All of the books on salesmanship say you should never end a sales call without asking for the order. That's supposed to be the perfect close, and in many cases it probably is. But you may find yourself in many sales calls just getting in position to ask for the order. There is a lot more to closing than asking for an order on every call. Here are some tips on closing sales calls that often come up in Pro Talk, a series of roundtable discussions published by William Bradford Associates, Inc., located in Cleveland, Ohio.

First concentrate on building a relationship with a prospect so you are invited back for a return visit. When you first meet prospects, your main concern should be getting commitments from them for a second visit. You should try to leave a “welcome mat” so that when you go back, you can move forward and not have to start all over again. Look for ways to be of service, like offering to dig up information or prices. If the customer is an electrical contractor, perhaps you can suggest a return visit where you can demonstrate a few new products that can save him time on the job-site. Say, “It will take me a few days to get my information together. Can I call then to set up an appointment?” When the customer says okay, you have your welcome mat.

Establish the purpose of the sales call. There is a direct relationship between the purpose of a sales call and the close. Once you have determined what you want to accomplish and have gathered the information you need to make your point, the close should come easy. An effective way to do this is to say to the customer, “I came here today to convince you to do (such-and-such). How well did I do?”

You can use a lot of variations of this closing question, but the main idea is to make sure customers recognize that you had a specific purpose for the sales call, and that they understand the significance of what you said.

If the customer doesn't agree with a point you tried to make on a sales call, be sure to find out why. The purpose of the close is to get a commitment from the customer that he or she agrees with the point you wanted to make during the sales call. If customers don't agree with or don't believe what you said, then you must find out why. Sometimes it's just as important to find out what's holding up an agreement as it is to secure the agreement.

Tell EW How You Close Sales Calls and Win $100

This month's Sales Talk challenge for Electrical Wholesaling's readers is to submit the best strategy for closing sales calls. The reader who submits the best sales tip on this topic will receive a $100 American Express gift certificate and recognition in an upcoming issue of Electrical Wholesaling. To be eligible for this month's contest, e-mail your sales tips by April 15 to Jim Lucy, Electrical Wholesaling's chief editor, at jim.lucy@penton.com.

Stumped? Perhaps you want to offer an idea for closing sales calls, but you're having trouble putting your thoughts down on paper. Here are some ideas to spark your thinking. Check out the sales tips from “99 Can't-Miss Sales Tips” in EW's October 2006 issue and “The Quest for the 100th Sales Tip” in the December issue. These articles are available online at www.ewweb.com.

Stumped? You also may want to use these questions to prompt discussions among your salespeople in a roundtable format in a sales meeting. The roundtable format is the basis for Pro Talk, a brainstorming tool to focus a group of salespeople for an hour on one aspect of the job. For more information about Pro Talk, contact Dave Bradford at (440) 543-7602 or by e-mail at BradfordPROTALK@aol.com.

By using open questions such as the examples shown below to tap the know-how gathered at the table, a company can harness a valuable asset to improve performance.

  • What is the purpose of the close to a sales call?
  • What is the relationship between the objective of the call and the close?
  • What type of commitments are you after most of the time?
  • When you have difficulty getting any commitment, what do you do about it?
  • What is your favorite close to a long-time customer?
  • How do you know when to close?