This best practice, discussed earlier in the book, deserves special mention here. The term closing comes from the world of sales. It is the final step in a real estate transaction, but, more generally, it is the point at which the customer agrees to make a purchase. Closing can mean making a sale, or it may mean setting a time for a follow-on discussion.
The Alec Baldwin character in Glengarry Glen Ross has one valid point, which is that success in sales requires a constant mindfulness of the ultimate goal, which is to close the deal. Even when you are paying compliments, being charming, or simply listening to the customer, remain mindful that your goal is a successful close.
As you ask questions and present choices you begin to perform what are called trial closes in which you assess the customer’s readiness to buy by asking for an opinion about your product. If the customer has decided already he or she will tell you, but you do not ask for a decision. Rather, again, these are open ended questions designed to identify and overcome objections while learning more about customer needs and preferences. Examples include:
What are your thoughts on this product (or idea)?
Which of these features seems most useful for you right now, or perhaps in the future?
When do you think you would want this product or service?
What do you think is your next step?
As you ask these questions, use emotional intelligence to pay attention to the customer’s body language and facial expressions, not just their words. Use your There are certain techniques, tricks of the trade so to speak, that can help you do this. Here are some examples.
First, there is the “input mode only” technique. After asking a question, try to not talk at all. This may be difficult for you, and you want to be sure that it doesn’t create awkward moments in the encounter, but just try waiting until the other person signals that they want you to say something. By saying less and hearing more, you can target the remarks you do make on the concerns and interests of the customer. This is sometimes called “shut up to sell.”
Another technique is “thought ballooning.” As you begin your trial closes, the customer may say one thing, but emotional intelligence (or gut instinct, if you prefer that term) tells you they are thinking something else. You can use your emotional intelligence to anticipate sales resistance better if you draw an imaginary “thought balloon” over their head—like the ones in comic books—and fill in what you believe they’re really thinking.
A similar technique is “the stop light test.” To bring focus to your observation of the other person, imagine a traffic light on their forehead. When the light is green, keep focused on that line of thought. When it’s flashing amber, slow down and be cautious. When it’s red, it means you should stop—try something else or maybe just close the encounter and move on.
And finally, when presenting to a group, there is a temptation to focus on the formal leader versus the other people who need to be persuaded. The formal leader is important, but it is also necessary to get a quick read on the relationships among the people present and a rough idea of what each person is like. Here, the “tenth grade test” can be useful.
Like thought ballooning, the tenth-grade test involves guesswork. In this case you are guessing what each person was like in the tenth grade, a point at which their true personalities and intentions were more likely to be on display. The tenth-grade test can help you more quickly identify types, by whatever labels you like to use. Here’s one example of the tenth-grade test:
Teacher (formal leader)
Teacher’s pet (key influencer/proxy decision maker)
Brown-nose (yes man, yes woman)
Bully (I-want-my-way conversation dominator)
Brat (active naysayer)
Bored (Passive naysayer)
Brainiac (asks best questions, influential)
Class clown (jokes can reveal group dynamic issues)
Although there can be a slap-stick element to it, the tenth-grade test, like thought ballooning, can be a useful exercise in emotional intelligence. You are challenging yourself to predict the group dynamics, issues and roles of the customer’s team by quickly assessing their enduring personalities based on a brief encounter.
Eventually, you know if you closed the deal or not because you ask for a decision from the buyer. Along the way, persuasion in every face-to-face setting—sales, management, leadership, customer service—requires reading cues in a person’s body language and facial expressions. It’s about knowing when you should move on to another point or give up entirely. Begin trying these techniques, keeping track of the results in your Journal.