There’s a knack to being a strong closer – it takes knowledge, likeability and even a bit of cockiness. But Larry Cohen, CEO of Top 40 distributor Axis Promotions (asi/128263), thinks the best closers also understand there are two sides to every conversation. “Listening is a skill that is underused and underrated,” he says.
No doubt, one of the biggest mistakes reps can make is to think the same aggressive approach will work with every client. “So much depends on the person, your connection to the client, the challenge they have and the solution you can provide,” says Cohen. “It’s all about building a rapport.”
Could you use a little help locking down more deals? Keep reading to learn how Cohen and his team at Axis close sales – big and small.
Q: What’s the most effective way to close a sale with a client in person?
A: People buy from those they like and trust. If you’ve done your job well, you should know what the hot buttons are. You should also be able to tell your client how you’ll make a program a success – with the right product, at the right price, delivered on time with the right logo. You have to be prepared to address any concerns, though, and you always have to be flexible.
Q: How about closing over the phone?
A: Since you can’t see clients’ faces and read their expressions, it’s even more important to ask good questions. If clients have needs, they’ll give you the clues you need to close as long as you listen and probe. Give them a reason to give you the order.
Q: How do you get hesitant clients to finally agree to a deal?
A: We try to understand what the opportunity is and then we craft our presentation to check the boxes. Often, we’ll lay out a timeline to show that there is a need to get the order in soon to avoid a rush, to allow us to do a pre-production sample and to leave added time in case any issues arise. While you don’t want to build your business by always selling on price, sometimes you can offer an additional benefit, like free setups or a discount on future orders.
Q: Are there any body language or buying cues salespeople should look for?
A: As you speak, always look at the people you’re talking to. Look for them to nod when you mention a benefit or when you describe a solution. Look for a smile. You also need to be aware of a look of boredom or that dreaded blank stare. If you see this, be prepared to change direction. Also, ask yourself if buyers are visual or tactile. Visual people may never touch an item, but can see it in their heads. Tactile people will want to touch, feel and play with an item. Give them the sample and let them hold it until they’re ready to go to the next one. You need to pace your presentation based upon the clues they’re giving you.
Q: What are good follow-up techniques to use when a client asks for time to think things over?
A: After a call or meeting, follow up with a detailed summary of the conversation. You don’t want to be a pest, but you want to stay connected. Always look for reasons to reconnect. You can send a mock-up or a sample. Maybe you can ask a supplier to do a spec sample. Also, see if a supplier has any special offers you can provide to a client to close the deal.
Q: What are top upselling strategies you’ve used?
A: Always be ready to show the item with some custom packaging. When you’re running an item, pick a few other products that you can have decorated at the same time and send these along with the pre-pro. Clients love to see their logo on great items.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you have for young reps looking to get deals done?
A: Anyone can send a catalog, but not everyone will be viewed as a trusted consultant. There are no shortcuts. Put in the time and ask lots of questions of your peers and suppliers.