THE CLOSING QUESTION

Closing is such an important tool that it needs reiteration and emphasis. As we have stated earlier, with a closed sale, the tinkling of the cash register is not far behind. But how do you close a sale?
In my 25 years in the selling profession, I have found out five major reasons why we fail to close a sale. First, it is matter of economics. We fail to qualify our prospect in the proper financial bracket. Second, our value perception is not keen. We fail to justify the value of our proposition. Third, we lack a sense of urgency. We fail to create an immediate need or want now. Fourth, we cannot handle objections, conditions and excuses well. We fail to rationalize the decision to say yes. Fifth, we do not know how to ask a closing question.
In the Bible, it says: Ask, and it shall be given. Keep on asking, and you keep on getting. It is a very simple process, and yet a majority of salespersons, whether veterans or beginners, sometimes fail to ask a closing question at the opportune time. As I always say in my seminars: “Closing is too basic to ignore, but it is a challenge even to the most experienced sales professional.”
I remember one of my trainees who had religiously been following the basic pointers of selling. He knows about prospecting, making contacts, qualifying clients, presenting his product, handling objections and closing. Yet, it was almost a month and he had never closed a single sale.
I had one-on-one session with him and I asked him, “How do you close a sale?” His immediate response was “Well, if they show interest.” I repeated the question: “How do you close a sale?” Since he was new then, I thought he just did not know how to answer the question properly. So, what I did was observe him as he made his presentation with one of his qualified prospects. His presentation with one of his qualified prospects. Hi presentation was good. But soon enough I discovered what was missing. He failed to ask for an order.
Try to remember how you ended a presentation when you were new. I am sure it is no different from this. After the presentation, the average salesperson will close this way: “Ma’am/sir, that’s it! What do you think of our product or service?” He probably thinks the customer will automatically say: ‘I will buy it!” But I bet that, 80-95% of the time, he will not get the sale.
Having observed a lot of failed transactions, I firmly believe that closing is not simply asking. It is asking a closing question. It is the most basic step in closing a sale.
Dr. Felipe Landa Jocano, our foremost Filipino anthropologist, calls it pagsangguni, or consultation. We call it the BASIC ORDER FORM CLOSE, in case you are using order forms, reservation/application forms or any written closing materials. For example, we say, “Sir/madam, would you like this under your name or your company’s name?” Or, “where would you like us to send your receipt and other relevant materials-your office or your residence?”
We in sales call this closing question the ALTERNATE OF CHOICE. Never ask a question that is answerable by yes or no. It must be a question wherein the answers are both affirmative. Remember, however, that it is not the same in all situations. As we commonly hear, we need different strokes for different folks. The basic premise is that if you persistently ask for the order, it shall be given, unless your client still has hidden objections, conditions and excuses. In our training, we address this by using our LASER approach, which is covered in another chapter. As long as you LISTEN to your client’s objection, condition or excuse, ACKKNOWLEDGE in with SINCERITY, EXPLORE the real reason or emotion behind it and RESPOND properly, you can handle any form of objection, condition or excuse that comes along.
As a reminder, never use the traditional approach in handling objections. “Yes, but…” also invites violent reactions. You say, “Yes, but…” e kung batukan ka kaya ng kliyente mo (what if your client hits you)? Remember to differentiate “Would you like to win an argument?” from “Do you want to win an argument?”
We cannot share with you in this book all the different techniques and strategies in closing a sale. But, in my second book, I will share with you 365 ways to close a sale in different situations and in different industries as shared by top-notch graduates and professional salespersons. Once it is published, it will be your reference. Every page will contain a success story on closing a sale against all odds. Watch out for it!
Let me relate to you instead the story of my indirect mentor, Mr. Tom Hopkins. Back in 1984, I brought him here in the Philippines to conduct his first public seminar in Asia entitled “How to Master the Art of Selling Anything.”
In his seminar, he narrated his humble beginnings. At the age of 17, he had what seemed to be at that time his first motivational talk with his parents. It resulted in his parents sending him to college to study law. But, after one semester, he quit. He told his parents. “College is not for me.” His parents told him, “You know, Tom, we have saved enough to send you to college to take up law and yet you quit. That’s your choice. Be assured that we will always love you. But, too bad, you will never amount to anything.”
That became his first and real motivational talk in his life. He left home and found a job with his uncle as a construction worker. After 18 months, he quit his job. When asked why, he said, “It’s real hard work! I carried steel bars for 18 months. I used to be 6 ½ feel tall, but after that my height diminished to 5 feet and 6 inches.” So, before he became a midget, he went to look for another job.
Just like any of us when we were young, he looked for greener pastures. He was attracted to an ad that said: EARN YOU FIRST MILLION IN REAL ESTATE. With so much enthusiasm, he joined the organization that placed the ad. But, after six months, he only sold one-to a relative. He concluded that, as a salesperson, he was relatively good-maybe because he had a good relative. As he was about to quit, he saw a gentleman stop near his office. He was impeccably dressed, and he drove a Jaguar. Tom was so impressed that he asked the gentleman, “What do you do for a living?” The gentleman said with pride, “I’m in sales, and this year I will be earning $50,000. How about you, young man?” “Well, I’m also in sales, but I have to quit because my average income is only $42/month.” After a short pause, he asked: “How did you do it?”
But this proved to be Tom Hopkins’s turning point in learning the art of closing. The man asked, “Have you heard of J. Douglas Edward?” Tom said, “No.” The man said, “He is the master trainer. He will teach you what to say, when to say it and how to ask a closing question-word per word. Why don’t you attend his seminar?”
Tom did attend the seminar. During his first hour with J. Douglas Edward, he found out how little he knew about closing a sale. But he made a commitment to JDE that he would replace him as the No. 1 sales trainer in the US after the seminar. True to his commitment, Tom Hopkins surpassed his trainer. In his book How to Master the Art of Selling, JDE wrote the introduction, endorsing Tom Hopkins as his replacement.
When Tom Hopkins learned the art of closing a sale word per word, he was able to close 365 houses and lots in 366 days. This won him the Sammy Award (for Sales and Marketing Excellence) by the National Association of Realtors.
But here is the best part of his story. He was invited again to the awarding ceremonies of NAR. This time around, he was to hand the Sammy Award to that year’s winner. The moment came. The emcee’s booming voice was head: “Ladies and gentlemen, fellow realtors, our Sammy awardee this year earned $50,000 last year.” There was silence. Then the audience started booing and shouting: “That’s chicken feed! I earned a million dollar last year.” Above the din of dissatisfaction, the emcee continued: “Wait! The announcement is not yet finished. This year’s Sammy awardee is a realtor like you, but he’s totally blind.” There was silence again. Then an astounding applause and a standing ovation followed. When Tom Hopkins handed the award, he asked the awardee, “How did you do it? How did you earn $50,000 with such a handicap?” The blind realtor said: “Being blind has several advantages. One, I have never seen any of the properties I have ever sold in my entire life; hence, there’s a degree of objectivity there. Two, in real estate selling, you have to do a lot of site inspection and tripping. I have saved a lot of my transportation allowance because, when my client does not like the property at the site, he can’t leave me. Because I’m blind, he has to bring me back to my office. And third, which is the most important advantage, I always see the property I’m selling through my buyer’s eyes.”
That blind Sammy awardee has a point there. Fellow salespersons, have we ever asked ourselves why sometimes we fail to close a sale? Try to reflect on this a moment. When asking the closing question, do we ever look in our buyer’s eyes and try to see through those eyes? Or, do we avoid them and simply listen to our client, with the cash register ringing in our ears? When he looks in our eyes, does he see the peso sign or the percentage sign? The truth is: The decision to say yes comes to your client at a point when he sees the word SERVICE, with I AM HERE TO SERVE YOU, alternately twinkling in your eyes.
Let us learn from the author OG Mandino: MISSION (service) first, before the COMMISSION. Not the other way around. If we go for the commission first, the kunsumisyon (exasperation) might follow.
Now that you know what it is all about, welcome to the delightful world of closing! May you be happy selling; may you be happier closing; and may you be happiest serving!

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