Closing Correctly

August 1998

For Your Staff:Selling Essentials

Closing Correctly

Listen and look for clues, then ask for the sale

by Christine Anzell & Jack Levenson

Our fictional fine jewelry sales novice has packed an awful lot of on-the-job education into a day and a half. She has observed seasoned and successful salespeople present themselves to customers, "probe" their customers and listen attentively to the responses, professionally present merchandise and then respond to the reactions. Perhaps most importantly, she has watched her mentor "romance" the merchandise.

Now it's time to begin the closing process. If the customer doesn't say "I'll take it!" how do you get her to make the purchase without appearing pushy or high-pressure? It's a delicate process but one everyone is capable of molding to their own personality while still handling customers professionally and productively.

You are, after all, salespeople, not order-takers. It's up to you to make something happen to complete the sale. It's called "asking for the sale" and it's the point in the presentation at which many fold. Surveys indicate 68% of sales associates never ask for the sale. Of the slightly more than 30% who do, 40% quit after the first attempt.

The disappointing result is that, as an industry, we attempt to close the sale correctly in fewer than one out of five opportunities – a sad commentary among a body of people calling themselves sales professionals. It's not a difficult process – it just takes a little focus and self-discipline.

The Closer
Well, the moment of truth has arrived; Julie has said all she can about the gorgeous ring that Mrs. Jennings is considering for her husband's birthday gift. Mrs. Jennings has made a positive comment or two about the ring, and her body language indicates she likes it. But she sure hasn't shouted "I'll take it!" – those three precious words we all wait to hear from each customer. Rarely is it that simple though.

Julie's obvious ability to "read" her customers has made her realize it's time to help Mrs. Jennings make her decision. Julie has been listening attentively and has evidently heard a "buying signal" from Mrs. Jennings. In fine jewelry sales, as in most retail sales, buying signals can take several different forms. Regardless of the manner in which they are presented, buying signals serve clear notice the customer has some interest in the particular item. This customer said "What do we do if the ring doesn't fit?" That's a definite buying signal. (For other phrases indicating interest, see "Listen for the Signal".)

Instead of babbling on about the ring, Julie seizes her opportunity and immediately and subtly asks for the sale. "If you know his finger size, Mrs. Jennings, we can size the ring before you present it," she says. "If not, he can bring it in after you've given it to him; we'll measure his finger and size the ring in 24 hours. Which would you prefer to do?"

That was well done. Without waiting for an "I'll take it," without asking "Would you like to take this one?" – which could be answered with a "no" – Julie asked for the sale by asking Mrs. Jennings a question that will help her commit and which she cannot answer "no."

In addition to hearing words, I see buying signal body language – smiles, nods of the head, eye contact with the sales associate, returning to the same ring, moving the other rings on her fingers around to make room for the new one. All of these constitute the clues I must watch for to maximize every selling opportunity.

Speak Up
Each time a buying signal presents itself, I'll ask for the sale. This doesn't mean saying "Oh, please buy this from me today. I have this major quota and my manager will be all over my case if I don't sell this to you." It's much more subtle. I've observed some very useful approaches – like Julie's alternate-choice close about the sizing. Other alternate choices I've heard are "Shall I gift-wrap this or would you like to wear it" or "Will you be putting this on your account or paying cash today?" In any case, it's never phrased in a manner where the answer could be "no." Sometimes, I notice, the customer is not given a choice; the associate simply assumes the sale: "I'll set the watch and wrap it for you while Kathy rings it up." I especially like the way one associate here, Thomas, asks for the sale. He keeps a sales invoice on the counter during his presentation – off to the side, of course – and when he detects a buying signal, he pulls the invoice over, takes out his pen and says "How do you spell your last name, Harry?" He then writes up the ticket and, thereby, closes the sale. That's an assumptive close too. Some of the other forms of asking for the sale that I've witnessed:

  • Incentive: "I can offer you a 10% discount if you make the decision today;" "We're offering a beautiful free gift with your purchase today;" "Our gemologist is here this morning – I can offer you a complimentary appraisal today."
  • Fear of Loss: "This is a significant purchase and an important decision. If you decide to wait, though, I can't guarantee we can get this same fine quality at this same low price again."
  • Summary of Benefits: "You were looking for a water-resistant watch with large numbers, a sweep second hand and a stainless steel attachment. This one has all those benefits and a two-year warranty; let me adjust the band to fit your wrist."
  • Puppy Dog: "Take the ring with you, Mr. Smith. If Mrs. Smith decides she would prefer something else, bring her back with you and we'll exchange it for something she likes better." (Puppies are often sold this way in pet shops; they are rarely returned once they've been taken home.)

All of these great and proven methods of "asking for the sale" will help me a great deal in closing a high percentage of transactions. I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with all of them – they don't all fit me comfortably – but as long as I have a couple (I like the alternate choice and the assumptive), I'll be fine.

Well, there I go again, preoccupying myself with thoughts of success. Back to Julie and Mrs. Jennings. Julie has asked for the sale by giving Mrs. Jennings the alternate choice of sizing the ring before or after she presents it.

Mrs. Jennings' response? "I don't know, Julie; I want to think about it for a while." Uh, oh – what's Julie going to do with that reaction? In fact, how do we handle any objection that arises? Or, worse, what if the buying signal never comes?

To be continued ...

Listen for the Signal

I've heard all kinds of buying signals in the few days I've been here. I guess it goes back to being a good listener and having your "radar" tuned to the customer's comments. Buying signals – those words or expressions that tell you they have a genuine interest – include such things as :

  • I love the way this looks on me.
  • I think she'd really like this.
  • What credit cards do you accept?
  • How quickly can I get this engraved?
  • What's the warranty?
  • What if she doesn't like it?
  • Will this be going on sale?

Christine Anzell and Jack Levenson are sales trainers in the fine jewelry industry. For information about their copyright Training Manual or jewelry-specific Client Record-Keeping Books and Client-Retention Program, write to them at Anzell & Levenson, P. O. Box 46801, Las Vegas, NV 89114; (800) 887-8902.

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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