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I can’t tell you how many companies over the years have contacted me and asked me to help their salespeople “close the customer” better in the selling process.

I think to myself, “Wow, these people don’t have a clue about sales.” I’m not talking about small mom-and-pop companies either. I am speaking about companies that are big business, anywhere from a $250 million-a-year company to Fortune 100 companies we all have heard of.

Weak salespeople close hard. Let me repeat: Weak salespeople close hard. The problem is that most salespeople close for the order instead of finding out what the customer wants and needs.

Don’t you hate it when you go into a business to buy a big-ticket item, such as a new car or truck, home/office furniture or even electronics, and the salesperson is pressuring you to buy?

Many companies and their management think these are good selling skills and the salespeople are doing a fine job. Not even close. They are not forming relationships and are not getting customers wanting to return or tell other people about their wonderful experience buying the product or service.

So, what is the problem here? Simple, there are no trial closes.

A trial close sets everything up in a logical, straightforward manner that lets the customer in on the sales process. An example would be: “Hey, reader, if you like my articles or columns, would you have any interest in purchasing any of my books or bringing me in to train your salespeople?”

This is right to the point and sincere. It will elicit a response. The customer will probably say yes or no. If they say yes, great. If they say no, I just need to say a few simple words: “Just curious – and you will not hurt my feelings – but why not?”

Asking questions is everything in the selling process and this is what salespeople are supposed to do. Pick up any book on sales by a notable author, and they all will say the same thing: Selling is asking, not telling.

The whole premise behind the trial close is a simple “If I ... will you?” This will work any time in a sales situation and can be used in any part of the conversation with a customer or client.

Imagine we are looking for a new car. The salesperson at the dealership greets us and asks us a few basic questions and hopefully starts to build rapport with us (the customers). The salesperson then says: “If I can find the car you like and can take 4.5% off the sticker price (being only 9% markup anyhow), would that be OK for you? This way, you will get a good deal on the vehicle and the price will be competitive to any dealer in the country, since we all pay the same price from the manufacturer anyway.”

Wouldn’t that put you more at ease? We got right down to it, and we don’t have to haggle later. The more a salesperson uses a trial close, the less they will use high-pressure closes in the selling process.

In fact, if the salesperson is really good, uses a very good trial close and asks many high-quality questions, they won’t have to close. Why? Simple: Customers will tell you what they want to buy, when they want to buy it, how they want to buy it and usually how much they will pay.

Remember, a trial close and many questions are the key to a sale.

Hal Becker is a nationally known speaker on sales and customer service. He is the author of numerous business books including two national best sellers, “Can I Have 5 Minutes Of Your Time?” and “Lip Service.” Hal’s newest book on sales is titled “Ultimate Sales Book.” He can be reached at

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