Every retailer knows the secret of business success. It’s simple: close the sales! That’s basic.
The core of your business or any business revolves around that final
“yes” or “no” sales decision. “Maybe”
or “I’ll think about it” or “I’ll let you
know” don’t count. Only a final “yes” will help
All the advance promotions are only pre-sell. The ubiquitous advertising
and PR campaigns, the mountain of direct mail materials, the Internet
spam, the telemarketing calls, the other media—on and on—are
just soft sell. All are preliminary attempts to influence that profitable
Years ago, Stanley Marcus, noted CEO of famed Neiman-Marcus stores,
commented, “No matter what my marketing and management experts
tell me, nothing happens until the sale is made. You may start a business
because of special skills and training, but if you can’t close
sales, you’ll have to work for someone who can.”
Even window coverings professionals, the owners, salespeople and designers,
specialists with superior knowledge and years of experience may strike
out at “cleanup” time. I’ve admired those window coverings
sales pros who must close a job in very difficult situations when
final purchase decisions make clients very fussy with time-consuming
indecisions over trivial matters (trivial to the salesperson but not
to the client).
SEMINARS TO ‘RECHARGE BATTERIES’
Like so many others, I worked to be a competent salesman on several
occasions. I really tried. I seemed to lack the inherent abilities
of persistence and persuasion to close sales. My aptitude and minor
talents were better suited for the writing businesses of pre-selling.
Fortunately, my work kept me in close alliance with good (and not-so-good)
sales professionals. I observed their methods and read their sales
I noticed that good salespeople must work to keep abreast of changing
methods and technologies. Like any other professional, they turn to
books and articles by experts. They attend seminars put on by inspiring
speakers with firsthand knowledge of the sales profession.
Last summer, I was invited to attend such a seminar. It was an all-day
event with various speakers and sessions. The main event was a sales
motivation presentation by Zig Ziglar, nationally known celebrity
and author of 24 life values books.
‘SECRETS OF SELLING’ SEMINAR
After 30 years on the speaking circuit, Ziglar is still a dynamic
and inspirational speaker. Even his well-known, standard clichés
were convincing. His remarks were augmented by his wit and humor,
plus many interesting anecdotes of people and situations.
His basics for improving relationships in work and family were similar
to those pioneered by Dale Carnegie six decades ago. These basic concepts
are designed to change attitudes of customers and clients, too. They
• Be interested in the other person’s remarks.
• Be a good listener.
• Encourage and praise others.
• Be friendly and sincere with praise, don’t flatter.
• Avoid criticism of others’ efforts.
• Smile and make eye contact.
The main purpose: to recognize the other as an individual, to give
him or her a recognition of importance.
As one example, Ziglar discussed the importance and impact of various
smiles. Hundreds of relationship books stress the variations of smiles—from
silly grins to nasty sneers to belly laughs. Most effective is the
sincere, friendly smile when talking to other people.
The big discount merchandisers seem to value smiles differently. When
answering product location questions:
• K-Mart sales clerks are taught to point.
• Wal-Mart sales associates are taught to point and smile.
• Home Depot department managers are taught to explain and smile.
Maybe it was the lack of smiles that led to K-Mart’s business
problems—just a thought. Whether that old story is fact or myth,
the truth is that a pleasant, courteous smile is essential in all
people and sales communications.
SALES CLOSINGS BYPASSED
Ziglar’s comments emphasized the secrets of closings. “Good
salesmen must have an understanding of human desires and needs. He
or she must know how to ‘romance the product,’ to ‘sell
the sizzle, not the steak,’ to change customers’ attitudes
from suspicion to satisfaction.”
The process can be involved, so difficult that major retailers now
try to bypass the person-to-person process completely. They rely on
their suppliers’ advertising to pre-sell products and create
brand preference. Then, they add in-store videos, signage and other
electronics to expand product knowledge and increase desires. Finally,
they demand packaging designs to attract attention and sell at the
point of sale. The package must also include instructions for installation
They only in-store function left for the salesperson (clerk or associate
or pseudo-manager) is to point and tell customers where to find the
item. Price discounts are the major feature to attract prospects.
They impact the final closing decision, but are not part of the actual
transaction, except at the checkout counter.
COMPETENT COMMUNICATION ALWAYS NEEDED
Ziglar noted that the decline of live person-to-person selling is
now common for other major, seldom-purchased custom products, such
as home fashions, cars and real estate. Web sites and other electronics
can now pre-sell and close the sales. However, he believes that good
salespeople will always be in demand to explain product basics and
But, primarily the salesperson must create an image of the long-range
rewards to be realized with a purchase. In short, close sales by selling
DETERMINED FOLLOW-UP NECESSARY
In conclusion, Ziglar emphasized the necessity for attendees to actually
use the basic principles in their work and people contacts to promote
life values and dreams, not just to sell products.
“People from all business areas attend our meetings,” he
said. “They leave inspired and ready to become a new communications
expert; to change and improve their work and relationships. They recharge
“But within a short time period they go back to their same old
habits, placing their own needs and desires first. They forget the
need to make the other person feel important. They wait to read another
‘inspirational’ book or attend another how-to seminar.
“Closing the sale at work and at home needs constant attention
and follow-through. One must work to achieve success in any endeavor,
especially in the sales profession.”
STRESS OLD-FASHIONED VALUES
“All I do,” Ziglar said, “is to stress biblical and
traditional teachings. They should be a more important part of our
culture and society.” They are:
• Some things are right—some things are wrong.
• Facts change, but the truth never does.
• You can change what you are and where you go, but you can’t
change what goes on in your mind.
• If you don’t work to such principles, there’s not
a company that can survive.
Ziglar’s standard farewell to the audience was, “If you
do these things, you will not only be at the top, but over the top.”
My final impression was that Ziglar is truly a fine salesperson. He
didn’t preach or talk down to us. He held our attention with
a friendly and sincere manner and discussion. He stressed his principles
with wit, humor and good examples. He left us inspired, ready to really
work at improving our lives and relationships. That’s what I
call “closing the sale” in the right way.
Next time: More sales motivation.
John J. Lichty is a senior editor for Draperies & Window Coverings
magazine. He has more than 30 years experience in the planning and
administration of various consumer, trade and retail advertising programs.