Business Monitor

Close that sale! C

lose that sale! Everyone who has worked in a sales environment will have heard or read that mantra regularly. It’s a mantra because it’s true – all the corporate or product awareness in the world is worthless until someone gives you their plastic or signs on the dotted line and that invariably means them being convinced to do so by somebody else. There are lots of ways to close a sale and thousands of sales trainers making a good living convincing customers that their preferred route is the only right way. It plain isn’t true. There may well be a technique that works consistently for you but circumstances change that. Be ready to change with them.

The impact of COVID-19 is just such a circumstance. We all need to rethink how we sell. It looks as if the current environment demands that we are all good, nice and generous, that our sales techniques reflect the post-COVID world as everybody would wish it to be.

Proven track record

This applies notably with closing. You only need to watch a small amount of TV or pick up any newspaper to recognise that everybody is giving away their products and services for free to selected groups, notably NHS workers. Philanthropy only goes so far – this is essentially a sales close and not the worst: it has proven track record over the long term.

Please note too that this is a low cost marketing technique. Giving away that which costs you nothing or very little is clearly a bargain for you. Remember, however, that it comes with a downside that you should address. If you give something away free, some customers come to think that’s its standard price, so be wary of overdoing it.

Has the printwear world got something up its sleeve without necessarily realising it? Anyone who saw the massive good publicity achieved by Brompton Bicycles for lending bikes to NHS staff would love to think so. Could you make face masks? Try buying one – they just are not available. This is largely because they are perceived as an essential for carers, but not for everyone else. However, there is talk of making it compulsory for everybody to wear a mask in some circumstances. What then?

If the industry as a whole or piecemeal could establish itself in the public perception as having delivered a vital service, a product that everybody needed it doesn’t take much imagination to see

| 56 | June 2020

how valuable that would be in the long term. You would not be aiming to supply the NHS so a more basic product would satisfy need. This is valid since people are currently using any scarf as a substitute.

Can we play ‘what if’ for a short while? What if the printwear world managed to produce masks in big quantities and print them with corporate or brand logos, plus a suitably upbeat message for these strange times. (thank you NHS springs instantly to mind, although I personally might be tempted to go for the binmen and bus drivers who lack the profile but not the virtue).

Always be closing

Granted this has precious little to do with closing, other than the well-used principle of ABC – always be closing. It sits comfortably with that concept because it provides the salesman with a solid reason for buying to offer that goes far beyond basic product benefits. First and best advice that everybody gives is ‘be sure you are talking to the decision maker’. You can’t close somebody who doesn’t have the say-so on this purchase. In the case of printwear that could be anyone in the marketing department, any senior salesperson or the marketing director’s PA who wants promotion and has been given this task to cut her teeth on. Not easy to establish

who’s right, not least because several people might be involved. Closing the sale is infinitely more important than completing the presentation. This one sends shivers of bad memory down my spine because I committed this sin, big time. Fortunately I was sharing the presentation with my then MD. We were both well-trained salesmen but when the prospective client said “that’s what I want”, instead of switching off the presenter and getting down to business, we went on presenting. Never ever do it – you will feel totally stupid later.

Prompt decisions Create a sense of urgency. This helps the client make a decision right now, today. With printwear that tends to relate to events clients have organised themselves – exhibitions, in-house presentations, charitable works and the like, Given that everybody has COVID-19 top of mind it is worth suggesting a purchase to celebrate the end of lockdown and/or the official end of the coronavirus crisis.

Finally promotional offers definitely help close a sale – that’s free win and save. They are in that order because that’s strongest to weakest. Most businesses tend to lead with their promotional offer but it’s not essential – it can be kept back to push the waverer over the line. Want to know how to secure that sale? Marketing expert, Paul Clapham, lets you in on the secret.

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