If you’ve been following my latest sales series here at DWM, you know we began with when to be quiet, when to ask a good question and listen,  and when to be an expert and speak up. Finally, we’re ready to convert the prospect into a sale by executing an agreement.

We’ve asked good questions. We’ve listened to our clients’ answers. We’ve used our expertise to find the best possible solution to their problems. We’ve presented our solution in a way they clearly understand so they appreciate the value of our solution. Now, it’s time to prepare and present a contract to our client.

  • Ask good questions;
  • Listen to the prospect;
  • Find the best solution;
  • Demonstrate the solution;
  • Prepare the contract; and
  • Present the contract.

Prepare the Contract

There are many methods to prepare a contract. Some prefer to hand-write a complete contract on a pre-printed order pad with terms and conditions on the reverse side of copy paper. Others have boilerplate contracts pre-written, with blank spaces for salespeople to enter the quantity, model, style and color selected, plus room to hand-write other options. Today, we also have contract “apps” such as Leap and OneClick Contractor to help us prepare electronic proposals and contracts with digital signatures.

No matter whether we use a pen and paper, a laptop, tablet or a phone, we NEED to prepare a contract if we are going to execute a sale, enter into agreement and convert a prospect into a client.

Very often, prospects tell me during our introduction, “I’m not buying anything today.”

Even when they use this defense mechanism to prevent coercion, I politely and confidently take all of the steps above. Successful salespeople —with higher closure rates and average sale amounts — don’t skip steps on the way to conversion. One thing I know to be true — prospects don’t become clients until they sign a contract. So salespeople must prepare a contract to convert a prospective client into a customer.

The more details we can provide our client, the better.  The contract will become a work order and an invoice, so it’s important that it’s accurate and that the client understands what is included.

Present the Contract

Once I’ve prepared a contract, it is time to present it to my prospective client. Although I’ve built the contract with them, I find it helpful to read it aloud, alongside them. I review it point by point, including the product included, installation method, additional services included, price and payment schedule.  Then, I take another long look at the proposal myself, waving my fingers along the pages as though I am speed-reading.

Finally, after all of this review, I sign the document.

Then, I turn the contract toward my prospective client and slide it across the table. I put a large X next to the line where they will sign and I say out loud as I hand them my pen, “And this is where you sign to get this project going, Mr. Jones.”

Then I attain a state of silence.  I listen to my father say, “Statte Zitto, Marcuccio!” (“Be quiet, Mark!”)

And I maintain my state of silence until my client takes the next action.

 Your Move, Mr. Jones …

Often, the next action my prospect takes is to sign the contract and become my newest client. Unless you’ve been there, you may not believe me, but it is the truth.

Sometimes, the next action my prospective client takes is to hold the pen and stare at the contract in silence. In the beginning of my sales career, this silence was so LOUD that seconds felt like hours. I would panic and break the silence first. I’d start “selling” to justify the value of my proposal. I might even reduce my price. Now, I know better. This is the time to be patient and maintain a state of silence.

Silence is NOT an Objection …

The silence of a prospect is not a rejection of your proposal or an objection to purchase. It is the sound a prospect makes as they consider your offer, and their next move.

Successful salespeople learn not to break this silence. They gain the patience to calmly and quietly wait. They turn down the volume of silence to a bearable level for as long as needed.  When they do, they find the prospect just needs time before signing the contract.  Or, they need time to consider how to phrase a quite unexpected question like, “Can I give you a bigger deposit?” or “Do you take American Express?”

I admit it was difficult for me to be quiet and listen when I was less experienced. I was too likely to talk first. I felt compelled to keep selling. I imagined objections that didn’t exist. I wasted time and effort unnecessarily. I found more success when I learned how to maintain a state of silence when it mattered most — after I presented a contract. This may have been the biggest breakthrough I ever made as a salesperson.

An Objection IS an Objection …

Other times, the next action my client takes is to put the pen down without signing. When that happens, I know I have my work cut out for me. Or, more precisely, I did not do my work properly up to this point.  Putting down the pen is a deliberate action that typically precedes an objection.

I still must maintain silence and let the prospect speak their mind. Then, I should absorb what they say and consider its true meaning before determining how to respond to this prospect’s objection.

The 3 Reasons a Prospect Doesn’t Become a Client

Although a salesperson may hear many variety of objections from a prospect as they decline to buy, I believe there are really only three reasons they don’t buy:

  1. They don’t want what is being offered.
  2. They don’t sufficiently appreciate the value of what is being offered.
  3. They don’t like you (OR you don’t like them).

Years of analyzing my own failures has led me to the belief that every objection to a purchase boils down to one of these three real reasons.

Since I believe these are the three real reasons a prospect declines to purchase, I make every effort to address these reasons during every step of the sales conversion process in order to bypass objections before preparing or presenting a contract in order to consummate a sale.

Knowing the three real reasons a prospect declines to buy can help salvage a sale, too.  Knowing the three real reasons prospects don’t become clients gives us the ability to translate our prospect’s objections into the real reasons our contract is declined.  Although it is much more difficult to overcome an objection after presenting a contract, it can and must be done whenever possible.  Translating objections into reasons for not buying can help us go backwards and, perhaps, take a different route to the sales conversion.

In fact, it may be necessary to go all the way back to the beginning of the process. This time, we may need to ask better questions, listen harder and present an even better solution. A solution the prospect values enough to buy.

Although there are many ways to skin a cat, this method is the most successful I’ve found to convert a prospect into a client. And for that client to be most satisfied with their purchase, so I can continue to have success.

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