Want the Business? Then Ask For It

Asking for business is such a basic principle, it's surprising that there is even a need to address it. I have come to realize, however, that while people may be putting a great deal of effort into developing a sale, they aren't following through and asking for the order. This is a selling sin.'

Many of us work toward the close with an assumptive attitude, yet the assumption style isn't strong enough to complete the deal. But, salespeople in our industry are reluctant to be more assertive in asking for a prospect's business, believing they will be perceived as pushy.

There is a big difference between being pushy and being assertive, however. Pushy salespeople tend to sell things to prospects that they don't need or want to own, or sell clients goods and services at prices that aren't good values. An assertive salesperson, on the other hand, figures out what the customer needs, and stresses the reasons the item or items would be of benefit. But, it can't stop there. The salesperson then has to ask the prospect for the business in order to close the deal.

There are several ways to ask a prospect for his or her business at the conclusion of a sales presentation. Some salespeople simply hand a pen (a really nice one) to the customer, asking him or her to sign a commitment. Others ask five or six questions that get a yes response from the customer, conditioning the prospect to say yes to the'

follow-up query. While these approaches are okay, if your sales presentation is done correctly, it's pretty simple for you to extend an invitation allowing you and your company to do the project.

In the beginning
I recommend that you start asking for the business early in your presentation, continuing with follow ups until you win or lose.

Begin asking for a customer's business upon qualification. Try something like: "Based on my understanding, what we offer is a fit with your project. Let's get started on its development and ultimate success. Okay?" Another statement you might try could be: "We enjoy working with major remodeling projects like yours, and have a very successful track record. I believe that, together, we can enjoy success without surprises, don't you?"

Early on, extend an invitation to the prospect to engage with your firm to solve his or her needs. Asking for and getting this agreement provides an excellent foundation for a successful sale. But, keep in mind that these statements won't be available to you if you don't create them ahead of time, and they won't be effective unless you develop them to fit your style.

During the creation of the project, you will also have plenty of opportunities to continue asking the prospect for his or her business. Many of these opportunities come directly from customers, asking for specific conditions they want met. With each condition you are asked to meet, be positioned to take advantage.'

For example: The customer asks for you to commit to an exact finish date for the project. It could be a wedding, graduation, etc., but it's important the project be done by that date. An easy reply is, "Yes, we can meet that date." However, a better answer is, "If we commit to meeting that date for completion, and I believe we can, I must ask for your commitment to us to be your project resource. Are you prepared today to make that commitment so we can get started?"

Another situation could arise after the prospect has pored over all of the options wood, stain, door style, glazing, etc. They may end up with a specific request such as, "I would prefer this door and want it stained to match my dining set. Can you assure me of making an exact match?" The easy answer here is, "Let me see what we can do and we'll go from there." However, the best answer is, "Based on our getting the match you want, and I would like to start on that immediately, I need your assurance that we will be doing your project. This will require an investment today of $1,500. Will that be all right?"'

Prospects asking you for a commitment isn't a new concept. But, their asking opens an opportunity for you, creating the "If I can, will you?" opening. When customers want to place a condition on you, it is fair to place a condition on them. You are simply asking them for their business.

It is important to note that there will be those times when the condition you ask of the project will be too much for the client to accept, and you will have to quickly evaluate the situation to see if the condition should be altered or if you should let the prospect go. And, there are times that your best decision will be to let the prospect go.

The closing question
Of course, the more traditional time to ask for the business is at the end of a successful presentation. For this approach to be successful, a lot of things would need to have been done correctly. If you didn't qualify correctly, you'll have a problem. If you didn't discuss budget or how their financial obligation to you will be exercised, you will have a problem. If your design missed the target of expectation of the prospect, you will have a problem. The fact is, at this point, you have either sold the kitchen or bath project, or you haven't. By inviting the prospect to accept your products and services, all you are really asking for is a validation of the customer's decision. There's nothing pushy about that.

Your invitation in asking for the business should be non-threatening, and it should be delivered in a conversational tone. Deliver it with confidence, enthusiasm and the expectancy that you have earned the sale.

Your invitation to do business question may be as simple as "Are we ready to get started?" or "Let's get started today, shall we?" You can also use: "I've enjoyed working with you on the development of your project. To get started as we have discussed, we would ask the initial investment be made today, and require your signature to authorize us to proceed. Is that okay?"

Even if the sale doesn't take place at the point of presentation, all is not lost. It is imperative that you follow up, follow up and follow up some more. During follow-ups, focus on overcoming objections and answering questions, and always keep asking for the business. I believe you have earned it. While you might not get it, don't ever lose it because you didn't follow up and didn't ask for the business.

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