If you want an answer, ask a question. Questions invite answers; questions demand answers. Only a completely rude person ignores a question – and often not even then, because rude people like to prove they’re right! Questions are the only thing that can be answered. You can’t answer a statement. You can reply to it, or ignore it, or argue with it, but you can’t answer it.
Example: I just made a statement in the last paragraph. What’s the answer? There isn’t one. You can’t answer a statement. And along those lines:
You Can’t Answer An Objection!
It breaks my heart to hear someone giving sales training who tells his students to “answer an objection.” You can’t. An objection is not a question. It’s a statement. That’s why everything you have been taught about overcoming objections – that is, answering them – is wrong. The only thing that can be answered is a question. Think about that.
Earlier we agreed your job is to sell – which means to close, which means to get a favorable buying decision, which means to get a “yes” answer. I told you that was a clue. We’re clued in now that to get a “yes” answer out of our customer we’re going to have to ask him a closing question – because he can only answer a question! Since he cannot answer a statement, you cannot close with a statement!
This means anything you have been taught as a close that is not a question is not a close. Not a very good one, anyway. The first rule of questions is questions demand answers; so if you want an answer, ask a question. Thus, the second rule of questions is:
Questions Set The Topic Of Discussion
They are the focus point of the discussion, which means they can determine the direction a conversation will take. And a sales presentation is a conversation, after all. You already know asking questions is one way customers gain control of the presentation. Asking questions is the only way you’ll get it back, and that leads us to the third rule:
He Who Asks The Questions Will Control The Presentation
Now relate this rule back to the rule of closing that said:
He Who Controls The Presentation Shall Be The Seller
So if you ask the questions, you’re in control. And when you’re in control, you’re the seller. If you want to be the seller, you need to ask the questions.
Here’s the fourth rule of questions:
Answers To Questions Must Be Appropriate
You’ll understand this better as we proceed through some more examples. There are many types of questions, but for our purposes we can effectively whittle them down to just two: informational questions and yes-or-no questions. An informational question seeks information as the answer and gets information as the answer. If you ask someone his name, he won’t say, “Yes,” he’ll give you his name. If you ask the lady next to you on the plane what time it is, she’ll give you information.
Informational questions are good for one thing (surprise): extracting or gathering information. But they are DEATH to use when closing! You’ll see why. Another thing you need to know about informational questions is, despite the above examples, the answers are seldom predictable. In contrast, a yes-or-no question only gets one of two answers. If I ask a person if his name is George Washington, I’ll almost certainly get “no” as a response.
Yes-or-no questions are excellent for closing because they get either a yes or a no response, and we’re looking for a “yes” answer, remember? Right now you’re thinking, Well great, if I close with a yes-or-no question, I stand a good chance of getting a “no.” And you’re right. But I haven’t finished telling you the good news about yes-or-no questions: A yes-or-no question can be phrased in such a way that you can virtually eliminate the answer you don’t want!
And if you can eliminate the possibility of getting a “no” to your closing question, then you’ve got a MILLION DOLLAR CLOSE TM! Let me tell you a story that illustrates this point. You’ll like it. Once upon a time a young monk arrived at the monastery. He asked the abbot if it was okay for him to smoke his pipe during the evening prayers in the garden. The abbot replied, “No, you can’t smoke while you pray.”
The new monk got settled in his room, and soon it was time for evening prayers. As he was walking through the garden with the other monks, silently saying his prayers, he saw an older monk walking towards him puffing away on a pipe. The young monk stopped the older one and said, “Brother, I see you’re smoking your pipe. But when I asked the abbot if I could smoke while I prayed, he said no.”
The older monk smiled and said, “Ah, you see, my son, it is all in how you phrase the question. You asked if you could smoke while you prayed. I asked if I could pray while I smoked.” That older monk was a sales professional! He phrased his question in such a way that the possibility of a “no” answer was eliminated. You’ll learn how, too. So… informational questions get unpredictable information as the answer; yes-or-no questions get only “yes” or “no” as an answer.
This is vital, because if you close with a yes-or-no question, you know you’ll only get one of two answers. An informational question is guaranteed to get you information as an answer, and that information is likely to be “let me think about it.” Well, I promised you the MILLION DOLLAR CLOSE TM cannot get that kind of answer, and now you know why.
The MILLION DOLLAR CLOSE TM is a yes-or-no question, so it can’t get information as the answer. And since it is phrased to eliminate the possibility of a no answer, that leaves only one possible response: “Yes!” Now that we have a few more rules as building blocks, let’s apply them in the closing situation. The best way to illustrate them in action is by using examples of other closes – closes that have been killing your sales.
Please don’t get upset if some of what follows sounds disturbingly familiar. Many of these old techniques were ones I used myself for years before wondering if there was a better way. It was annoying to be told by the dozens of sales professionals I interviewed just how bad these so-called closes really were. And when I got annoyed, I got mad and tried to fight back by defending these techniques.
The professionals just laughed and pounced all over them. Finally I surrendered and opened my mind to new ideas. Now I’m not mad, I’m glad. I had a closing problem, and the pros showed me the solution to my problem. So if I happen to come down hard on your favorite close, please don’t get mad – at least not at me. If you want to get mad, get mad at the 417 professionals who contributed their expertise to this book – none of whom makes less than $150,000 per year in commissions. But you’ll find, as I did, it’s hard to argue with success.
Let’s be brutally honest–any close you’ve learned that is not a question is NOT A CLOSE! Perhaps the most popular close in this category is the Assumptive Close. I was the world’s biggest assumptive closer until 417 pros proved to me it was basically worthless. Some said the Assumptive Close is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on salespeople. Others said it was invented by prospects so they couldn’t be closed! Some said it was a daydream, and some just said it was wishful thinking.
Just in case you’re not familiar with the Assumptive Close, here’s how it’s supposed to work:
The salesperson adopts a positive attitude. Fine. Everything he says or does assumes the customer will buy. Fine again. The salesperson goes through the actions of writing an order or contract and simply waits to see if the customer stops him. If he’s not stopped, it’s assumed a sale has been made.
The theory is great, but it doesn’t work too well in reality. There’s obviously nothing wrong with a positive attitude, and I agree you should assume your customer will buy. And sometimes the Assumptive Close works. But most of the time it doesn’t.
What I (and the pros) disagree with is the assumption the prospect will close himself. You just cross your fingers, adopt a positive attitude and hope that the prospect will say, “Hey, is that a sales contract? Great! Where do I sign?” Well, that is a daydream, and while some dreams come true, many won’t. Your customer is not going to close himself; that’s your job. It’s why you’re called a salesperson and are paid a commission.
Another point about the Assumptive Close is you’re just supposed to begin by writing the order and hope the customer doesn’t stop you. Because if he doesn’t, then we assume he’s bought. But one has to wonder how this takes place. Where’s the transition between presentation and close? I don’t see any. What I do see is scared time, big time. I see the prospect thinking, “Uh oh, is that a contract?” Decision time! Pain time! Fight or flight!
Remember we agreed earlier asking the prospect to part with his money is going to be scary. It’s true a weak prospect will sometimes go along with it. He’ll sign the contract and might even give you a deposit. But just wait until tomorrow when you’re not around to intimidate him with your assumptions.
Buyer’s remorse kicks in, and he calls to cancel the deal. The sale you thought you’d closed wasn’t closed after all. It’s easy to understand why: He never made a commitment; he never said yes. And the reason is because you never gave him the chance to say yes.
As I said, the Assumptive Close works sometimes. Dumb luck does work sometimes. But sales professionals don’t depend on luck. They replace luck with smart selling skills. Let’s look at a couple of other popular closes and see why they’re keeping you from making sales. One is the Minor Point Close. At least this one is on the right track, because it involves a question.
When you use the Minor Point Close, you are supposed to ask some trivial question – for example, “Ms. Customer, which color do you prefer?” And if the customer selects a color you have, you may have a sale. So far, so good. The bad news is maybe she won’t select a color you have. And, worst of all, the Minor Point Close involves an informational question, to which the easy answer from a customer who senses decision time is, “Well, I’m not sure. Let me think about it.”
Again, the Minor Point Close works sometimes, but only if you’re lucky. It’s not a professional sales tool. Using an informational question to close is asking for trouble. Sometimes the Minor Point Close is actually tweaked into a yes-or-no type
question – another step in the right direction.
The bad news is, it can’t be phrased in such a way as to eliminate the possibility of a no answer. So at best you’ve got a fifty-fifty chance. Once again, luck is the deciding factor. Here’s another example of how the Minor Point Close fails, even when phrased as a yes-or-no question. Picture an insurance salesman trying a yes-or-no minor point question. “Mr. Customer, don’t you agree the investment qualities of this policy are generous?” And the prospect answers, “Well, not really. I’ve seen better.” Or “Well, I’m not sure. Let me think about it.”
Now… if you’re paying attention, you just realized something. The salesman asked a yes-or-no question but got an informational response. Doesn’t that violate our rule that says answers to questions must be appropriate? Not really – because there’s actually a third type of question called the opinionated question. It’s really an informational question disguised as a yes-or-no question.
When the salesman asked the prospect if the investment qualities of the policy were generous, he wasn’t asking a yes-or-no question, he was asking for an opinion – an informational question. Fortunately we don’t ask too many opinionated questions. But if you’re ever in doubt as to the true nature of a yes-or-no question, try this test.
A true yes-or-no question can only get “yes” or “no” as the appropriate answer. If it can get an answer such as “I don’t know” or even “maybe,” then it is not a yes-or-no question; it’s an opinionated question. As I said, it doesn’t happen too often so don’t worry about it.
Furthermore, it doesn’t affect the MILLION DOLLAR CLOSETM, which is a true yes-or-no question – phrased, of course, to eliminate the possibility of a no answer.
So, while you can improve on the Minor Point Close by turning it into a yes-or-no question, you can’t eliminate the possibility of a no answer. “Mr. Customer, do you like the generous investment qualities of this policy?” Mr. Customer: “NO!” Bad luck strikes again. Let’s take a quick look at another popular close, sometimes called the Ben Franklin Close. It’s more accurately known as the Weighing Close or the Balance Sheet Close, because Mr. Franklin didn’t call it a close. He was wise enough to know it’s not a question and therefore can’t get an answer. He simply used it as a logical process to weigh the pros and cons of certain choices.
And logic, as we know, has very little to do with buying. This close works like this: You take a sheet of paper and draw a vertical line down the center, giving you two columns. Above the first column you write REASONS FOR, and above the second, REASONS AGAINST. Then you begin summarizing the benefits of your product, the REASONS FOR, in the first column, perhaps listing a dozen or even more.
Finally you ask your customer to fill in REASONS AGAINST in the other column. Presumably he only comes up with a couple and immediately shouts, “Wow! I gotta have this product! Write the order!” Only it rarely works like that. The truth is, logic doesn’t sell. Emotion sells. You’d be amazed at how many customers look at the two columns, with 20 REASONS FOR and two REASONS AGAINST, and say, “Well, this is interesting. Let me think about it.”
While there is nothing wrong with using this technique to weigh factors when you’re making a decision, there are two problems with using it as a close. One, it relies on logic. Two, it doesn’t employ any questions, let alone a yes-or-no question. It really still depends on luck, and on the prospect closing himself, which he is unlikely to do.
Now, some salespeople augment this technique with a question: “Mr. Customer, the facts are self-evident, aren’t they?” Unfortunately, that’s an opinionated question, to which the answer can be, “Well, maybe. Let me think about it.” Still, adding a question is a step in the right direction.
Now let’s look at the Alternative Choice Close. This close is about a hundred years old. It’s so old that prospects see it coming a mile away. No doubt in its day it was effective and a good early step on the way to professional salesmanship, but today’s customers are more sophisticated. Not only will they see this close coming, they’ll quite likely think you’re insulting their intelligence if you try it on them.
And that will make them mad. Oops. I’m sure you know this close, but let’s review it to see why it not only doesn’t work, but probably kills four out of five opportunities to make the sale. What you do is offer the customer his choice between two alternatives – either one he selects is fine with you. An example:
“Mr. Customer, would you prefer the red truck or the blue one?”
Obviously, either choice indicates that he has bought. Or: “Mr. Customer, would you prefer delivery on Monday or Tuesday?”
Again, either day is fine with you. Sale completed.
This close at least uses a question, so it’s on the right track, but it falls down helplessly after that. It uses the unpredictable informational question to which information – often bad information for you – is the appropriate answer. You cannot get a yes or no answer to this type of question. In fact, the Alternative Choice Close uses a pair of informational questions. Bad news.
I’m sure you’ve already deduced what’s wrong with this close, but let me explain anyway. The prospect is NOT limited to selection of one or the other of the alternatives you’ve suggested. He can answer,”Well, neither one, actually.” Or, of course, the infamous: “I’m not sure. Let me think about it.”
Let me tell you a little story about the Alternative Choice Close, one you might find amusing. Imagine a guy in a singles bar who asks the woman next to him “Your place or mine?” Her answer? You guessed it: “Neither one, creep. Buzz off.” As you can see, most traditional closes really rely on luck, and luck happens just often enough to keep these dinosaurs around.
But I assume you’re not a dinosaur, since you’re reading this. Time to move to the future, and the MILLION DOLLAR CLOSE TM – a simple question to which there is only one answer: “Yes!”
AND YOU CAN TAKE THAT TO THE BANK!
For your sales success,