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Want to close more deals? Forget the old school way of selling and re-connect with the rookie in you By John Costigan


Can you remember the last time you walked into a car dealership looking to buy a vehicle? I bet your experience went something like this: First, you were introduced to the countless feature benefits that made that particular automobile the number one choice in its category.

Then you were probably invited to go for a test-drive so that you could experience, first hand, all of the wonderful things that splendid piece of machinery could do for you. Upon returning to the lot, you were likely greeted with a beaming smile followed by that quintessential question: “Mr.Customer, what’s it going to take to earn your business.” Ring a bell? Now ask yourself: at that moment, were you anywhere near a real commitment to buy that car?

I chose to preface this article with a car-buying anecdote for a very simple reason. We’ve all been there. We’ve all been subjected to the old-school way of selling that starts with the feature benefits pitch, followed by a product demo and ends with the salesperson asking you for your business. And if you can see what’s wrong with this picture, you are halfway there to closing more deals. So let me get right to it:

There are two critical problems with the old school approach to selling. Firstly, by starting off with a benefits pitch and following with a demo you are not, in any way, securing a commitment to buy from your customer. Secondly, by asking them what you need to do to earn their business, you are losing all your leverage. As a matter of fact, if you do close the deal after asking that question I can guarantee you it will not be as good a deal as you could have gotten had you taken a different approach.

Begin with information gathering to get the customer to open up to you. This should go on for about 15 to 30 minutes, or until you’ve learned enough to really leverage the prospect’s pains to your advantage. For most salespeople, listening is the absolute hardest thing to do. Instead, we want to talk about ourselves and the wonderful products we sell. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that you break this habit.

Try to remember what it was like when you first started out. Most likely, you didn’t know the product that well and you hadn’t quite found that sales “mojo” that has made you the chatterbox you are today. So what did you do? You let the customer do most of the talking. If you want to start closing more deals, you best start reconnecting with the rookie in you.

Now that you’ve learned all you can about the customer, the issues he’s been having and the consequences he’ll face unless he fixes his problems, resist the temptation to pitch benefits or do a product demo. Close immediately. For those of you skeptics out there thinking it can’t be done, you better believe it! Here’s how: you ask your customer to clearly define the next steps. “Mr. Customer, if we could fix all of these problems for you, what would happen next?”

Find out exactly what the decision process entails and who are the key players. Have you noticed how you are still in control? And what’s even better: You have essentially gotten the prospect to commit to moving the deal forward without ever having to beg for it. Now all you need to do is check back with your company and make sure that you can, in fact, fix all of the customer’s problems.

Smart sales pros never put their prospects into a box. They never limit the customer’s options. Smart sales pros know that only makes people feel defensive. When was the last time you sold a defensive customer? Gather information first and then close. Don’t show them your product and don’t jump through any hoops unless you’ve secured a commitment to move forward.

Good luck and good selling!
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John Costigan is president and founder of John Costigan Companies. John is known for his training technique where he makes live impromptu phone calls to his students’ prospects in front of a live audience. For more information, visit www.JohnCostigan.com

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