, which will ensure continuity of your clientele.”

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 1, Issue 1 (January, 2011).