The Art of Losing a Sale

An experienced sales person will tell you that the most nervous moment for a salesperson, who is about to close a sale, is the moment right before a buyer has either agreed to buy their product or is. There is a momentary silence as all the sales talk and the internal chatter of the buyer converge into a final “yes”.

The adrenaline rush of that moment leads to what I consider to be the most important moment of the sale, the time between the “yes” and the closure of the transaction i.e. signing the sales contract or to pay at the counter for the product.

Many times I have noticed as the buyer, that the salesperson tends to do screw up the sale after I have been convinced and causes me to rethink my decision. I would imagine that something like this would drive a salesperson up a wall but it happens so frequently with me, I realised that this isn’t something that has been plaguing the salespeople that call on me, in fact it must have infected hundreds of thousands if not millions of salespeople that have started a sales career recently and in fact may have even infected salespeople that have been selling for a while.

In fact I think the lack of training or planning for this critical time in the sales is sacrilegious and can safely be termed – the “art” of losing a sale.

Let me use a recent example, I was (at the time “am”) in the market to buy a guitar and with a lot enthusiasm I went to a store called Furtado’s. After much deliberation and with very little convincing, I picked out a guitar that I wanted and proceeded to the counter to pay for it. Now the only question that I had was, (as a southpaw), whether they could switch the strings from right-handed to left-handed.

The sales agent calling on me, said it is quite easy and can be done post the sale – something his manager must have trained him on. However, when we got to the sales counter, there was a new person there. Probably the counter clerk or an accountant, and in a bid to save himself and/or the store the cost of switching the strings gave me new advice to keep the strings the way they are and to learn the guitar right-handed.

My lack of comfort at making that decision did not deter his conviction and in a bid to convince me not to switch the strings he mentioned that even the guitars that come from online websites like Bajaao.com where the patrons want their strings switched, he recommends them not to.

In that moment I realised that I had not actually researched the price of this guitar online! In fact I had not researched anything about buying musical instruments and how to test for their quality. I was in my own cocoon until that awesome clerk reminded me that India was the land of e-commerce. I quickly made up some fictitious excuse to talk to a tutor to get “expert opinion” and went outside the store, looked at the cost of the guitar online on Amazon.com and Bajaao.com and found the guitars there to be 10%-15% cheaper.

As a courtesy I told the counter person I’ll be back and as if by design by the time I reached home, I had already ordered the guitar on Amazon.com. If I was in the place of that salesperson who made the sale I would have tied all the strings of the guitar around the neck of that clerk and made him give out a note or two.

Jokes apart, what went wrong with that sales process?

  1. Unless it is imperative the person who makes the sale should be the person closing the final stage of the process – the emotional connect was with the person who made the sale and the new entity in front of me now will have to rebuild those emotional connects which rarely ever happens!
  2. Do not, and I mean DO NOT ever mention or talk about the product AFTER the sale has been made – this will only lead to the lesson from point 3
  3. Understand and respect the buying line at ALL times

What is the buying line?

The buying line is the emotional or interest level above which a buyer is ready to buy a product or a service.  A salesperson worth his weight is salt pay close attention to the verbal & non-verbal cues that a buyer gives off when above the buying line and is well prepared to go from any point in his presentation to the close when he realises that his customer is above the buying line.

What those clues are and how to identify them is the subject of a completely different blog post.

buying-line

(image credit)

During my internship selling jewellery at the mall in Sherman and my post-graduation job as a door-to-door sales agent selling long term energy contracts I was provided excellent training in handling the awkward moments between the “yes” and the “thank you & come again” moment. In-fact they even trained on how to recover from a screw up like the one I had witnessed. Alas, such training is very rarely given and unfortunately even more rarely learnt and followed – but to me it was the critical.

In those moments, I was trained to and train my sales agents to

  1. Completely stop talking about the transaction
  2. Build rapport by bring up topics or information that you gained about the buyer before or during the transaction
  3. Do not let there be any silence during which the buyer can reconsider
  4. (most important!) Have your sales closure process known to you like the back of your hand such that the entire process should continue on auto-pilot while you concentrate on points 1 to 3.

These things may seem very trivial to a new salesperson but ignoring this most important process is fraught with grave danger – the danger of losing a person who you have invested time & effort in getting above the buying line and something as minor as introducing just the name of the competitor can lead to the loss of the sale – could you imagine how frustrating that could be!

I must thank the clerk at Furtado’s for two things, one for inspiring me to write this article and two, for reminding me to check for the price of something online before going to buy it offline!

My sales mentors gave me the knowledge of selling without any expectation of return but they requested that I give this knowledge that was imparted to them by their mentor to those that can most benefit from it. Therefore, through the medium of my blog I wish to help and support sales people, facing frustration from daily failures at their painstaking job.

If you have questions regarding your sales process you can mention it in a comment or mail it to ask@anirudhdamani.com