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Close Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

By Rick Grosso, CSP

When I was a young, inexperienced salesman, my manager asked me “Are you a salesman or a professional visitor?” In spite of what I thought of my sales ability, it seemed the only thing that I was closing was my bank account. Now that I look back, my manager was right. Like many young salespeople, my fear of rejection was so strong that whenever I met resistance, I backed off. To quote Pogo from the comic strip, “I have seen the enemy, and the enemy are I.” So instead of selling, I waited for people to buy. It took quite a few lost sales to understand that even if customers want to buy from a salesperson, they won’t – until the salesperson “closes” them.

One of the hardest lessons for insurance salespeople to understand is the customer’s seemingly automatic “no” response. All of us have made incorrect decisions in our lives, so it is only natural to try to avoid making another. Salespeople should understand that the first “no” is actually the start of the selling process, not the end. It’s simply indecision. There is a story about a man who walks into a psychologist’s office to help him become more decisive in his behavior. The psychologist says, “I understand you have trouble making a decision.” The man responds by saying… “Well… yes and no.” Indecision is part of human nature. Learn to work it to your advantage.

Another part of the indecision process can be a prospect’s remark that he or she needs to think it over. People really don’t think it over. The instant you walk out the door, they become involved in all of life’s problems. Purchasing from you becomes an almost insignificant consideration. Consequently, when you walk out the door, you have destroyed your chances of selling – in effect, ending the sales process.

Salespeople must understand this. They must be taught to gracefully keep closing in a non-offensive way. How can this be done? A simple question can help move the selling process back on track. Here are a few examples:

“I understand that you want to think it over, but just to help clarify my thinking……..?”

“I can appreciate that you would like to think it over so that you’ll make the right decision. In fact, if you felt comfortable that you were making the right decision, you would be able to make one, wouldn’t you? Let me ask you what area it is that you feel uneasy about?”

“Obviously you wouldn’t want to take your valuable time to think this over unless you were serious, would you? Let me ask you this, are you convinced on the insurance coverage and the carrier? Then the only real question you have must be the affordability or the price, true? ”

“I understand that you want to make the right decision. The only real decision you need to make today is – is this the insurance you want?”

All of the above techniques will reopen the selling process and take you back from the “think over” stage to the “closing” stage. Remember that winning is the power to endure, the power to overcome the obstacles to reach your goal. Don’t ever forget that the goal of a sales pitch is to make the sale! As author and publisher William Feather once said, “Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.” Brian Tracy, a leading authority on personal and business success, says that 80 percent of all sales are closed on the fifth closing attempt or later. Yet research shows that only 10 percent of all salespeople make that many closing attempts. Even worse, in 48 percent of all sales calls, no closing attempt is made at all.

So is it lack of heart, or lack of training that creates this selling inhibition? I think its training. In a court of law the best prepared lawyer often wins. In sales, the best trained sales force wins. Most sales are lost during the final minutes of the sales game. Why? In many cases salespeople do not have the answers or the training to gracefully persist. The final minutes are not the time when you want a salesperson to get worn down. Vince Lombardi, former coach of the Greenbay Packers, once said that the secret to success was over preparation. He believed that most professional sporting events were won during the final two minutes. That’s why he had the Packers play five quarters during each practice session. Then in the final quarter of the game, when the opposing team would begin to wear down, the Packers would be mentally and physically prepared to go the extra mile.

Making a sale is the result of following a carefully presented selling process. Unquestionably, the most important part of that process is the close. Without utilizing the proper closing techniques, the selling process doesn’t work – and there is no sale. Improving those closing techniques takes training. A salesperson must be willing to make that effort – to train to overcome the fear of rejection and close the sale.

Are your salespeople mentally and physically prepared to go the extra mile? That’s where the difference between mediocre and champion lies. Like Lombardi’s Packers, are they over prepared? Are they trained to anticipate objections, internalize and have memorized replies to standard put offs?

As published in print:
Financial Services Advisor – Published by Insurance Publications Inc. – July/August Issue