Secrets of Closing Sales: 6th Editionby Charles B. Roth, Roy Alexander
Ever notice that the upper 20 percent of salespeople tend to close more than 80 percent of the sales? Since 1940, Secrets of Closing Sales has helped thousands of salespeople rise to the top. Now in its seventh revised edition, this classic bestseller has been updated to meet the challenges of today's competitive and changing sales environment. With detailed coverage of new selling methods, innovative strategies, and a treasury of real-life examples, this book will teach you, step by step, how to:
• Read a prospect's unspoken signals
• Combat objections such as "I'll think it over" or "Your price is too high"
• Ask for more than you really need-and get it
• Uncover your buyer's hidden weakness-and overcome it
Highlighted by actual case histories that demonstrate these successful selling strategies and techniques, Secrets of Closing Sales is the one tool that sales professionals-whether veterans or newcomers-need to double or even triple their current income.
Read an Excerpt
Foreword: how secrets build revenues andprofits
Why has Secrets of Closing Sales become required equipment for successful selling? Because it focuses on the close. Without the close there is no advancement and no reward. How soul-destroying to invest hours in prospecting, appointment setting, and customer research only to watch it all evaporate. Thus, constant adding of sophisticated ways to close sales is standard with top salesmen and saleswomen the world over.
This seventh edition of Secrets is organized so you can immediately access closing techniques when you need them. Closing Labs make you say: “I’ve got just that problem. I’ll put that secret in practice today!”
In this seventh edition you’ll approach selling as consultative and conversational, empathetic group persuasion, CEO to CEO, unorthodox closing, reverse closing, win-win sign-ups, sweet spot detection, and other ways to penetrate the buyer’s mind and then capitalize on that deeper knowledge of the buyer.
• How the decision to buy is first made in the mind of the salesperson.
• When to let others do the closing for you.
• How to craft the correct story for the right prospect.
• When to assume the no-minded customer doesn’t understand and how to rephrase on another track.
• When to use the shock treatment (don’t just stand there).
• How to close when you’ve forgotten your story and need to improvise (think Robin Williams).
• How to make people-savvy closes.
• How to handle “I’ll think it over” and “Gotta check with my man” and “I’ll mull it over.”
• How to use the Echo to block objections.
• How to flow with attitude shifts that lead to sign-ups.
Are you handling a difficult buyer? The Clam, the Chatterbox, the Money-Mad, the Contrarian, the On-the-Fencer, the Doubting Thomas? Make calls with close masters to learn:
• A famous saleswoman’s enduring secret.
• The Poker principle that profits. (H. L. Mencken said, “One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms. It is not only more effective, it is also vastly more intelligent.”)
• Sometimes audacity works; you can ask for a large order and get it. (In one case a closer failed to do this and almost lost a $4 million transaction!)
Armed with this new edition, you’ll be prepared with consistently tested strategies. In this era, photographing Mars is routine, bioengineering produces spare body parts, and information can be obtained several times faster than the speed of light. Salespeople must think anew and plan in a whole new world.
Preface: push ’em uphill—today and tomorrow
Closing sales is without a doubt the great skill of all time. The process enables you to persuade and influence, and then walk away with the listener’s agreement. That’s why closing sales has been the measuring stick for personal and business success through the ages.
People do not buy products or services, however. They buy benefits from your products and services. This structure has pushed Secrets of Closing Sales into seven editions. Experts in this book are at your service.
Recall the sage who said, “It’s easier to go down a hill, but the rewards come from getting to the top.” In West Cornwall, Connecticut, I live on a historic hill called Push-’Em-Up. The name traces back to the War of 1812. Getting American cannons and ammo up Push-’Em-Up Hill was a job for American infantry. The hills gave Americans the advantage, but they had to push ’em up first. View life as hills to conquer.
No one thought about it at the time, but this hill was also the founder of America’s selling pioneer: the Yankee peddler. The transition from “push ’em up” to pushcart peddlers was a natural. Hardworking eighteenth- and nineteenth-century salesfolk sold everything from pots and pans to Lydia Pinkham’s Compound. Peddlers and their offspring forged a new selling class. These pioneering salesfolk helped civilize the nation by bringing the latest products to small villages and by supporting the growing economy. From pushcart peddlers to present day we’ve come a long way in selling. The pioneers established techniques no less valid in our new millennium, driven by cyberspace and the global marketplace. The age-old techniques remain: finding buyers to sit down with, interviewing them to learn their anxieties and wishes, presenting solutions, overcoming objections, and making sure the service and support are constant.
Today’s new century presents both threats and opportunities. The rate of change is accelerating at dizzying speed. Whether you’re introducing a new product or selling a million- dollar work of art or a home piano, this seventh edition of Secrets of Closing Sales is your step-by-step guide. Hundreds of case histories are included. Closing Labs give you actual conversational vignettes.
The book features quantum changes in society—the global economy, the ever-escalating influence of women, the breathtaking developments in communications from Internet to intranet, website to wireless. Today’s sales closing is more important than ever, but the salesperson must be psychologically prepared, more nimble and flexible.
The pushcart peddler is history. We owe him much. Whether offering the services of a small company or selling global consumer products, Secrets will help close that sale.
—James A. Newman, Vice Chairman, Emeritus Booz Allen, Hamilton
If You Can’t Close, You Can’t Sell
Ever wonder how the upper 20 percent of salespeople close 80 percent of the sales? After all, they’re selling the same product or service as the lower 80 percent. They close sales by using one or more of the classic keys proved effective in millions of selling situations.
Knowing when and how to use these keys, that’s the art that separates the upper 20 percent from the thundering herd. These classic closers are available to all salespeople. Fortunately, applying these classic keys is a science you can learn. To join this elite closing group, start by getting the right mental set.
As her first postcollege job, Chiffon Lanier took an entry-level post in accounting with a software manufacturer. One of the first midmonth salesperson payroll checks she processed was for $7,200.
Curious, she asked her supervisor: “The man getting this check—what does he do for the company?”
“He’s our top salesperson.”
“Does he get this big a check twice a month?”
“Well, not every time. But you’d be surprised at the checks he does get. It’d knock your socks off.”
“It already has,” replied Chiffon. “What are the chances of my transferring to the sales department?”
The supervisor was sympathetic though not overencouraging. But if Chiffon wanted to cut off her secure paycheck and work largely on commission, it could probably be arranged. After two weeks of backing and filling, she arranged a transfer to the sales training program.
The first thing Chiffon did was buttonhole the big earner to ask exactly how he did it.
“It is very easy,” the successful salesman said. “All you have to do is circulate, see the people, tell your story, be pleasant—and always be in there trying to close the sale.”
Today, Chiffon Lanier is one of the nation’s most successful software sellers. In fact, her leading competitor’s representative quit and went into another field. She literally drove him out of business. Chiffon Lanier is not a miracle. She mastered the most important phase of salesmanship: closing. Learn how to close and the world is yours.
Base Your Entire Approach on Closing
You may wonder how a young person, selling an intricate and sophisticated product, could achieve such a record. It happens in other fields, too.
Suppose a salesperson, tired of his retail job, tried a few different slots for size and finally decided on a really tough field: selling home study courses.
Suppose in just a few years he did so well that he became the top earner in his division, then in the nation. Suppose he closed five sales out of every six. That person has something that every other salesperson needs, don’t you think?
There is such a closer: Robert Paceman. For years he has been either first or second in his selling category. He’s one of the greatest closers of all time. Closing—his not-so-secret weapon—is what he lives for. He sees no sense in making a call without getting the order.
“That’s why I’m there,” he says.
So Paceman bases his entire approach on closing, closing, closing. The only time he fails— one time in six, remember—is when the prospect turns out not to be a prospect in the first place.
“Give me a person who qualifies as a real prospect, and I’ll sign him or her,” says this ingratiating closer.
He will, too, for if you can’t close, you can’t sell! Closing is just that last step in your presentation, but it must be paved with effective groundwork. You must earn the right to ask for the order! But then you must ask!
Let’s say you’re swimming across Lake Michigan. Even though you make a heroic effort, you fail ten feet from the dock. Well, you’ve failed indeed (glug, glug, glug). It’s that way with closing. The close is everything.
Closing is the pinnacle of selling achievement. Here is where your time, money, and effort pay off or go down the drain. Effective closing makes the critical difference. Learn from the top producers who do. close. Most truths are simple. Most sales are closed with a simple key. It’s a science you can learn.
In using these classic closers, the real secret is learning how they’re applied. It’s like word choice. After all, the same words are available to the best-selling novelist and the postcard- scribbling vacationer. The way they employ these words makes a world of difference!
Oscar Wilde said it this way: “A cynic is a person who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
Tailoring Your Product to Your Prospect
Many salespeople are very poor closers. Robert Pachter’s firm has five thousand salespeople. Of these, how many are in the money?
“This is going to shock you,” he said, “but the answer is only two hundred out of five thousand. The rest I don’t call salespeople at all. I call them arms and legs. They aren’t closers.”
Is closing sales so difficult that only two hundred out of five thousand can master it? No. To close isn’t difficult. To close is the simplest, most obvious step of the sale. All it requires is, first, the right attitude and, second, the right closing key. Make both these selling principles yours via this book.
But always tailor the tool to the prospect! H. D. Gardner, top salesman and sales counselor, presented a sales promotion service to Carlos Gonzalez, head of a firm that employed one hundred driver-salespeople.
Gonzalez said he’d buy if Gardner could convince his two sales managers. Gardner went to the sales managers. They refused to buy because the boss had secretly told them to say no. Catch 22!
Gardner, a courageous salesperson, went back to Gonzalez and said, “Am I correct in assuming that even if your sales managers recommend my program, you won’t buy it?”
On the spot, Gonzalez said, “I didn’t realize how expensive it was. Our budget won’t allow it.”
Gardner knew the frontal assault wouldn’t do; it was time for a flanking movement. He asked Gonzalez how he had started the business (always a good question).
Gonzalez came to the United States from Mexico as a young man. He worked hard but never forgot his compatriots across the border. In fact, he’d given many jobs to others from his homeland.
“That’s a fascinating story,” Gardner said. “But I wonder if you haven’t overlooked one thing. You’ve been good to your countrymen. You’ve hired many of them. But have you given those who work here all the materials they need for success? Have you given them enough help to put them on a level playing ground with competitors? That’s what they lack!”
Gonzalez said, “I didn’t see it right. I am going to buy your program.” Gardner dipped into his customer’s experience to close. He had put a foundation under his master closing.
Be Willing to Take a Chance
What Lord Chesterfield defined as “a decent boldness” is a priceless ingredient in closing. Arnold Gibb, a seller of religious books, wanted permission to install a book display on church property. Dr. John Marble, the pastor, wouldn’t say yes. Gibb decided to force the truth.
“Dr. Marble,” he said, “pastors refuse to allow a display for one of two reasons. Either they hate to see money for these books leave their congregation, or they’re worried about improper behavior on the part of our salespeople.
“Now you can see I’m a perfect gentleman [pause, with a smile]. So you have no worries on that score. Further, there won’t be more than a couple of hundred dollars leaving your congregation. Surely this isn’t enough to cause any major concern.”
He paused and waited. Dr. Marble blinked once and said, “Well, I’m not worried about you. I’m not worried about the money. You can have your display.”
Dr. Marble reversed his decision rather than allow Gibb to think his motives were so negative. Courage won the day.
Bob Paceman proved the value of courage a different way in closing on an expensive set of books. The prospect began writing down what Paceman was saying.
“What are you writing?”
“The benefits you’re listing.”
“Put down your pencil and paper,” Paceman advised. “These points are all covered in the order blank. Why not okay it now?”
And the prospect did just that.
Courage implies a willingness to risk failure as a condition. Theodore Roosevelt said it this way: “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”
Pro Seller Versus Pro Buyer
Closing requires professional application. You’re dealing with sophisticates who know all the tricks and the answers. You must be a better closer than they are evaders.
Charles Mandel, publisher and selling force at Science Digest, has been an ace advertising space salesman for years. He still recalls his rocky beginning and the lesson he learned about matching professional selling to professional buying.
“My first job was selling advertising when I was eighteen,” Mandel relates. “One day I went back to the office and gave my sales manager a long list of excuses about why people weren’t buying. The sales manager said, ‘They’re professional buyers. You’re a professional seller. So how come they’re not buying and you’re not selling?’
“That one remark changed my life. Since that day sales calls to me have been an upper. I enjoy them. I enjoy going out and saying, ‘Hi, I don’t believe you know me. My name is Charlie Mandel. Let me tell you what we’re doing today.’ That’s fun.
“Even if I go out one day and the first six don’t buy, I go on the seventh call exactly the same way. I know the averages are working for me. I’ve been doing it for so long, I know it works.
“There are people who say they wouldn’t buy from me, no matter what. They think my product doesn’t fit, or they think I have bad breath. Although I miss more times than I hit, I hit many more times than most closers. In this business you must be willing to miss in order to hit.”
The Key: Try to Close Each Sale
The top secret of closing is to be willing to try to close all sales. (You’ll keep coming back to that principle in this book.) Into my office not long ago walked a man selling a product I often buy. His firm was new to me. I listened to him courteously and attentively. I watched him carefully, as I do every salesperson. The man had mastered all phases of his business. He told his story simply, convincingly, succinctly. I liked him.
Then he let me down when he reached the closing stage. He did nothing.
“Is there anything else you want to tell me about your products?”
“Why, no, I think not.”
“Then it’s up to me to buy or not to buy,” said I.
“I guess you’re right.”
He put his fate in my hands. I was judge, jury, arbiter, master of his fate. If I decided to buy, fine. If I didn’t, he’d tell his buddies, “You can’t trust prospects anymore. They are unreliable. Selling is getting tougher every day.”
Is this salesperson an exception? Au contraire. He is the rule. Most salespeople go about their business hoping for orders and getting some. But they never reach the full potential of what they could do. They don’t ask for the order.
The plain truth is that a salesperson who cannot close (sales seldom close themselves), who cannot make up customers’ minds for them, who cannot overcome their procrastination, and who cannot bring in orders isn’t a salesperson at all but, rather, a business visitor or a conversationalist.
You become an ace closer by acquiring practical techniques that cause people to respond instantly and favorably. Practice these methods until they are a part of your persona. Only then do you close easily, naturally, inevitably.
The closing rules in this book come from thousands of interviews and tests by thousands of professionals—a pooling of millions of expert hours. In this book, closers are organized by situation and need, in a form you can make yours and start using right away.
Managing Yourself and Your Work
Before you can close others, you must manage yourself, which to many is the thorniest task of all. Scottish poet Robert Burns prayed: “O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us / To see oursels as others see us.”
In modern group therapy, the knowledgeable counselor says, “George is much improved over a year ago. Now he has a good idea who he is.”
These insights are helpful, but the best way to manage yourself is also the simplest: positive thinking. This theory has been with us so long because it’s basically true. Recent medical studies indicate that some cancer patients can actually think themselves well! James A. Newman’s football coach used to say:
If you think you’re beaten, you are.
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you’d like to win, but you think you can’t, it’s almost a cinch that you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost.
If it seems too tough you’ll find
Success begins with a fellow’s will.
It’s all in the state of mind.
Newman, who became vice chairman of Booz Allen, Hamilton, says, “I believed this then, and I see no reason to disbelieve it now.”
Charisma Helps, but Performance Is Vital
“It’s all well and good for Edna to preach positive thinking,” a disgruntled closer said. “If I had her charisma, I’d be a positive thinker, too.”
That brings up the story of the fellow worried about his inferiority. He went to an analyst. After six weeks of therapy, the doctor said, “We’ve found the trouble. You really are inferior.”
But getting back to charisma: how needed an ingredient is it? At one time this quality was called personality or personal magnetism, and even charm. Sure, if you have it (by whatever name), it helps.
If you lucked out with more than your share of charm, add boldness and even chutzpah—when the time is right.
Stuart Browne, who sells insurance, walked into the executive office: “It was plush. The manager had a long oak-paneled room with pile carpet four inches deep. Original paintings on the walls. I had to walk the length of the room to get to his desk. Our high priest was on a throne on a dais under a ceiling spotlight.”
Stuart was not intimidated. He walked that long walk. Halfway he stopped and aimed a wad of waste paper at a standup waste can six feet away. He missed and it landed on the floor. He stopped, looked around, and said, “Geez, what a dump!”
His actions were saying: These trappings don’t impress me.
It worked. The executive thought, “Anyone this outlandish must be good.” But remember: Stuart was good. If you’re going to be outrageous, you’d better be good enough to back it up.
If everywhere you go people want to do something for you and if you get letters from fifty people signed “Your best friend,” consider yourself blessed. But don’t make the mistake of many charismatics and rely solely on charm (going light on work). If you do, you’ll be typecast as a matinee idol, not a heavy hitter.
And if you don’t have charisma, don’t try to create it artificially. Concentrate on performance. It’s more important in the long run.
The Value of Persistence
Few training programs talk about the value of keeping everlastingly at it. They should.
A reporter once asked Thomas Edison how it felt to have failed ten thousand times. Edison said, “Young man, since you are just starting out in life, I will tell you something of benefit. I have not failed ten thousand times. I have successfully found ten thousand ways that will not work.” Edison estimated he had performed more than fourteen thousand experiments in perfecting the incandescent lamp.
Ray A. Kroc, of McDonald’s corporation, agreed—and posted this maxim on his wall:
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
Every customer has an element of weakness in his or her makeup. Each can be closed if you have the courage to try once more and sufficient reason to keep on going when the customer tells you he or she is not going to buy.
The buyer’s no doesn’t mean the buyer cannot be sold. It may mean the buyer needs pressure that appeals to weakness—the gentle pushing that’s almost irresistible if properly applied at the proper time. Each good salesperson keeps trying to close the sale long after the customer has announced: “I’m not going to buy.”
Great closers always try to close one more time.
The No-Work Rationale
Many salespeople won’t pay the price of keeping everlastingly at it. Typical is George Edwards. He closed an important deal, so he took the day off.
“How come you’re not hitting the ball, Big G?” his manager asked. “This isn’t a holiday, you know.”
“I had the biggest day of my life yesterday,” George explained. “Closed the Patterson Company for $50,000. I am taking a day to celebrate.”
Guess who has just talked himself out of the championship class.
You can always find a reason not to work. Most people are adept at it. Wisconsin winters are not exactly Miami Beach. In a week when the temperature didn’t rise up to zero, a Wisconsin salesman took a field day. He gloried in an excuse not to work. So he goofed around the house for thirteen days and didn’t make a call: “Nobody works when it’s this cold.”
Yet we checked retail sales and bank clearings in his city during that period. No change. Only this salesman showed a drop-off. As the proud mother said when watching her son’s military school drill, “Everyone’s out of step except Jim!”
Another reason salespeople find for not closing more: they fancy themselves in a slump. Salespeople almost always cause it themselves. Gene Lewis called it “Getting nuts in his head!” Don’t lose the sale in your mind. Remember Hamlet’s advice: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Strong Desire to Close: Essential
From this book you’ll acquire substantial knowledge about how great salespeople close sales. Their experience will become part of you. You will also acquire the first essential to good closing sales—confidence—available to you in good times and bad.
There’s one other essential you need: the desire to close—a desire so strong that everything in your life is insignificant in comparison. That desire must be built from the inside. This spirit makes our ace closer say, “There is nothing I’d rather do than sell. The prospect of closing is mother’s milk to me.”
Even after he had all the money he wanted and all the fame he needed, there was something about closing that still made it the world’s most fascinating challenge.
Beware of Aiming Too Low
One sales manager gets his people to accomplish more by distributing miniatures of Phillip Sears’s striking statue of an Indian brave shooting arrows at the stars.
Each man or woman who comes to work for my friend gets a miniature of this statue. “I tell my people,” said he, “this statue is the very essence of success—an aspiration so high, a goal so far away, it’s like shooting an arrow at the stars. Believe me, high aim is what breaks sales records.”
Walter H. Johnson, Jr., when he was chairman of Quadrant Marketing Counselors, put this skill-acquisition process in this perspective:
• The American standard of living is, to a high degree, due to the unique concepts of selling—the product of our business system and our buyer’s economy.
• Salespersons are unique in the American business community—the last great unsupervised element of the workforce. The salesperson’s success depends on attitude, preparation, skill, and professionalism.
• All professional salesmanship is built upon a common set of guidelines. Whether the product is highly technical, a major labor saver, or an exciting consumer product, successful presentations follow a logical pattern of persuasion.
• There are no born doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants, or salespeople. The successful salesperson has studied the craft, understands customers and their needs, and builds a presentation of product/service changes constantly. The salesperson must adjust psychologically and professionally to these changes.
• The salesperson lives and works on the edge of change, but through all this changing world, certain elements of professional principles are common and unchanged.
• Most important of all, the salesperson must be familiar with the classic principles of closing sales.
Meet the Author
Roy Alexander heads his own consulting firm in New York City and is particularly noted for his sales and communications consultations in energy-related fields.
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