By Ross Wilson
“I like to think of sales as the ability to gracefully persuade, not manipulate a person or persons into a win-win situation.” — Bo Bennett
For as long as I can remember, the subject of closing has been somewhat controversial. Some say that consumers shouldn’t be closed, that it’s unethical and unnecessary. They believe in just serving – without coaxing or coercion – until a client is ready to make their own unassisted decision. Closing is sometimes viewed as a misguided attempt to unduly influence or improperly force consumers into doing something they’d rather not do.
Well, nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve no doubt that unscrupulous agents regularly ensnare their prey and inveigle their way into getting signatures. The truth is, though, that when a buyer finally finds the right home or a seller is poised to sign a listing, when they arrive at the classic “desire to act” moment, they often need a little help with their decision. Even world political and corporate leaders, when faced with uncertainty, seek trusted counsel.
People sometimes don’t realize their need for help, or their ego won’t permit them to admit it. They may see a proposed move as logical but are intimidated by the prospect of committing to it. They hesitate to make decisions, usually from a place of fear. They even sometimes make choices entirely opposite to their pre-stated wishes and intentions, including completely changing their minds about moving. (This common scenario spawned the offensive and erroneous idiom that “buyers are liars”.) For some, making the emotional leap to act is a huge hurdle they may not be equipped to accomplish alone.
In this new series of columns, I offer a few simple ethical techniques designed to gently assist a client – at the right moment – to make that critical decision to move forward.
Since the inception of your business relationship, you’ve calmly, carefully and compassionately answered your client’s myriad questions and gradually earned their trust and respect. Why have you gone to such effort? Because the more they trust and respect you, the easier it becomes to elicit a decision from them. When they finally reach a choice point, particularly since the early ones will be minor, a decision will happen naturally. Because you’ve served them honourably, their decision will seem serendipitous, as if it was meant to be.
I always found it far easier working with a knowledgeable client than one who’s in a constant state of confusion, which is to say, a state of fear. This may seem counter-intuitive, but a knowing and confident client is far easier to close.
Why? Since you’ll be asking them to make a potentially frightening flight into the proverbial darkness, a fearful uninformed client must totally trust you. Unless your client is a close friend or family member, achieving that level of trust can take an exceedingly long time. An informed client, on the other hand, trusts you at least enough to have confidence in the reliability of the education you’ve provided them.
So, with a subtle nudge from you – at the right moment – a decision is had. If performed with timely tact, they’ll be unaware of the close. An added bonus is that a well-informed client clearly understands what they’re getting into, therefore lowering your potential liability.
Once decision time arrives, they may suddenly ask you to draft the offer or prepare the listing, whatever the case, and that’s great if that happens. But in my experience, a client exercising such initiative is as rare as a happy chicken in a poultry processing plant. Usually, I had to ask for the offer or listing by saying something like, “Shall I draft an offer for you?” or “Are you ready to list?” or a simple “Shall we get started?” This is straight forward closing without any hype or pressure. Timing is critical, though, because they must be logically and emotionally prepared to proceed at that moment. A premature request might be perceived as a pressure tactic and be summarily rebuffed. They may even retreat completely from the precipice.
It’s fairly easy to fulfill their logical needs. That’s just a matter of showing them the practical reasons why it’s the right choice. For example, there are no logical reasons to remain in their present house. Or the property you’ve shown them technically meets all their physical and affordability needs. But that’s only part of the decision process. Because humans are predisposed to be change-averse, the other not insignificant challenge is the emotional decision to abandon their current comfort zone. To more easily accomplish your mission, they must believe they’re accomplishing theirs, and feel reasonably comfortable with their choice. This is rarely achieved completely since any major life change is accompanied by fear and its common symptom, stress. To get as close as possible, though, you must empathically do what you can to establish a heart felt, trusting connection.
In the next column, I offer details of specific ethical closing techniques.
“The Comfort Zone is like an addictive drug. The pain of addiction will paralyse you within its boundaries.” – Rodney Lovell