The Art of Closing the Sale

11 03 2014

NextEven if you haven’t taken a sales training course, you have probably heard the phrase:  ‘Ask for the close.’ I am writing this blog because I believe that in our industry there is sometimes a tendency to forget to close the sale.

Here are a few insights about the licensing sales process which will help you understand when the actual closing or test closing questions should take place.

‘Closing’ means you come to an agreement that a deal will actually be done.  So beginning to ‘close’ the deal is the direct action of specifically asking if you have a deal. There are numerous ways of ‘asking for the close’ and it can often happen several times during the entire sales process.

Examples of closing questions:

  • So, do we have a deal?
  • Are we ready to proceed?
  • Is there anything else you want me to do?
  • Is there anything else you need from me?
  • Can we move to the contract now?
  • Do you want to do a deal?

In art licensing, as in many industries, ‘closing a deal’ begins a progression of steps. It is not a momentary or immediate buy-in.  It starts after your presentation and occurs and re-occurs within the sales process after the manufacturer or other entity shows they have interest.

This is important. Sales is a continuous process.  And ‘closing the deal’ is really a process, as well. You listen and watch the actions and reactions of your prospects, then you test and see where you are in the development of your sale. These are often called ‘trial’ or ‘assumed close’ questions. They are the same ‘closing’ questions, just asked at different times in the sales process.

But if this seems scary or aggressive, just think of it as asking key questions, AND HERE’S THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT, to consistently move things along to the next level EVERY TIME you connect with your prospect or licensee.

I’m breaking this down to something that the most-novice or reluctant salesperson can succeed at.  Every time you have the opportunity to speak with a manufacturer, retailer, agent, or any other potential client, always call them with an objective.  Then, even if you don’t move things as far as you would have liked, know that is was a successful encounter even if you moved forward just one or two steps.

Always think and be clear in your mind about what the next step is.  Then, next time, proceed in the same way to:

  1. Connect with the prospect
  2. Try to move things forward as many steps as possible (without being pushy)
  3. Ask a ‘trial’ or ‘assumed’ closing question, and if it’s not a yes…
  4. Ask what the next step is and proceed as directed.

These small steps are the movements you want, that will eventually lead you to a decision.  Sales is the process of moving an opportunity forward toward your goal and the goal of the other party.  The best deals are ones that are win=win, with something positive in them for everyone!

As you consider what you want and what the other person wants, of course, there will be glitches and compromises along the way. All decisions are a weighing of what you are asked to do, what you are willing to do, and what you are offered for doing it. These are the conditions of the agreement which are negotiated. I find that if you know exactly what you are willing to do, and NOT do, then those decisions should not provide much turmoil.

For example, a manufacturer might say, “I’m interested in your art for greeting cards.” And your assumed close might be: “Is there anything else you need from me before we move to the contract?”

The art licensing sales process definitely has some unique characteristics.

1)      Deal offers often come in small bits and pieces (licensees can/will call or send emails with some of an offer, but not all of it)

2)      You may not know how many other artists are vying for the same opportunity

3)      Frequently, the final decision is made by a group (at the manufacturer/licensee)

4)      You, as the licensor, will rarely be privy to the decision-making discussion

Why are these characteristics important?  Because they suggest a process which you can only influence ‘so much.’  Under these circumstances, the best technique is to gather information, and offer to provide information, samples and assistance, while continually asking ‘trial closing’ questions to see where you stand.

When you do this, you will often be able to move things to another level, step-by-step. The sales process will come to a close at some point, with a cheery ‘yes’ and proceed with negotiations and completion of the contract.  Or it will end with a ‘no,’ in which you need to determine if it’s a firm no and, if possible, why.  Once you understand why, that information can be used to help you in the future.

Those ‘trial closes’ are also a good way to determine if a ‘no’ is firm or not; you want to know for sure if there is some squish room or more simply, any chance they will change their mind.

My final recommendations are to listen a lot, not speak too much and, therefore, ‘talk’ yourself out of a sale. Always be friendly, confident, professional and helpful. Even if you don’t get the sale, with these behaviors, they will be more likely to consider you in the future.

And remember the proper response (in your head) to a firm ‘no’ is: Next!

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