How to Turn an Order Blank into an Order

By Heather Baldwin

Order blanks are as fundamental to many sales professionals as cell phones, email and laptop computers. Yet have you ever considered that little piece of paper a powerful closing tool? It is, say Roy Alexander and Charles Roth, authors of Secrets of Closing Sales (Penguin, 2004). The order blank is a key weapon in what they call the Do Something close – you start to do something that implies consent and unless the buyer stops you, you’ve closed the sale. “It’s a whopper of a closing key,” say the authors. “Master and use it.” Here are some ways top sales professionals use order blanks to close sales.

1. Preprint your blanks. Before leaving the office on his calls each day, one sales representative writes the name and address of each prospect he will visit on an order blank. When he makes the call, he has the blank out on the prospect’s desk so the prospect gets used to seeing it. After making his presentation, the rep fills in quantity and price on the order blank, then pushes it towards the prospect saying: Just initial here, please. In most cases it works. Another firm, experimenting with advance fill-outs, found that four out of five prospects confronted with their names on an order blank signed. “There is something mighty fundamental about this,” say Alexander and Roth. “Make it easy to buy, not hard to buy.”

2. The give-back order form. After giving the filled-in order blank to the prospect, one successful office supplies sales rep always makes it a point to ask for it back. She’ll say something such as: I’m wondering if the price on item three is the best price we can give you. The point is to get the order blank back, then look it over and question something on it. Once she clears up the issue, she casually pushes the blank back to the buyer to sign. The reason for all this? “Taking it away makes the prospect more eager to get it back,” says the rep. “Seldom do customers fail to sign when they get the blank back the second time. Besides, my scanning the blank to see if there’s any mistake develops confidence.”

3. The assumptive order. A man named Harold Jordan built a multimillion-dollar enterprise in Detroit selling safety switches using the Do Something close. As part of the sales pitch, Jordan’s reps would ask how many 3-amp open-knife switches prospects had in their plant. Most of the time prospects either wouldn’t say or didn’t know, so the rep would ask them to call in their electrician. “I’ll go through the plant with the electrician and make a count of the switches,” he’d say. After returning from the inspection, the rep would have the order written and would casually hand a pen and the order to the prospect. “Just your name at the bottom, please,” he would say. Literally, 9 out of 10 prospects signed. If they didn’t, the rep came back in 30 days and repeated the routine using the already-filled-out order blank as his presentation. Of those remaining, only 1 out of 10 failed to sign.

4. Avoid eye contact. You’ve probably never heard this advice in sales before, but Alexander and Roth say filling out an order blank is the one selling moment when you don’t want eye contact. “If you look up buyers might tell you they aren’t quite ready to buy, that they want to think it over,” say the authors. “But if you keep looking at the blank and writing, buyers must stop you from doing both to prevent you from getting the order.” When you’re done writing, pass the blank and a pen to the prospect to check over. If you do it all in a quiet, nonchalant manner, you’ll likely get a signature on the line.