Anyone can make a good impression. The difference between the true sales professionals and the wannabes is the ability to close sales.
A good closer is someone who is good at helping people make decisions. The key to being a good closer is having a good closing procedure.
A good closing procedure simply helps your prospects clarify their thoughts and reach the conclusion that taking immediate action by buying from you is the best decision they can make, and helps them achieve the confidence to make that decision.
A sale is a series of small decisions made one at a time. That makes the final decision to buy just one more small decision, and a natural and non-stressful thing to do. You lead customers into these small decisions through the use of "trial closes."
In this column, I'll walk you through my personal closing procedure.
The Set Up
We'll say that the customer's equipment is still running, just not very well.
At this stage of the game, we'll establish that I've explained their energy savings, I've told them a few nice things about the equipment I'm recommending and why I feel it fits their unique set of needs, and I've shared a few nice things about my company — what we do that is a little exceptional or unusual and why those things will benefit them in particular.
I'm getting a lot of positive feedback from the prospect in the form of verbal cues, head nodding, and maybe even a little pupil dilation. Things are looking up.
The 'Walk-through' Close
We've been sitting for a while and it's time to get the customer's blood pumping and their energy level up before asking them to buy, by asking, "Everything sound good to you so far?"
There's no reason why they shouldn't respond in the affirmative, so I continue with, "Good. You want to know exactly what I'm going to do, then?"
They usually say, "Of course. That's what we've been waiting for."
I take them to the equipment. I removed a few panels earlier while I was doing my equipment inspection and left it open. Their seeing it all opened up, dirty, and falling apart helps to remind them of their sense of urgency.
I say something like, "Just to reiterate, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, if you wanted to keep your existing furnace and air conditioner all you'd have to do is have me spend about a day doing some extensive maintenance. I'd have to clean the indoor and outdoor unit. I'd have to pull and clean this blower and the air conditioning coil. Of course, you'd still have old equipment with old parts in it that are all aged out and due to fail, and that doesn't address your indoor air quality, energy efficiency, or comfort concerns, but you could keep it."
That's called negative selling, where you don't act like you're all that excited to make the sale. It compels your prospects to paint a dismal mental picture of them still owning their old equipment and helps reinforce the idea that this thing needs to go . . . now.
I want to help my prospects envision themselves enjoying the benefits of owning the equipment. I do that by painting a word picture of a quick, upbeat, energetic, and very general description of the replacement job. I also include some subtle hints that I'm looking out for their best interests by not overdoing anything or leaving anything out that really should be done.
Example — "Everything from here to here will be brand new. This stuff over here all looks good, so I couldn't see spending the money to replace it. If it needed replacing, I'd do it, but it doesn't. This will be more level and this will be more compact so you'll have more room over here. I'm going to set this part up over here so you get more air through it, so you'll be cooler and able to sleep better at night. This is where that new air return I told you about will be. See all these minor air leaks? Put your hand over here and feel that. I'm going to seal all these. Can you imagine what that's going to do for your comfort and energy efficiency? Does this sound good to you?"
I then provide a brief description of the installation process.
Example — "Once we reach an agreement, I'll take a credit application. I'll handle all the paperwork on your loan. You won't have to go anywhere or do anything. After obtaining credit approval, I'll call you to confirm the installation date. In the meantime, I'll get together with the installers and go over the job with them. They'll come into the office in the morning and load the truck, then head over to your house. They probably won't be here until 9 a.m. or so. The job will take two days, but you won't be without heat or air conditioning overnight, they won't leave a mess between the two days and it will be done over two consecutive days. I'll come out and visit the job while it's going in to make sure they're doing everything according to my specifications. Sound good to you?"
You can read additional examples of summaries with word pictures and emotional triggers in my previous column Summarizing with Word Pictures (CB, July 2006, p. 102).
I'll then usually take the customer back to the kitchen table to complete the closing procedure and reach an agreement.
Trial Close No. 1
"Mr. and Mrs. Smith, is there any doubt in your mind as to the necessity of your changing your furnace/air conditioner at this time?"
By now, enough has been said to be reasonably-confident they'll respond with "No, there's no doubt about it."
"Why?" I ask. Note: Whenever a prospect voices an opinion, ask them to elaborate. This allows them clarify their thoughts on the topic, and basically, to sell themselves on it.
What you might find out is that they aren't really capable of articulating why they should buy right now. They just have a good feeling about everything that's been said. That's all well and good until they tell their father-in-law that they decided to buy a new furnace and air conditioner and he starts insulting them and telling them they don't need one right now; that what they've got works perfectly well.
Back to my original question of, "Why?" They'll get started telling me why they should buy right now and, before they run out of steam, I jump right in and support them by saying, "That's right. The one you've got is old, it's obsolete. The parts for it are hard to come by, and when we can get them, they can be expensive. You could be stuck without heat or air conditioning overnight or longer. You're overpaying on your utility bills. You're uncomfortable. It could be a safety or a health hazard and, we both know that sooner or later, you're going to have to change it out, and it will never be cheaper to do that than it will be today. So, yes, there are a lot of reasons to change it out now."
Trial Close No. 2
"Is there any doubt in your mind as to my ability and the ability of my company to do this job right for you; that there is no way that having me do this for you could be a mistake?"
Once again, they'll say, "No, there's no doubt in my mind."
Since they just voiced another opinion, I'll request an elaboration by saying, "Why? Why do you feel that way?"
While it would be nice if they could just blast out a dozen or so nice things to say about you and your company, you're going to find that they can't really specify why they feel confident in you, they just do. That would be all right if there wasn't a father-in-law lurking in the background who is going to scream at them for buying from a first-class, legitimate company when he could get them a furnace stolen by a moonlighter for a fraction of the cost.
I'll help them clarify their thoughts again by inserting, "That's right. We've been doing business in this area now for many years and we've done thousands of installations. That means we know the climate, the codes, and the construction in this area. We know what works and what doesn't, so we'll do the job right for you. We specialize in this kind of work, so you'll get a good job. My guys are all in uniform, they've had my training, they work neatly, and they work quietly. We'll respect your property, we quote firm prices, and we guarantee your satisfaction, so you can't waste your money. Sure there's a lot of good reasons to use me.
Trial Close No. 3
"Then I guess as long as you can justify the price in your own mind, and feel you can afford it, you're going to want me do this for you."
Whoa! I've just given them every "out" in the world! Why? Because I'm not going to trick them into buying, and I'm not going to get them to paint themselves into a corner with word games or anything else like that. They're going to look me square in the eye and make the conscious decision to buy from me or not, and we're not going to beat around the bush about it.
I've already written everything down on a blank sheet of paper. On it, I've listed the four or five primary benefits they wanted from a new system. I then make a very general list of what I'm going to do for them. I've also written down a price. Below it, I've written "No Down Payment," and two different size payments. Below that, I'll add an option (usually for something non-essential) along with the new total and its payments.
I say, "We talked about your getting something that will take care of your (I list the benefits as written on the sheet).
"Here's a list of exactly what I'll install for you, and here's the price."
I point to the prices and ask, "Well, seem affordable?"
Obviously, the response I'm hoping for is "Yes, that's affordable."
At that point, I'll do a combination "assumptive close" and "reassuring close" by extending my hand for a handshake and saying, "Welcome to the family. You've made the right decision. You've done exactly what I would have done if I were in your position. You're absolutely going to love it."
Next month: I'll delve deeper into the closing process.
Charlie Greer is the instructor for Charlie Greer's Four-Day HVAC Sales Survival School. There are separate classes for HVAC techs and HVAC salespeople. The dates are set for the Spring 2007 season. Complete details on all of Charlie's products and seminars can be found at www.hvacprofitboosters.com. For a current catalog, call Charlie at 800/963-HVAC (4822) or e-mail him at [email protected].