Counter intelligence: The art of closing the sale -- the last time, until the next time
We have been looking at the ABCs of selling, the old-school approach of Always Be Closing, and the new-school approach of Align, Balance and Closure. I like the sound of Always Be Closing; it has a rhythm to it, a sense of control.
Well, as we all know, control has shifted toward the consumer; the impact of the Internet is felt everywhere, especially the retail sales counter. Consumers have more information, more questions, and a more challenging set of expectations. The old-school approach of Always Be Closing is a much less effective method of dealing with customers today. Over the last few months, we have looked at (A) Aligning our thinking with the customer, and (B) Balancing their expectations with our shop’s capabilities. This month we will discuss closure/cash-out and the concept of closure curation.
The last transaction in any product or service sale is critical to the customer’s experience and overall satisfaction. During my initial retail training at the counter, I remember trying to cash-out customers at the end of the day without preparing the ticket for cash-out. Customers became very annoyed with me while I was adding and re-adding the ticket (before computers) to make sure it was accurate. Customer after customer walked out upset. My store manager then taught me how to prepare the ticket/invoice in advance for smooth closure to the sale. Back then it was often cash, check or charge, a signature, and a “thank you” with a smile.
Today more than ever we must dot the i’s and cross the t’s, but the same principle applies; the customer must walk out satisfied. It’s our job to ensure that the last contact/transaction is both pleasant and satisfying. This is the last chance we have to leave a good impression.
Not every sale goes smoothly, not all vehicles are ready when promised, the final price might be higher than expected, etc. We must do our best to make it right before they leave. I can’t emphasize this enough.
Think about my next point for a minute: This is the last time before the next time. You are both closing the sale for this time and opening the door to the sale for the next time.
People buy products and remember experiences. We have all been to a restaurant when the initial experience is less than satisfactory, and the server or manager intervenes at the end of the meal to, in effect, put a smile back on our face. At the start, it may have been less than ideal, but you are likely to return; they are, in effect, closing the door on the negative experience and opening the door for future positive experiences.
I’d like to introduce the concept of closure curation. A curator at a museum is the person responsible for setting the environment inside the museum so your visit will be interesting, informative, enjoyable, etc. The definition of a curator is one who cares, who takes care of, and the term “closure” is the act of closing, bringing to an end or conclusion. My idea is that a closure curator is one who effectively, efficiently and dynamically closes the current transaction while opening the possibility of future transactions.
Keep this thought in mind: Customers need their tire and service work performed, but their greater need is finding someone whom they can trust to not only sell the products, but deliver a positive experience. When you do this, a relationship is developed and strengthened, and you always want that relationship to close on a positive note.
One way to test a customer’s trust and satisfaction is to ask a few questions at the closing transaction. For example: “Would you like to receive reminders or special offers occasionally by email?” or, “May we have your email address?” or, “Would you like to receive a free oil change on your birthday?”
If we have followed the new-school ABCs, if we were able to align our thinking with the customer’s, and align the customer’s thinking with ours, if we were able to balance expectations and share information while listening and validating our shared research, concerns and experiences, then the closure is a great time to bring the sale to a successful conclusion and open the door to future opportunities.
Today, everybody has access to information. Those who practice “counter intelligence,” the ABCs, know how to turn information interactions into trusted transactions.
It’s nice to be nice! ■
Wayne Williams is president of ExSell Marketing Inc., a “counter intelligence” firm based in La Habra, Calif. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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