Using Test Closes to Push a Sale Closer to Completion

By Jeff Beals

Remember that closing a sale involves a series of small commitments before you get the big commitment to buy.

These little commitments are sometimes referred to as “miniature closes.”

By simply agreeing to meet you, a prospect makes a mini commitment, and that’s a mini close for you.  Similarly, you complete mini closes when prospects agree to review your proposal, introduce you to a second decision maker at their company or admit that they need to change their current situation.

Similar to mini closes are “test closes,” techniques you use to gauge how interested prospects are and how seriously they are considering doing business with you.  If someone answers a test close in a way that’s desirable to you, they are essentially making a commitment to you.  So not only do test closes indicate whether you’re on the right track or making progress, they also help move the prospect closer to the final buying decision.

How do you do a test close?  Often, they begin with simple words such as:

  • “If you…”
  • “What would happen if…”
  • “Before we move on…”
  • “If I understand you correctly…”
  • “In your opinion…”

Here are some examples of how each of the above language options can be used in actual selling situations:

If you implemented this system, would it be easier to hold your team accountable?”

What would happen if you didn’t make this change?”

Before we move on, if we were to work together, what parts of the program most appeal to you?”

If I understand you correctly, the most beneficial result of using this product would be speeding up your product launches, right?”

In your opinion, would it be worth an extra investment to get 50 percent more performance?”

Instead of crouching ready to pounce on a close, focus on the next step in the process (the next small commitment.)  Each time you get one of these commitments, you’re a little closer to the end prize.  A test close can make the process flow easily.

Just keep working the prospect through all the steps in the selling process in the proper order, with adequate time at each step.

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

How to Use Referrals to Get Bigger and Better Clients

By Jeff Beals

What’s the most efficient form of prospecting?

Referrals.

In an era when buyers are jealously protective of their time, a referral from a trusted source is your admission ticket. The higher up a prospect is in a company, the more important referrals are.

Reaching busy decision makers is not the only reason you should ask past/current clients for referrals.  By asking for business leads, you could find out about prospects who otherwise would remain hidden from your view.  There are essentially thousands of prospective clients out there who you do not yet know and who have not heard of you.  A referral is your ice breaker, a chance to know someone who could someday become one of your best clients.

A referral can get prospects thinking about making a change even when the thought of changing hadn’t previously entered their minds.

For example, let’s say there’s a client who is marginally happy with their current vendor.  They’re happy enough that they don’t feel compelled to look around but they’re not so satisfied that they wouldn’t consider an unexpected solicitation from someone who referred you.  A referral could be just enough of a catalyst to make them consider a new provider. Referrals are catalysts.

No Hesitation

Despite the power of referrals, some sales professionals are hesitant to ask their current/past clients.  Perhaps they are worried the request will be an unwanted interruption in the client’s busy day.  Perhaps they’re worried they didn’t do a good enough job for the client.  Perhaps they fear “going to the well one too many times” — they already took time from the client when doing the deal, so they feel guilty taking more of the client’s time now.

If you have done a good job of serving the client while at the same time building trust, have no fear or hesitation asking for a referral.  In fact, you could make the argument that the referral actually strengthens your relationship with them.  It’s kind of flattering when a vendor wants me to make referrals on their behalf.  It shows me that I was an important and prestigious client.

Asking for a referral puts you and the client on the “same team” and creates more of a friendship between the two of you.  Furthermore, saying nice things about you to others reinforces and reminds your client why you’re so awesome.

Some clients might actually be a bit offended if you don’t ask for a referral. I once had a client with whom I worked a long time and built a nice friendship. After a couple years, I finally asked for a referral and testimonial.  Her response?  “I was wondering why you never asked me for that!”

Here’s a list of who you should ask for referrals:

  • A person whose name, title and profile make you look impressive
  • Someone who will say positive things about you
  • Someone who is very pleased with your product or service
  • Someone with whom you have mutual trust
  • Someone who has a large number of valuable contacts

When Should You Ask?

There’s no set time in the sales process when you are supposed to ask for a referral. That said, it’s probably best right after you have done a great job and your client is basking in your good work. Some sales pros are hesitant to ask a client from long ago.  Don’t fret if time has gone by.

Simply call and say something reminded you of them and how much you enjoyed working with them.  Then ask for a referral.

Referral Process

If prospects agree to give you referral, the best option is to have the referrer connect you directly They could make a coffee or lunch appointment for the three of you or perhaps send an email introducing you (“There’s someone you need to meet!”). If this isn’t an option, perhaps the referral giver could arrange a three-way phone call.

The second-best option is for the referral giver to send an email or make a phone call letting the targeted person know you’ll be calling and why they should talk to you.

If the referral giver isn’t willing to do either of the first two options, you will have to initiate the contact with the targeted person mentioning the referral giver’s name.  Before making this call, make sure you have referral giver’s blessing to go ahead and make the call.

Before you talk to referred targets, learn all you can by asking the referral giver about them and by researching them online.

Follow Up

Keep the referral giver informed throughout the sales process. It’s simply a matter of courtesy and is especially important if the referral giver is due a commission or referral fee.

Years ago, I once gave a referral to an affiliated office in a different city. The sales rep who received the referral was excited and thanked me profusely. I thought, “Well, I chose a great guy to do this deal!”

But that turned out to be the last time I heard from him.

Six months later, I ran into the client I had referred, and he told me he ended up doing a deal in that city. I asked how the rep at my partner office did. My client’s response was troubling: “I actually never heard from him, so I used someone else.”

I was incensed. I called the sales rep and asked what had happened. He stammered a bit and basically told me he let the client “slip through the cracks.”

He should have given the client extra attention simply because it was a client referred by someone within his industry. He should have sent me a short email each month during the deal keeping me up to date or at least notifying me each time the deal passed a milestone. I entrusted him with one of my precious clients, and he let me down.

Always be grateful for any referrals you receive. When clients allow you to use their names to seek business from their cherished contacts, they are putting their reputations on the line just to help you.  That means you have an obligation to treat those referrals with the utmost care and respect.  Caring for referrals is a sacred trust in the sales world, so take your job seriously.

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

What to Do When Your Prospective Client Goes Dark

By Jeff Beals

It happens to all of us – a prospective client, one you’re sure is going to end up purchasing from you, suddenly goes inexplicably dark.

Prospects have been going dark since the sales profession’s very beginning.  It’s a common problem, but it appears to be growing worse.

And it happens even when the prospect initiates the first contact.

A prospect will seek you out, ostensibly excited about your product or service.  They want to meet with you immediately because “time is of the essence” or they want “to nail this down right away.”  Your meeting goes well. You hit it off with the prospect and start to build a relationship.  The prospect is giving you a ton of buying cues, and you agree to draw up a detailed proposal.  You promptly write the proposal and email it with a smile on your face and anticipation in your heart.

And then the crickets start chirping.

The client has gone dark, and despite your multiple emails and voicemails you can’t get them to acknowledge your existence.

Some people call it “ghosting.” I love that term, because dark prospects seemingly disappear into the ether.  Whatever you call it, it’s frustrating for the sales professional.

Why do prospects go dark?  There are several possibilities and most of them have little to do with you:

  • They are super busy and overwhelmed
  • They don’t have the same level of urgency as you do
  • They are procrastinators
  • They are not proactive communicators
  • They are indecisive
  • They have to get buy-in from other people/departments in their company
  • They have various internal processes that must play out
  • Their financial conditions may have changed suddenly
  • They might be navigating internal politics
  • They may have been using you for leverage with another vendor they like better than you.
  • They are simply not interested and the thought of telling you is unpleasant especially if they have non-confrontational or avoidant personalities
  • They are not interested, and because of a personality flaw, they don’t care enough about you to let you know.  They are essentially sociopathic instead of empathetic.

Of all the possible reasons above, only the last three are truly negative.  If it is any other reason, your prospect is likely still interested, and therefore, you should not give up on them.

When a prospective client does go dark, what can you do?

1. Most importantly, go back to value.  In order to catch the prospect’s attention in the first place, you likely had to use valuable insights.  Do that again in future communications.  In other words, don’t say things like, “I’m just checking in,” or “I’m still waiting to hear from you.”  Instead, send them value-driven messages with new insights you haven’t mentioned before.  Your follow-up communications should be compelling, not whiny.

2. Be persistent.  Because prospects likely have many other things going on in their lives, they’ll assume an interested vendor like you will keep on them.  Even if they’re interested, they will often wait for you to initiate everything.

3. Mix it up a bit. Try different messages and use varied communication channels to get a person who goes dark on you.

4.  Try a couple creative tactics.  I find that a text message is more likely to be returned than an email.  You can try communicating with them via a social media direct message.  Some sales reps will send a calendar-invite email to jar loose a dark prospect.

5.  After a few attempts, you might try a certain language technique.  Sales expert Jim Keenan recommends this phraseology: “I’m confused. You said you (insert issues the prospect said they wanted/needed plus the last commitment they made to you plus the impact of not changing). Has something changed?”

Keenan says this technique holds them accountable and challenges them. I agree and have used it many times.

6. I know a lot of sales reps who, after many attempts, use a short and simple phrase sent via email or text: “Did I lose you?”  Some sales pros won’t even write anything else.  If they do elaborate, it’s not much.  This technique plays on our fear of loss and our desire not to let people down.

7.  If you still have no communication after several attempts and an extended period of time, you have a choice to make.  If the prospect would make a great client, you can move them into “nurture” mode by putting them on a periodic email drip.  If the prospect wouldn’t be a star client, maybe you just delete them from your pipeline.

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.