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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   September 2005

Opening Doors to Closing

Recognizing customer needs and a 7-step process can lead to stronger, more-plentiful deals

In August’s Scotsman Guide, we covered typical closing techniques and their typical responses. Now that we know what not to do, let’s look at techniques that apply to today’s customers and meet their needs more completely.

A changing society needs changing practices and techniques for marketing and closing deals. What we’ve learned from big-box retailers, for example, is that to beat them, you cannot try to outprice them. The same applies to loans. We see advertisements on television, the Internet and billboards for loans that can be completed for little or no cost. The path to success, however, is in outserving the competition from the moment you initiate contact with each customer.

Ride the ‘buy cycle,’ read ‘L.E.A.D.S.’

To better understand the process for changing closing techniques, it helps to consider the concepts of the “buy cycle” and “L.E.A.D.S.”

The buy cycle is a mental process that consumers use to determine when to purchase. First, they decide how much they will spend for a product or service. This amount can change if they learn the benefits of an adjusted price.

Next, they decide how much time to spend shopping for the product or service. How many stores will they visit? How many calls will they make?

When potential customers say that their home purchase is a major financial decision and they want to “shop around,” we mentally agree with the customer — that is precisely what we would do in the same position, as all of us ride the buy cycle. Therefore, it makes sense to hold off on using a closing technique and not talk our customers out of their plans.

Instead, we implement a process called L.E.A.D.S.; we listen, empathize, apologize, do what it takes and stand by our promises. Using L.E.A.D.S. will make you a better person and a better salesperson. Learn the words. Understand their definitions, and incorporate them in every approach you take.

For example, L.E.A.D.S. can come into play when we feel we should force a customer into closing. Let us first make sure that we understand our customers’ needs before offloading the product or service we wish to present.

Strong closings come when we allow customers to make their own choices. Only weak techniques focus on changing customers’ mind sets. Anyone who has been coerced into something will experience remorse and could back out of the deal. You never close a deal through duress. Customers close themselves.

Seven ways to close

Most customers have developed ingrained responses to many of our patented sales techniques. We must take control of our presentation without taking away from the customer’s choice. Here are seven steps to take into account when closing.

1. Pattern interrupt

Involve customers and teach them quickly that you are a professional. Interrupt their automatic-response system controlling the environment with L.E.A.D.S.

For example, when a customer asks about your interest rate, you could say, “Sure, but let me serve you better by finding out more of your needs than just an interest rate.”

Develop a customer-communication system (CCS) and use it for a pattern interrupt. When the customer asks for a rate, explain that you use a CCS and will communicate regularly about the status of the loan. Establish what day and time are best for the customer, and then go right into the next step. But remember to stand by your promise and call each customer back when you said you would.

Create your own pattern interrupts. Draw upon your own experiences.

2. Ground rules

Involve the customer in establishing tasks and assignments. Do not revert into salesperson mode. Be a professional and a friend. Listen and empathize with customers while you create times to stay in contact. Some salespeople rely on other staffers to communicate with the customer. This can reduce the level of professionalism you wish to maintain and lower the potential for referrals.

3. Compelling personal reasons

Through L.E.A.D.S., you discover customers’ reasons for wanting your product or service. Their reason motivates them and can be emotional. Refrain from qualifying or quoting here.

If you speak to them on the phone, listen carefully to their environment. A background noise of children, traffic or the office can help you relate to their environment. If it sounds chaotic or busy, suggest that you call them back at a quieter time. Make the experience as pleasing to the customer as possible — it’s not a call-capturing technique. Get caller ID if you only wish to capture phone numbers.

By now, you know your customers’ needs and why they turn to you. Your image and reputation will spread — not for being a great salesperson but for being a true professional who listens to customers.

4. Budget tolerance

Do not try to close while receiving qualifying data. Ask what customers are willing to pay for your product or service. Understand what they feel they can afford.

Obtain an honest figure from customers by asking if their figures are real. Customers also might revert to engrained, defensive counter-maneuvers. Be real with them by using real questions and responses.

5. Decisionmaking

Find out who has the authority to accept the product or service and make the final decision. If the decision-maker is not present, stop the discussion and reschedule the meeting. If you proceed, the customer will use the “I have to talk it over with my spouse, partner, boss, etc.” excuse, and there is no close to be made.

You may be tempted to modify this process and advance this step to an earlier stage. It is step No. 5 because until this point, you have not gained trust or the right to request it. Take note on how personal the process has evolved to this step. The customer is not ready to be loyal until this stage of the process, and before it, you will be rushing a choice to commit.

6. Fulfillment

Satisfy the customers’ compelling personal reasons and reaffirm your commitment to them. Try saying: “If I can get you this loan, at this payment, for this home, does this satisfy you?” The response is key. Every salesperson is motivated by and dreams of this part of the transaction. Here, the customer commits to an offer. The customers’ choice is based on their experiences  with you.

7. Post-sale

Accomplish a no-sell sale and have customers close themselves by playing devil’s advocate. Explain why the deal might not be right for them. Create a situation where customers tell you that they want to purchase your product or service. They convince themselves that they are closing the deal and will sign the dotted line eagerly. 

•  •  •

To summarize, the steps toward a successful closing are to create a pattern interrupt, set rules, find compelling personal reasons, uncover the customer’s budget tolerance, locate the decisionmaking authority, fulfill customers’ true needs and accomplish the post-sale.

When it comes down to closing any deal, the choice is — and will continue to be — the customer’s. Any technique that does not recognize this approach is poor, and the results reflect it. 


 


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