Selling Power Magazine Article

Overcoming Roadblocks on the Way to the Close
Gerhard Gschwandtner
In a tribute to the late Zig Ziglar, who over many decades had a profound influence on the professional sales field, Selling Power offers this article featuring his insight into the art and science of closing. It was originally published as the last in a four-part series of discussions with Ziglar, a leading proponent of professional selling in America. At the end of this article, you will find a summary of action steps covered in the entire series.

Selling Power (SP): In many selling situations, we find an element of fear that stands in the way of a sale. On one hand, we have the salesperson’s fear of closing. On the other hand, we have the prospect’s fear of buying. How should salespeople deal with this situation?
Zig Ziglar:
You know, the word “fear” forms an acronym that stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. What salespeople need to understand is that when the prospect says no, it is not going to be fatal. It is not a personal rejection but simply a business refusal. The prospect would have refused the same offer if it had been made by anybody else.

SP: The prospect has made a decision only on your proposal, not on you as a person.
Exactly. A lot of times, a salesperson confuses an early no with rejection. When my son asked for something as a child and I said no, he did not feel rejected, he just figured that I’d missed the question. So he waited a few minutes to give me a chance to correct an obvious mistake. I think that’s the attitude salespeople have to assume to protect their own ego and personal worth.

SP: Don’t react to the no but respond to it.
My friend Fred Smith said that when people are dogmatic, mean, rude, or nasty to us, in most cases it is not because they want to hurt us, but it is because they are hurting themselves. If we can understand that, then we won’t be nearly as likely to be hurt or offended when we are dealing with a prospect who says no.

SP: How do we deal with a prospect’s fear of making the wrong buying decision?
Once we understand that every prospect has that fear, then it helps us to more effectively deal with it. I sincerely believe that one of the reasons prospects say no is because it’s just much simpler to say no than to say, “Tell me more.” They need to be reassured that what they are doing is the right thing. We need to understand that their fear of loss is greater than their desire to gain. So we need to show them that their loss would be greater by not buying than if they went ahead with the buying decision.

SP: But how can you change a prospect’s mind after he or she has said no?
Prospects don’t change their minds after they’ve said no, but they are perfectly willing to make a new decision based on new information. That’s the reason why we need to have lots of information at our disposal. That’s the reason why we have to ask for the order reasonably early in the interview so we can find out where the prospect stands.

SP: Do you recommend a particular method for measuring the prospect’s degree of fear?
If I were selling real estate, for example, I could say [to the prospect], “If all this home had to offer was this view, it certainly would be worth considering, wouldn’t it?” Or if I were selling an industrial product, I could say, “If this product had only this one feature, it would be nice to have around, wouldn’t it?” I used to sell food machines, and the machines had five blades. After I had demonstrated the first one, I would say, “You know, if this machine had only one blade, it would certainly be nice to have, wouldn’t it?”

SP: So you sold your machine blade by blade.
That’s right, and I found out what [customers] really felt about it.

SP: Essentially, you are saying that our own attitude and professional sales approach will help gradually overcome the prospect’s fear of making the wrong decision.

SP: (continued on page 2)
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