Longtime sales professional Dave Gleason talks about the importance of trial closing.

In today's competitive marketplace, the salesperson's ability to respond to a prospect often determines whether a sale is made or not. Keep in mind that there will be no sale if:

  • There is no trust developed.

  • You can't excite the prospect with your proposal.

  • The prospect doesn't see the benefit for him or her.

The prospect is not a believer in what you are saying.

To test the waters and determine whether the prospect is ready to buy, I suggest you ask the prospect a series of test questions called trial questions. I like to think of these questions as opinion questions; you ask the prospect for their opinion. It is through these questions that you can see where the prospect is in the buying process. It allows you to understand his or her thinking and how they feel so far about your proposal. It is the least used step in the evolution of a sale.

The trial close is an opinion asking question such as, "What do you feel is the most important aspect about this product?" or Is that feature important to you?" Keep in mind that the trial closing is not asking for a final decision, only an opinion; therefore you should not be hearing a NO to your presentation. Remember that a trial closing asks for an opinion and the closing question asks for a decision.

Trial closing is a great way to get to the objections that may be a stumbling block later in the sale. They encourage the buyer to express their feelings about your product or service. They often give the impression that you are truly concerned about his or her feelings and that you are willing to take the time to explain all aspects of the product until the buyer is satisfied. You can ask a trial question at any time during the presentation and risk nothing.

The best time to ask a trial question is right after you see a buying signal given. A buying signal can be the way a question is asked, a non-verbal expression, or a comment. Common examples include:

  • You see the prospect getting more interested in what you are saying.

  • They lean forward or seem to hang on your words.

  • They raise their eyebrows or smile.

  • The tone of their voice becomes more excited.

  • They ask very probing questions.

  • They take out their checkbook (good time to close).

Once you see a buying signal, go for a trial closing question to test the waters. Don't be nervous about asking these questions. You have very little at risk - you are only asking for their opinion. If the opinion is positive and it looks like a good place to close, CLOSE. The key to trial closing is that it gives you a chance to test the waters and determine when to close. Sometimes the trial close answer is so strong you can write up the order.

The old saying of trial close early and often is so true. If you don't, there is a good chance that you may miss the peak opportunity of the prospect to buy. Asking for opinions gets the prospect involved in the selling process and allows you to gear your presentation to where the prospect is in the sale. More sales are made as a result of opinion closings than asking the customer to make a decision.

There are a few things to remember when you are developing the trial closing skill:

1. A trial close asks for an opinion and a close asks for a decision.

2. Trial closing is a valuable but low-risk strategy.

3. Trial closing gives you more control over the sale.

4. The opinion close measures the temperature of the prospect's desire.

5. The trial close allows you to adjust your presentation to suit the buyer.

6. A trial closer is more successful than a good closer.

If you aren't using a trial closing you are missing an important selling tool.

Dave Gleason has more than 40 years of experience in contracting, engineering and wholesaling. He has put these experiences into a comprehensive consultation and training company called Systematic Selling, Inc., which offers customized sales seminars and workshops. Contact him at 1165 Antioch Campground Rd., Gainesville, GA 30506; phone 800-447-7355; fax 717-698-6555.