Every tip I’ve given you in this four part series of articles about making powerful one-on-one presentations has been leading up to “the close”–taking the order, grabbing the business, making the sale, and doing the deal.
The close is the hardest part of a presentation because most people are hesitant to ask for the order. They are afraid of having the buyer say no. Don’t let this happen to your presentation! Here are some tips for reaching a happy and profitable conclusion that will make all those hours of research, preparation, and practice worthwhile.
Tip #1. Send up a trial balloon. You have completed the features and benefits portion of your presentation. You have said all of the key things you need to say. You’ve spoken when it was your time to speak and you’ve listened when it was the buyer’s time to talk. You know that if you say anything more now it will be redundant. You know it’s time for the close, but you’ve got cold feet. One way you can get past this very uncomfortable and awkward moment is to “send up a trial balloon.” Think of something about your book or product that offers a choice and ask what the buyer would prefer. For example:“These books normally come packed in twelves, but I can instruct the warehouse to pack them in lots of ten. Which do you prefer?” Giving the buyer a simple choice moves the sale on to the next stage of decision-making or brings out final objections that need to be addressed.
Tip #2. Create a sense of urgency. It’s important not to allow buyers to think they have plenty of time to make a decision (they may decide not to decide or decide in someone else’s favor!) Providing a timed incentive for placing the order now is an excellent way to keep the momentum of your presentation going. For example: “If you will let me call in an order for XXX copies today, I can get you a special offer of one free with every five purchased.”
One of the largest sales I ever made was to the buyer at SAMS Club. My closing line was: “I only have 20,000 copies of each of these two books available. Do you want to take them all or shall I hold a smaller portion of the inventory for you? The buyer responded with “I’ll take them all”!
Tip #3. Summarize and confirm.
Sometimes the buyer is sitting on the fence and just needs a little extra hand-holding to move to a decision. One of the best ways to firm up the sale is to briefly summarize the key points that you have already agreed on. Look over the notes you’ve taken and identify the three or four bullet points that represent the greatest benefits to the buyer. This is the “what’s in it for me” part of the sale. Summarize those key points in as few words as possible (brevity is very important here). Then be very direct and ask if the buyer will give you a purchase order now or if you can expect it to be faxed or mailed within a few days.
Tip #4. If you can’t get it all, get a piece. OK, so you’ve asked the buyer to place an order for 2,500 copies. But the buyer is reluctant to go that high on the first order. Still the sale has been made! It’s time to return to question mode: “So, how many copies would you feel comfortable in taking as an initial lay down? Is there a similar title that you have had good experience with that we can look at as a model?” It’s important to compromise at this point and stay in line with the buyer’s comfort level. After all, if the buyer orders too many, you’ll only get them back as returns and that benefits no one.
Tip #5. If you can’t get a piece, get a regional trial. Let’s say that the buyer isn’t going to take the risk on a large national lay down, but you still have confidence that your book is the best on the market and that it will sell through. In this case, recommend starting with a “regional test.” Now is the time to offer an additional incentive such as free freight, if possible.
Tip #6. If you can’t get a trial, get a one-time order. Well, the buyer is being a real pain and not going along with the idea that your book is the greatest thing since Stephen King. When a buyer doesn’t want to take any risk, remove it! Offer to put a limited number of books into one store or a group of stores on a one-time basis, free, just to prove that your book will sell. Offer to pay the freight in and out, and let the buyer pay only for books that are sold. This deal will be in exchange for an agreement to bump you up to a regional test or a wider selection of stores once positive results are in.
Tip #7. If you can’t get a one-time order, get an agreement to reconsider after additional proof is furnished. All buyers have been burned at one time or another when buying new books from first-time publishers. Your prospect may want to see more promotion, more publicity, and/or even more energy on your part to pull customers into the bookstores. So, if you are unable to get a one-time or trial order, get an agreement from the buyer to reconsider the title in 30-60 days, after you have had a chance to further demonstrate how successful this book is going to be. Then periodically mail and fax articles, press clippings, and sales results in other outlets to reaffirm that the buyer would be smart to buy your book.
Tip #8. Consider bringing in the cavalry. If your buyer is particularly difficult, you may have to make several presentations to close a deal. But when the problem is that you and the buyer are just not hitting it off, think about bringing someone else in to pitch the book. Company VIPs can help cement good long-term relationships and provide a fresh perspective on your products and company (even if the VIP is your spouse).
Tip #9. Leave a strong take-home message and be memorable! When you’ve made a sale or gotten a commitment, take one more minute to “brand your visit” before you leave the buyer’s office with whatever you want the buyer to remember. Ideally, you will have written and memorized two or three sentences that you can say professionally and succinctly with warmth and enthusiasm. “I hope you now have a better understanding of my company and our products. You’re going to be hearing a lot more about us in the months to come and I will make sure to keep you informed about our progress. Thanks so much for seeing me today and thank you for doing business with us! I know you will be very pleased and satisfied. And please know that you can call on me for any reason whatsoever!”
Tip #10. The Greatest Two-Word Tip of All Time! The single greatest tip for success in sales–as in any other endeavor and, for that matter, in life–can be summed up in two words. I encourage you to write these two words down and tape them to your bathroom mirror so you will look at them every morning as you begin the day. These two words will improve every sales presentation you make. They can help you publish better books. They can enhance your career. They can change your life. The two words are: Extend yourself!
Write one more memo. Make one more phone call. Visit one more buyer. Talk with one more person. Persuade one more client. Write one more proposal. Send one more e-mail. Help one more individual. Think of one more way to sell your books. Decide to publish one new book. Contact one more sales outlet. Do one more thing today that you might have put off until tomorrow.
Extend yourself! It works!
Robin Bartlett is Director of Sales and Corporate Relations for the American College of Physicians in Philadelphia. A former member of the PMA Board of Directors, he is the PMA University Chair and a frequent contributor to both PMA University and the PMA Newsletter. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.