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The Paper Towel Close for Salespeople

Feb. 1, 2007
Most of the HVAC salespeople I've spoken with and observed use the Proposal Close as their initial closing attempt. The Proposal Close is a close in which you use your proposal as your visual aid.

Most of the HVAC salespeople I've spoken with and observed use the Proposal Close as their initial closing attempt. The Proposal Close is a close in which you use your proposal as your visual aid.

The Proposal Close is good, because it lays everything out and looks professional.

The problem with the Proposal Close is that, once customers have some official paperwork that describes your offer, you're no longer needed. Once they have the proposal, it's time for you to end the sales call, thereby limiting your number of additional closing attempts.

That's why I make the Proposal Close one of my final closing attempts.

While you never want to overstay your welcome, or pressure anyone for a decision, there is nothing inherently wrong with making multiple closing attempts. Some people just need a few more minutes to get over their sticker shock and get used to the idea of buying from you.

Last month (CB, January 2007, pg. 96), I stated that the visual aid I use in my initial closing attempt is a blank sheet of regular, lined 8 1/2-in. by 11-in paper on which I've written a few lists and prices. This is not a company form; it's just a plain piece of paper.

I call that piece of paper my Power Towel Close.

The Paper Towel Close
I write in large, all capital, block letters, like they taught me to in mechanical drawing class.

At the top, I write the four to five benefits they were hoping to gain by replacing their equipment. It might say something like: COOLER MASTER BEDROOM — SLEEP BETTER

Below that, I'll skip a few lines and write a general description of what I'm proposing. It usually says:

I'll then skip a couple of lines and write a total installed price. Below that I'll put two different size payments and the words "NO DOWN PAYMENT."

I'll skip a couple more lines, and add something optional, like "WITH IMPROVED HUMIDITY CONTROL." I'll then write a new total that includes the optional product or service, two new payment amounts, and the words "NO DOWN PAYMENT."

Is This Professional?
Some salespeople are reluctant to use the Paper Towel Close because they just can't get over the difference between the professional look of their well-designed form versus what they see as the unprofessional look of a handwritten sheet of normal paper.

Bear in mind that your first closing attempt more than likely occurs a good hour into the visit. At this stage of the game, you've either impressed them with your professionalism or you have not.

Your professionally, psychologically-designed, colorful, attractive, and informative proposal form could be just the thing that stands in your way of closing the deal on the spot. You see, despite your best intentions, there is the potential that it could also be (to someone seeing it for the first time) distracting, confusing, and intimidating.

The Paper Towel Close on a simple sheet of paper is, in its own way, relaxing and informal. It's old-timey. It's almost as though you're planning on doing business on a handshake.

Talking Through the Close
I mentioned sticker shock earlier. Sticker shock is common, and should be expected to the extent that, when it happens, you're not surprised; you're prepared for it.

When I pull out the Paper Towel Close, I simply start reading to them what I wrote on it.

Just to reset the stage, I've just done my walkthrough close and my three-step, trial closing procedure (CB, January 2007, pg. 96).

I start with a summary. I'll say, "We talked about getting you a cooler master bedroom, so you can sleep better at night. We talked about getting you something that's quieter, so you won't have to turn the volume up on the television when it comes on, and down when it goes off. We talked about my doing what I can do reduce the amount of airborne dust, so the equipment will last longer and run better than the old equipment, and reduce the amount of dusting you'll have to do. And, we talked about getting you some energy savings, possibly even enough for it to pay for itself over the lifetime of the equipment."

I'll go on to say, "This is just a very brief, general description of what I'm going to do for you. As you see, I've listed here a highefficiency, variabl e speed air conditioner — just like we talked about — a high-efficiency, variable-speed furnace, and everything it takes to install it.

"I've just restated some of the protection I'll supply to you. As you'll notice, I've written here, ‘firm-price guarantee.' When I quote you a price, it's not ‘part of a price,' it's the total price. In other words, if you were so inclined as to write a check for the entire amount prior to the actual installation, this is the exact amount of the check you would write."

"Of course, I'm going to guarantee your comfort and your satisfaction. You'll get a 10year parts and labor warranty, which means no out-of-pocket expense to you, other than routine maintenance, for the next 10 years. And, I'll also come out and do a year's worth of maintenance. That way, we both know that everything got started off on the right foot and is operating according to the manufacturer's specifications."

I then point out the price and the payment options, take a pause, then ask, "Well? Seem affordable?"

Grace Notes
All of this is said in a very calming, soothing tone of voice. I can't stress enough the importance of working on your tone of voice.

I realize that throughout this entire monologue, the customer is barely listening to me and they're not necessarily following my pen as I use it to point at the various items on the list I'm mentioning. The customer is in sticker shock. It's okay that they're not entirely paying attention, because this is all just a review of the things I wentover with them a few minutes ago anyway. I'm just trying to be reassuring to them.

I don't normally say the price verbally. I find I'm much more successful when I merely point to prices. One reason I think it's so is because when you say the price, it almost invites themto flinch, or give some type of verbal response. Additionally, many of the sales instructors I've studied have quoted various sources that have said that a written number carries more authority and authenticity than the spoken price.

I don't put dollar signs next to prices, nor do I like to use decimal points or show cents. I'm trying to make the prices appear on the page as small as possible without being obvious about it.

I only show dollars signs when I'm writing down "savings dollars," like when I cover the energy savings, in an effort to make them look as large as possible. I might even print those numbers slightly larger.

As I mentioned previously, there's always an option at the bottom of the page. As strange as this may seem, I don't usually mention the option as I'm going for the close. If they're interested, they'll let me know. Plus, that lends some subtlety to my close.

Next month: I'll cover some additional closing attempts you can make.

Charlie Greer is an award-winning HVAC salesman, a service tech, and the sole instructor for Charlie Greer's Four-Day Sales Survival School, the video training school that focuses on closing techniques and overcoming objections. There are separate classes for HVAC service technicians and residential replacement salespeople. Complete details on Charlie's products and seminars can be found at You can also e-mail Charlie at charlie@ or call him at 800/963-HVAC (4822).