The BizFilings blog covering business tips and trends.
Ask for the Sale or You Lose!
Published on Jun 24, 2012
Read our article, 'Ask for the Sale or You Lose!' at 'Time to Start Up,' the small business blog by BizFilings.
By Adam Toren
It’s the hardest thing to do, and it’s surprising how many small business owners skip this step. But if you don’t ask for the sale, your chances of making it happen drop much more than you might expect.
You know how some human resource professionals refuse to look at resumes that are longer than one page? Some purchasing professionals wait for a supplier to ask for the sale before making a purchase. It’s a measure of savvy and confidence. It’s a way to find out whether you’re a member of the “club,” those who understand how the game is played. There are other benefits to asking for the sale throughout your presentation. Here are a few of them.
You may already have the sale. A sales manager I know from a fledgling national magazine was asked to make a sales presentation to a potentially substantial client. She and the editor flew to Columbus, Ohio, armed with a customized presentation and materials. They followed a well-known home improvement cable network on the roster of pitches – an intimidating position. The presentations were running late and they walked in with a plan to keep their information short but complete. Halfway through, the vice president of marketing said, “You had us at Hello, we’re ready to buy.” A simple question at the start of the meeting – asking for the sale – would have saved time and anxiety. Now, you can’t always do that, but sometimes it’s the right choice. It’s your job to key into your potential customers and ask for the sale if the time feels right.
You can discover where you are. Is the customer nodding and smiling? Is he leaning back in his chair with his arms crossed? Are her eyes drifting to the clock or computer? Asking for the sale can tell you if you’re getting somewhere or wasting everyone’s time. It can also help to re-engage your potential purchaser. Basically, by asking for the sale, you’re checking to see if you’re getting through.
Uncover hidden thoughts. Is your product too pricey? Does it offer features that don’t matter to the potential client but not include things that are critical? Is it the wrong color, size, shape? Does the customer simply not like you, your clothes, or your approach? Are there trust concerns? If you ask for the sale and the answer is no, this gives you the opportunity to follow up with probing questions that can address at least some of these issues.
Wrap up the meeting. You’re there to sell something. At the end of the process, if you don’t ask, there’s no graceful way for a customer to answer yes. By waiting for the customer to request an order, you are placing him or her in a less powerful, almost subservient role. No one wants to be in that position.
Open up the discussion of terms. You want agreement on the sale itself before you negotiate terms. That way the purchase decision is separated from the characteristics of the deal itself. This allows you to assume that a contract will happen once the right terms are agreed upon by both parties. You can then think of the negotiations as the two of you working together to come up with a plan that will satisfy everyone rather than a contest to see who says “uncle” first.
Don’t over-ask. If you’ve ever bought a car, you can feel the salespeople pushing you to buy from their first greeting. Every remark they make is focused on getting you to part from your money and drive away with one of their cars. Don’t make that mistake. Asking for the sale should be a natural outgrowth of a discussion between you and a potential customer, not an unexpected request. It’s like I told a friend of mine who was proud of all of her marriage proposals, “Do you realize that no one proposes marriage unless they expect you to say yes? What are you doing or saying that makes them think they’ll get a positive answer?”
Whether it’s a new customer, an investor in your business, or a potential life-partner, make a conscious decision to ask for the sale. Be ready to bring it into the discussion when you think the time is right, and don’t be afraid to lay your cards on the table and request that sale. After all, you can’t get something if you don’t ask for it.