One of the questions I get consistently when speaking with catering sales managers is “How do I close the deal at my presentations”. I appreciate this question because although the decision to purchase catering seems to be pretty simple, it still requires trust and faith on the part of the purchaser. “Closing” was something I struggled with early in my career as a Catering Sales Manager. With some time and effort, through continuous education and training, I got very comfortable and consistent with the “closing” process. Yes, the “close” is the end point we are all trying to get to but rushing the close without first focusing on some important steps within the sales cycle is a mistake.
- Meet with decision makers that have “Purchasing power”.
- Build trust and confidence
- Identify Obstacles & Objections
- “ASK” for the order
Finding the decision maker is typically as simple as asking, “Who’s in charge of ordering lunch for the office?” However, there are times if we’re not careful, we find ourselves bringing lunch and wasting our time with the Gatekeeper! Be careful to qualify each person before agreeing to a face-to-face meeting. Spending too much effort with people that don’t have the ability to say “yes” can be counterproductive and demotivating.
Once we have the decision maker’s attention, it’s important to build trust and confidence. First and foremost we need to have rapport with our prospect. Asking key questions to uncover their needs and practicing active listening skills while reiterating what we’ve heard is imperative to make the prospect feel valued and heard. Additionally, coming to the meeting prepared with research about their company demonstrates that we’re conscientious and thoughtful professionals.
Once we’ve earned their trust and gained an understanding of what the prospect needs from a vendor partner, we need to identify any obstacles preventing the prospect from moving forward with placing an order. Asking, “Is there anything else that concerns you about giving our catering program a try for your next meeting?” this is not a perfunctory question. We do not know what is going on inside prospects mind, it’s important that we don’t “assume” that we’ve communicated everything that the person needs to hear before they make a decision. When an obstacle is communicated, identify if it’s a real objection or if they are trying to stall making a decision. If it’s real objection, rephrase to gain clarity and offer the solution. If it’s not a real objection and the person is trying to stall then we may need to take a step back and identify why the person is hesitating.
A question like, “have you ever had an experience with a caterer that was particularly disastrous or disappointing?” may allow the prospect to communicate some reasons for their hesitation. At that point we need to show empathy and give examples of how we prevent that from happening. We can’t just say, “Oh you don’t have to worry about that with us”. Explain why it shouldn’t happen.
Once all of the obstacles are identified and solved for, it’s time to “Ask for the sale”. I can’t tell you how many times I left a meeting and banged my hand against my forehead for not asking for the sale! I left off saying something like, “Thanks so much for your time and I’ll call you to follow up in the next couple of days”.
At times, this may have been an appropriate parting the person wasn’t ready to make a decision but for the most part, I should have said, “Great, I’m glad I was able to answer all of your questions. Are you ready to place an order with me today?”
Why didn’t I do that? Well I did after my forehead got too bruised to hit it anymore!
I was hesitant to ask because I didn’t want to appear “pushy”. I just had a great meeting, I felt like we really built a connection and I was afraid to ruin it! The funny thing about that way of thinking is that I actually didn’t meet my prospects expectations. They agreed to the meeting because they wanted to learn more about my product and they expected me to ask for their business! Don’t let your prospects down! Ask for their order!
To learn more about closing sales please call the MMS Catering Institute™ at 1-877-6-MONKEY.