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Strategy & Tactics: How to Close a Sale

How can salespeople increase close rates, and understand the factors that get in the way? Sales trainers Kevin Hallinan and Vincent DeStefano shared their insights during their KnowledgeFest presentations.


Sales trainers at KnowledgeFest Orlando tackled all the aspects of closing a sale, including assessing a client’s level of commitment, understanding the “why” behind a purchase and learning how a salesperson can look inward to discover how their own personal barriers might be getting in the way.

Kevin Hallinan of Winning, Inc. said the salesperson needs to begin by finding out why the client is looking for something new. This will lead to discovering whether or not there’s a “pain” or displeasure involved.

“Pain is a compelling emotional reason to do business,” Hallinan said. “Pain is emotional. What’s emotional about displeasure in a stock system? They might hear someone else’s new system, and they want that. If we focus on the gain, that’s okay—but if we focus on the absence of pleasure, that’s more compelling.”

#1: Steer Clear of “Headtrash”

Our own “headtrash” gets in the way, according to Hallinan, who taught a workshop called “Headtrash Removal Surgery” at KnowledgeFest, which focused on eliminating these blockages. Mindsets will either move us forward, or slow us down.

Hallinan said how a person acts will determine the results. “Your attitude determines how you feel. Everything works in conjunction. Our beliefs determine our actions.” Life experiences and how we grow up will shape our beliefs and attitudes. “All these things create outlook. We choose our thoughts at the end of the day,” he said. “You choose to dwell on things, or you choose to move away from all that stuff.”

He added that we can either choose an abundance mindset, or a scarcity mindset. “Abundance says, ‘If I don’t close this customer, there will be 10 more coming in.’ Our empowering beliefs help us succeed and make money. Our negative beliefs—headtrash—interrupts and costs us money,” Hallinan explained, adding that sometimes salespeople sell from their own pockets, thinking the customer will turned off by a high dollar amount.

“Let them decide, instead. People sell things every day that they can’t personally afford. It’s not up to me to decide if something is worth it. It’s up to the customer.”

Hallinan encouraged attendees to consider their attitudes, confidence level, personal presence and their belief systems. An example of a “belief” would be when someone says they don’t have enough time to commit to networking. This, he added, is an example of “headtrash.”

#2: Understand Your Client’s Motivation

Salespeople should work on building a skill that will help them understand whether or not a client’s motivation is based on something real, according to Hallinan. “If there’s no pain, there’s no sale. Let’s figure out why people need our stuff. It’s about their reasons, not ours,” he said.

When Hallinan meets with someone about sales or management training, he explained that he doesn’t begin by saying how good the training is. “Instead, I say, ‘I’ve talked to companies that struggle with inconsistent or ineffective selling results.’ I’m not describing what we do. I’m talking about the scenario that exists.”

Clients, he added, may be disappointed in a factory sound system, or maybe they’re concerned about the safety of their families, depending on the solution offered. “Speaking in terms of the problem that will be solved will give you more business,” he explained. “It changes the conversation from the item, to the problem the item solves.”

One of the most important aspects of the successful sale is listening, and Hallinan urged attendees to follow the 70/30 rule. “When you’re selling, talk only 30 percent of the time, and the way you accomplish that is by asking questions,” he said. “The more you talk instead of listening, the less likely you are to close the sale.”

While a salesperson may feel passionate about the solution they’re describing, they might be talking so much that they don’t realize the client isn’t interested.

“Really listen to them,” said Vincent DeStefano, who presented on “The Fine Art of Selling Accessories.” “Listen to what they’re telling you. If you’re looking to close a sale, your customer will give you all the bread crumbs to get there if you just listen.” DeStefano added the salesperson should ask lots of probing questions. “At this point, don’t worry about their budget because they may not know what they need.”

Kevin Hallinan recommended that salespeople uncover the client’s displeasure in their current vehicle because it changes the conversation from the product to the problem the product solves.

Kevin Hallinan recommended that salespeople uncover the client’s displeasure in their current vehicle because it changes the conversation from the product to the problem the product solves.

#3: Get to Know the Customer

Listening involves getting to know the customer, according to DeStefano, who said, “Time spent getting to know your customer is time well-spent.” He added that walking up to a customer and simply asking them what they need isn’t enough.

“I stumbled into a sales technique. I didn’t know what I was doing,” DeStefano said, adding that his boss at the time came to him and made an observation: “‘You spend a lot of time talking to people about nothing that has anything to do with what we sell in here.’ I said, ‘Oh, I’m really sorry.’”

His boss told him, “Don’t ever change, adding, “The last five customers who came in here, you talked about their tattoos, their car, their haircut, the shirt they’re wearing, and you spent ten or

fifteen minutes gabbing about it until the customer finally said, ‘Hey, Vinnie, I gotta get out of here, can you sell me what I need?’”

Engaging with a customer—getting to know them—means they remember the salesperson as “the guy who likes my shirt, or the guy who dug the rims of my car,” not just as someone who sold them a product, according to DeStefano.

#4: Keep Your Presentation Simple

Grocery stores are “marvels of modern marketing,” he added. When a customer goes to a store looking for milk, it requires a walk all the way to the back wall. “What’s between you and the milk? Everything else they want to sell,” DeStefano said. Invariably, a customer leaves the grocery store with more then they initially planned to purchase. The grocery items, he said, are accessories meant “to encourage customers to buy something other than the milk they came in for.”

He encouraged retailers to think like grocers, adding that accessories are items the customer doesn’t come in to buy. The retailer changes that, he said, by strategically placing accessories “on the way to the milk.” The easiest way to sell accessories is to offer packages. When a retailer

crafts pre-arranged packages, “it’s almost impossible to shop around. The package has one price including taxes, and all the accessories they need. When you get to that last accessory, close on it. If they say yes to it, they said yes to everything else.”

Most of all, DeStefano said, “Keep it simple. Simple is always best. We’ve known guys who could build an amplifier, but when someone asks them what time it is, they teach them how to build a watch.” Don’t overcomplicate it, he noted: “Learn about the things you sell, but keep the presentation simple. Put it in their hands. They’re 70 percent more likely to buy if you do.”

#5: Honesty is Always the Best Policy

DeStefano recalled a friend of his who had roughly an 85 percent close rate. “I thought I’d find out what his secret was.” The “secret” was that he didn’t wait until the end of the sale to try to add-on an extended warranty, for example. He made sure the customer knew from the beginning that although the product was high-quality, it could be expensive to fix if something went wrong.

“He told the truth up front instead of waiting. Slowly but surely, you introduce the concept for the need for something

early on in the process, so it becomes nothing more than a tap on the shoulder at the end,” he explained. “You’ve laid the proper foundation for a successful sale. Don’t wait until the end of the sale to start selling again.”

The salesperson should be willing to point out the issues. “This is where knowing your customers will pay off. Tell them everything. ‘It’ll do this, but it won’t do that. It’s a great product, but it’ll require something else. Prepare them.”

He added that salespeople and technicians should work in tandem for a higher success rate. Good communication between the front of the store and the back will increase close rates. “Installation and sales should work together,” he said. “Installers are the experts.”

It’s up to the salesperson to find the compelling reason why a person wants to buy, according to Hallinan. “Why is the problem happening? What’s the impact of not fixing it? What’s the impact of leaving that system the way it is? If it’s not a big deal to them, they won’t spend much money,” he said, adding, “but if it’s a big deal, they will.”

The salesperson should sell the product or solution to themselves, before selling it to the customer. “It’s easy to sell the things you truly believe in,” DeStefano said. “Honesty is always the best policy, even if it means you lose the business. Ultimately the truth will out. As Martin Luther King said, ‘The arch of history is long, but it bends towards justice.’ People will know when you are honest.”

Understanding Accessories and How to Sell Them

In his class on “The Fine Art of Selling Accessories,” Vincent DeStefano said the word “no” is the biggest barrier to selling add-on products. He added that while working in retail, he would give the customer literature and a business card and advise them to call.

“My boss stopped me from doing that,” he said. “If you don’t ask a customer to buy, what are you doing for the customer? You’re saying no for them. They know how to do that on their own. If you want to sell accessories, you have to ask for the sale.”

DeStefano also said it’s important to understand the differences between types of accessories, which he called “need to, ought to and nice to have.” Don’t wait until the end of the sale to sell the accessory, such as in the case of an extended warranty. Bring up its importance early on in the conversation, and always ask for the sale, he said, adding, “There’s nothing wrong with the answer ‘no.’”

Make the acceptance of accessories easier by presenting them consistently throughout the process, DeStefano said. “Preparing them early means more successful sales.” This gives the salesperson more opportunities to meet any objections.