Stop Assuming the Sale
There are a ton of ideas, phrases, and beliefs in sales practices that make me cringe. They’re outdated, they’re ineffective (at least now if they weren’t before), and they do way more harm than good.
Seriously, there are tons.
But the one that might be worse than all the others is “assuming the sale.”
It is meant to be a closing technique, but techniques only work well when applied correctly and with the right mindset. And this one is often brought out too quickly, too strongly, and too inappropriately. All too often, practitioners of “assuming the sale” are asking, “How did you want to pay for this today?” the second they finish their pitch. And that pitch was probably delivered too early too.
When you stop and think about it, why was this ever a thing anyway? What is that other phrase about assumptions and why they’re bad??? You know the one.
Assumptions never help anybody on either side of the table.
Like many people, I learned about this concept early in my selling career. Even then, before I knew everything I know now about sales and communication, I hated it. It felt slimy. And it reminded me of all the times it had been used on me.
But that 20+ years ago.
Today, your prospects are better educated on the tactics salespeople use, more than ever before. They’ve heard it all, they’ve read about it, and a lot of them know exactly what to say to make you trip over yourself to share your pricing, your process, and your magic. Unknowing salespeople fall into these traps all the time and then cannot understand why they have to work so hard on their follow-up. (Little tip: if you’re having to follow up more than once, it’s likely that they’ve already made their decision, they just haven’t told you no yet.)
With all of that, assuming the sale and pushing or manipulating them into something that they don’t want or aren’t sure of isn’t going to help you.
I have heard this line from so many people at this point it might as well be a business/sales commandment, especially since it’s true:
If everyone else is doing it one way, stand out by doing it differently.
This is the age of information and everyone is dying to “provide value” to get your email address. Do you think your B2B prospects are not downloading sales script templates, closing technique cheat sheets, and all the same things that you are?
Why wouldn’t they?
Instead of doing all the usual stuff that everyone hates, why not approach it from a different angle? Stop limiting their ability to function as an adult by letting them say no, be honest, and be held accountable to agreements. Talk to them, and then let them make their decision.
Sitting down with your prospects, creating an open dialogue, and helping to guide them into the best decision for them is called consultative selling. It focuses on the prospect and the relationship. Although I don’t love the term, I do believe that this is the absolute best way to sell.
Consultants, the good ones anyway, don’t walk in and shove a solution in their client’s faces. They take the time to understand the problem from every angle, they ask hard questions to dig as deep as they can, and they push back on ideas that don’t serve their clients. They do all of this BEFORE they try to solve the problem.
You can’t do that when you assume the sale.
I often reference the type of salesperson who waits for about 3 minutes into a sales conversation before saying, “I understand exactly where you are, I see it all the time. I know just how to fix it, I have the solution here, want it?”
On some level, we’re all guilty of some version of this, though usually to a less obvious degree. It’s difficult not to make those assumptions when, due to our expertise, we know that we can help. So even if we don’t say all that, we might not be giving them our full attention, we might be already waiting for a chance to say, “Ha, see! I’ve got your answer right here!”
And that’s when we might miss something really important, something that leaves us chasing that close that’s never going to come.
It’s hard to turn off, but if we keep asking questions, we don’t give ourselves the chance to make dangerous assumptions.
Let’s say that we’re selling websites, and someone tells us that their site is old and it’s hurting their sales.
Instead of nodding along because we have heard this many times before, dig deeper. Ask:
- Why do you feel that way?
- How long have you felt that way?
- Did you see some sort of gradual drop off in their revenue?
- Are your competitors updating their sites and that’s how you know?
We would (hopefully!) ask these same kinds of questions if they said they didn’t need a new website. So why not do the same thing when they say they do?
There’s a big difference in how easily you can close a deal when they’re saying, “yeah, my site could probably look better,” versus “the dated look of my website is costing me business.”
One is a want, the other is a need. Which do you think has them pulling out their wallet quicker?
If we take the time to sit down, listen, and ask them enough questions to get them to that second statement, we’re building the trust we need to close. AND BONUS: they will sell themselves to you!
No begging, no chasing, and no assuming.
So if you take away this tiresome technique from your closing process, what do you do?
Great question! If you did everything else right; you qualified them for your service/product, you qualified yourself as being able to provide the solution they need, and you dealt with any potential objections upfront, then closing can be as simple as one final open-ended question.
My favorite is, “Where do we go from here?”
It puts the client right where they want to be, in charge of making their own decision. Not only that, but I look WAY more confident as a salesperson than the person who is manufacturing sentences and questions that take away their ability to say no.
There are only a couple of answers here and when you get permission about how to leave the conversation, you are always covered.
Setting expectations is the name of the game, and that doesn’t change in your close. But there’s a big difference between setting the expectation of when you will get back in touch or send the scope/proposal versus asking “will that be cash or credit?”
I get it, sales gurus have been touting the benefits of assuming the sale for decades. That doesn’t mean it works. Sure, you’ll definitely get some yesses up front because most people really don’t like conflict. And saying no when they haven’t been given the chance is a huge conflict.
But too many of those yesses will either turn into long, drawn-out chases, unqualified clients that drive you crazy, or unhappy clients that are disappointed in what they got because they never should’ve bought it to begin with.
Do you really want to deal with all of that?
You don’t have to as long as you take your time with prospects, empower them to make their own decisions, focus on building trust, and qualify them enough so that you both feel confident that a yes is the right choice. Without assuming that for them.