From the October 2007 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

October 1, 2007

Rules of the Close

I'm going to close this series on the "Good" way to sell with, appropriately, a look at closing the sale. "Closing" is highly overrated in virtually all sales literature I have read. We read such nonsense in books or encapsulated in catchphrases like "always be closing." This is complete rubbish.

The close has a place in an overall process. If previous steps have not been followed, the sale will fail no matter how hard and often you close. And if you'll recall back to the beginning of this series, you'll remember that we started out by establishing "profiling" as the first core selling skill.

After training countless thousands of salespeople, I profoundly believe that profiling is the weak link at the closing stage. Expert profiling doesn't guarantee a sale, but sales that don't close generally lack a reason to close, and that is always discovered in the profiling process.

With this in mind, let me introduce you to the "Magic Sequence." A sale is a series (or sequence) of steps intended to increase desire in a client or prospect to own the benefits of a product or service to the point that desire exceeds fear of change. But it must be brought to a conclusion, and this is where closing skills come in.

Let's say you've completed your first meeting and have made an in-depth client profile. You've prepared written recommendations. You have educated the client on the key concepts he or she must understand in order to make an informed decision. Now it is time for the "Magic Sequence" to roll:

1. Recommendation with tie downs.2. Stronger trial close.3. Question answering.4. Closing signal.5. Close the sale.

Try this sequence with your next 10 prospects. I'll give you a sample of how the dialogue could go, and then I'll list a few more universal rules.

Sample DialogueAdvisor: I've summarized my recommendations for you on these pages. Let's go over them. First, I think we keep your investment in LMN. It's done well. You and Marge like it. I see no reason to change it. Do you agree?

Prospect: Yes. Marge and I have done well with it.

Advisor: And as you will see, I'm recommending we keep some XYZ. Now let's take a look at the $312,000 in your money market accounts. I'm going to recommend you reduce your cash balances to $50,000. That plus the equity line on your home should be more than adequate to handle your cash needs. Do you agree $50,000 plus the $150,000 credit line on your house should be sufficient?

Prospect: Marge? (she nods) We're with you so far.

Advisor: Let's take a look at your other investments. These 25,240 shares of XYZ is too much to have in one stock. I know you worked there for 35 years, Ed, but don't you agree that's too many eggs in one basket?

Prospect: We've talked about this and agree we do need to diversify.

Advisor: OK. I recommend all but 2,500 shares be sold and reinvested in a conservative and diversified portfolio. How do you feel about this?

Prospect: We're probably OK with that.

Advisor: Excellent. Now let's take a look at what we recommend. By reallocating money markets, you'll have $252,000 to invest. By selling XYZ, you come up to $375,000. Sound about right so far?

Prospect: Sounds good so far.

Advisor: First of all, I'm going to recommend we stay largely within two fund families. By doing so, if we do need to make any changes, we will do our best to stay within those families so you don't incur additional charges. Plus, we will take advantage of some break points on the fees. Do you like that approach?

Prospect: Sounds good.

Advisor: The families I like are 123 and 456. I like both of them because they have been around a long time, do their own research and do not have a frequent turnover of managers. Also, they have plenty of different funds, which means we can get any kind of fund we want with just the right manager. Are you comfortable in taking a close look at some of the investments in 123 and 456?

Prospect: If that's what you recommend.

Advisor: Here are my recommendations. (Hands client printed summary.) We start out with $___ in ___. I like this fund because ____. Naturally, we don't want all our investment eggs in any one basket, so I recommend $___ in ____. I especially like this fund because _____. I also like ___ because _____, and I recommend we put $___here. To balance our equities with some fixed income, I believe we should put $_____ in ___. I like this because of ____.

Prospect: Interesting.

Advisor: Can you think of any reason why this would not be a good fit? (This is your Stronger Trial Close.)

Prospect: It looks good, but I have some questions. You mentioned a managed sectors fund for $50,000. I'm not familiar with this. What is a sectors fund?

Advisor: There are about 30 "sectors" in the economy. A sector fund invests only in stocks in the sectors the manager believes will most likely grow in the future. If these sectors outperform the economy as a whole, then we believe the stocks in those sectors will also.

Prospect: Marge, did you get that? I think I understand, but what are the sectors we're looking at?

Advisor: The 123 Managed Sectors Fund invests in technology, financial services, leisure, healthcare and retailing.

Prospect: What are some of the companies they invest in?

Advisor: Wal-Mart, Cisco, Microsoft and Pfizer are four of the biggest.

Prospect: Marge, any other questions? OK. I guess we just need to know how much all this is going to cost us. (This is your Closing Signal.)

Advisor: I get paid on fee or commission. We've already gone over the difference between A, B and C shares and agreed that C shares would be the best choice for you. So the annual fee for a $400,000 investment would be 4 percent. The fee is debited quarterly from your account. This fee pays the fund company, my firm and me. What I would recommend we do is go ahead and start the transfer process. As we discussed, we will dollar-cost average into the market over the next six months. By getting started now, we will take advantage of what we anticipate will be a wonderful 12 months. I'm going to ask Jewel to come in and get the paperwork started, OK?

And that's the close! Did you see how the advisor worked in price, action, benefit and commitment statements?

Rules of the GameThe trial close asks for an opinion. A "real close" asks for a decision to act. By using a trial close or even frequent trial closes, you are testing the water so you know when to ask for the order.

The recommendation should be summarized in writing and a benefit for each recommendation should be given aloud. Do not disclose price, load, fees or compensation at this point unless asked. When the prospect is ready to buy, he or she will ask price.When presenting the recommendations, ask trial closing questions after each recommendation. These are "agreement questions." The more agreement you get, the more likely you are to close the sale.

When answering questions after the "Recommendation," use as few words as possible and then shut up. When asked about pricing, this is your closing signal.

When you start the close, do not stop talking until you have asked for the order.

After you ask for the order, shut up.

And in eight articles, you now have the complete "Good" way to sell.

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Bill Good is chairman of Bill Good Marketing Systems in Draper, Utah; see www.billgood.com.

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