You Can’t Close the Sale if You Don’t Open Well
“Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I’ll show you someone who has overcome adversity.” -Lou Holtz

The economy is still bumping along. This is a fact. Unemployment stubbornly sits at 10%. Businesses are holding back on their decisions. People are delaying their purchases. I flew back and forth to Florida this week and one third of the seats on both planes were empty. It all feels so - uncertain. The business optimism meter looks to me a little like it did between Q 2 and Q 3 of 2009.

With all that as a given, you still have to close the sale. You have no choice. Whether you’re selling products or services, or selling ideas to your boss, you need to make forward progress.

The ability to close the sale is critical to your success. You have to get those objections on the table, meet them and get people to agree. However, you can’t close the sale if you don’t open well. Whatever you do at the end is meaningless if you don’t get off on the right foot.

An inquiry about your idea, product or service is only the beginning. When someone asks a question, it doesn’t mean they are ready to buy, or ever will. No matter how great your products, services or ideas, an inquiry is only an expression of curiosity. You haven’t established need or desire.

Here are five steps to open the sale well, and significantly increase your ”closing rate.”

1. Ascertain Whether there Really is Pain, Really. A “nice to have” product, service or idea is simply not going to sell in the current environment. There are a lot of people out there with time on their hands who get a regular paycheck and find it interesting to talk with you about ideas or products or services that they might be able to use. If there is no real pain around this issue then you may get down to the goal line and find out they weren’t serious.

2. Establish Whether There Really is Urgency, Really: Once again, there may be pain, but in this environment, if it can wait, then it will. The man who has a broken arm - has to go to the doctor now or his arm will not heal properly and it will create a lifetime of complications for the poor guy. But the man who has a sprained ankle - well, in this economy he has time to put up his feet and rest it.

3. Differentiate your Solution from the Rest: From the outset of your conversation your boss, client or prospect needs to see something that really wows them. What you are offering must be cool and uniquely suited to the challenge. You can’t close if they don’t see that it’s a perfect fit. Imagine a woman on a budget going in to buy a new dress. If she thinks she has plenty of money and a good job, she might purchase a dress for an event knowing it may not live in her closet for years. However, if money is tight, she’ll try on 20 dresses, check the price tag twice, ask when there is a sale, and then walk out of the store if she thinks she has something in her closet she can wear again.

4. Connect the Return on Investment to their Highest Priorities: If you can’t clearly, succinctly wow them with the ROI related to precisely what they need, you’ll never make it to the closing conversation. Ask great questions so you’re absolutely clear about the return your client, prospect or boss is expecting. Never accept a vague reference to goals or outcomes. Keep probing until you have it in plain English and return to that statement as you discuss the options you’re offering.

5. Make a Strong Personal Connection: People still want to work with or do business with people that they like and trust. In this economic environment, people want assurance. Demonstrate from the start that you’re a person of integrity who they can trust to deliver on the promise and look out for their best interests. One of the best ways to do this is to ask more questions and listen very carefully between the lines. People will tell you just about anything if you give them the opportunity, and when they do, that personal connection grows stronger.