Bring out the straight jacket. I must be crazy but this time we’re going to talk about sales — you remember, those people who come to you saying they want to sell you something? I believe the day is not far distant when we are going to be faced with honing our sales techniques again instead of shopping for life jackets.

The choices are…

Many of us have been to sales seminars, and somewhere near the end of the second third of the talk they will usually present something about “when to ask for the order.” The choices are:

1) at the beginning
2) early
3) with the design
4) with the presentation of the cost

The answer is yes to all of them.

Project readiness

A confident organization should project readiness, preparedness and interest. With that as a front bumper sticker, you are broadcasting assuredness without being brash, and that may well be enough for some clients-to-be. Remodeling is traumatic to new clients and induces a certain amount of anxiety. The longer they are asked to mull over details and sort through numerous contractors, the less attentive they become to sound thought and reason and the more likely they are to respond to the low-bidder disaster.

Ask for the order

Asking for the order is businesslike, reassuring and efficient to all concerned. As soon as you have identified what the job is, when it’s due and if the budget is reasonable — ask for the business. That does not mean stuff a contract under their nose but, rather, a statement of identifying you as the one they want to use to build their dream. Of course there are details to be determined before you sign an agreement, but you are now a team. Some companies successfully use a letter of intent; I have not, but if it works, by all means use it. An LOI needs to be as simple as possible and by all means short.

The presumptive close

In a past column, we presented the “presumptive close” as a viable technique. In a nutshell, if you are comfortable with the process, you simply act as though the deal is agreed to since there have been no objections. Indicate that you will be working on the details of “our agreement” for their approval — that is also “asking for the order.”

What’s the big deal?

What is the big deal about asking? When a prospect arrives at the psychological point of decision, it may not show at first, but it will stay in a positive stance for a limited time before it will begin to cool. It can cool because of interference by other ideas, by other proposals or by confusion as to why you haven’t asked for the order. They may not be conscious of their concern as to why you haven’t asked, but given time it will develop into doubt, which grows into capability issues. If allowed to go unanswered, those will be very difficult to turn around.

Don’t overdo it

Yes, of course, it can be overdone — and with disastrous results. But that’s why you’re good. The request for order must come only after some type of clear agreement or statement of understanding. Going through a portfolio of sunrooms and stopping at one that is near their budget and which they like is a reason to ask for the order. What are the words that make up “the ask” for the order utterance? Here are a few:

  • I was sure you’d like this; it has been a favorite with our clients for years.
  • Do you like this design?
  • I thought you would; let’s get started.
  • It’s a pleasure to work with a client who is confident in their judgment; we’ll begin preparing the specifications for you, OK?
  • I think we are close enough to the “go” point to begin documentation, do you agree?

All of the foregoing are the types of order requests that won’t be misunderstood but are decision precursors bridging the way to the close, while you’re here…

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