Monday Mornings with Madison



Some salespeople trick or manipulate their customers to close on a deal.  Trick or manipulative closings are a recipe for miserable customers. Instead it is smarter to set up the conditions for a natural, painless close. Here’s how.

One of the world’s foremost experts on the psychology of influence, Dr. Robert B. Cialdini, conducted extensive scientific studies of how persuasion, compliance, and negotiation actually take place in real-world business situations. As part of this process, he identified six ways top sales pros influence customers to actually say “yes.” Note influence does not mean manipulate.  Rather it means to help a customer – who truly wants (and needs) your product / service – to actually have the courage to say “yes” right then and there.

In a nutshell, minus all the scientific jargon, his “six principles of influence” translate into six easy “yes or no” questions you can ask yourself before attempting to close a sale. If the answer to all six questions is “yes” you’ve got the green light to close. If not, then maybe you’re not quite ready.

Q. #1. Have you already helped the customer?
Customers feel obligated to return a favor. So if you’ve already helped the customer in some way, that customer will feel obligated to say “yes” when you move to close. There are many ways to create value (and hence a sense of obligation) early in the sale. Provide a unique industry perspective. Deliver a difficult-to-obtain resource you may have.  Bring your customer a referral for a potential customer for their firm. Even a sincere desire to help can create a sense of obligation.

Q. #2. Does the customer think your offering is unique or rare?
Customers peculiarly value products that are rare or difficult to get. Establish that your firm is the only viable source for what the customer actually needs, and the customer will perceive your products and services as uniquely valuable. Be sure to reveal any circumstance (like shipment schedules) that would make your product or service more difficult to obtain in the future.  Basically, this means playing a little ‘hard to get.’

Q. #3. Does the customer consider you an authority?
Customers say “yes” more frequently when they felt that the sales rep had special knowledge or unique credibility.  During the sales cycle, always reveal anything about your specific background or experience that might increase the customer’s perception that you’re an authority and that your firm is reputable. Long term, build up your standing in your industry by presenting at conferences, getting quoted in the press, and so forth.

Q. #4. Would buying support the customer’s stated self-image?
Customers are more likely to buy if buying is consistent with a prior commitment they’ve made in your presence – especially if that commitment defines their identity. During the sale, get the customer to define himself or herself as the type of person who truly needs what you’re offering. (E.g. if you’re selling medical testing equipment, get the customer to say something like: “Saving lives is the real reason I got into medicine.”) Tie purchasing your offering to the customer’s self image and saying “no” becomes next to impossible.

Q. #5. Does the customer know peers who’ve bought from you?
“Social proof” is a major influence on buying behavior. Customers are more likely to say “yes” when presented with evidence that their peers are also saying “yes.” Always provide the customer with examples and references that match the profile of that customer. Invite prospects to meetings where they’ll be exposed to happy customers who come from the same background or have had similar life and work experience.

Q. #6. Does the customer like you personally?
Every sales pro knows intuitively that customers are more likely to say “yes” if they know and like you.  Contrary to popular belief, though, likeability isn’t an accident of personality. To become more “likeable,” find similarities between yourself and the customer and raise them to the surface. That shouldn’t be too hard, considering that you’re in the same business. Find something about the customer that you truly like and respect and the customer will naturally like and respect you.

This “pre-positioning” of the sale is the most important differentiator between opportunities that result in sales and those that fall flat.  While it’s true that other elements, like product quality, play a role, on a level playing field, it will be the sales pro who does the best job of “pre-positioning” that will make the actual sale.  The moral of the story:  Creating a receptive psychological environment for a sales request is the single most important element of closing a sale.

Quick Pre-Close Test
Here’s a quick way to assess whether you’re ready to close.   Before asking for the business, ask yourself the following six questions (YES or NO).

  • Have you already helped the customer in some way?
  • Does the customer think your offering is unique?
  • Does the customer consider you a trusted authority?
  • Would buying support the customer’s stated self-image?
  • Does the customer know peers who’ve bought from you?
  • Does the customer like you personally?

For each “YES” answer, give yourself 1 point, except for #6, where the “YES” is worth 2 points.

You scored 0-3. If you’re even thinking about closing, you’re being foolish.  Hopefully, you’re at the beginning of the sales cycle.  If you’re at the end of the sales cycle, you probably aren’t going to get the business if you attempt to close. 
You scored 4-5. You’re not done selling yet.  You need to work harder to position yourself and your offering.
You scored 7. You are ready to close.  Ask for the business!


“Obstacles are necessary for success because in selling, as in all careers of importance, victory comes only after many struggles and countless defeats.” Og Mandino, sales guru and author of “The Greatest Salesman in the World.”

© 2009 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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