This article was first published in Entrepreneur.com
One of the most common subjects in sales is closing. How do you close the sale? How do you get the customer to sign on the bottom line? There are dozens of techniques, but nearly all of them boil down to a simple idea: that the objective is to get the customer to do what you want them to do, namely buy from you.
Let me say something obvious, yet radical too: the best way to close sales is to stop trying to close sales.
First, hardly anyone likes being conned, hustled, tricked, slick-talked and manipulated into doing something—even if it’s good for them. We just don’t like that.
Second, even if you are selling me something that is good for me, and doing so by giving me good reasons why it’s good for me, I can still be suspicious of your motives. If I think you’re in it mainly for yourself, and not for me, then how am I going to tell the difference between something that is good for both of us, and something that is just good for you? How can you be trusted?
And the way most salespeople think—they can’t be!
The trick is to actually be trustworthy. That means, among other things, that the seller must have as his or her goal, meeting the customer’s needs. Period. Full stop. Including not making the sale. Including, and I’m not kidding, actually being willing to recommend a competitor’s product—if that were truly the right thing to do for the customer.
Think of it—if you are never, in principle, ever able to even consider recommending a competitor’s product over your own—then how can I ever trust your recommendations? They would always be, by your own admission, selfishly motivated.
If you think this is crazy, hold on. What do you do when you run across someone whose sole motivation is to help you? Period. An accountant cousin’s freely given tax advice to you at a holiday party; a non-commissioned customer-focused store clerk on their last day at work; someone who simply does not have an agenda other than to help you.
The answer is: if we need what they are selling, we buy—disproportionately—from such people. We buy from those we trust—way more than from those we don’t trust, if we ever have a choice. We buy because we trust them: because we trust they actually have their interests at heart.
This you can bet on. You can be on it so thoroughly that you don’t have to close every deal. If they’re going to buy, they’ll buy without you forcing them. If they don’t buy, it’ll be because your proposition—whatever it is—isn’t what they need just now. Your job is simply to help them figure out what it is they need, and when and how and from where they need it.
Your job is not to close them. Your job is to help them close themselves.
If you help them do that, more will buy from you. More still will come back and buy from you later. Yet more will be impressed and tell others to buy from you.
You will close more sales if you stop trying to close sales, because it’s not about you. But—you must let it go to let it happen.