In the end, you have to ask your customer for the sale:
• “Will you vote for my candidate?”
• “Will you sign my petition?”
• “Will you donate to our cause?”
• “Will you help out on our campaign?”
Many salespeople and activists get right up to this point and then choke. They do a great job at prospecting, qualifying, interviewing, restating, pondering and presenting their solution. They get the customer all excited about what they’re selling.
But then they don’t ask for the sale.
It’s not hard to see why: we’re not accustomed to making important requests of strangers, or even of friends and family members. It can seem rude, or like we’re imposing on them.
Also, asking is the heart of the sale, the do-or-die point at which you either achieve or don’t achieve your goal, where you either “succeed” or “fail.” It’s a scary moment; and it’s no wonder many people seek to avoid it.
But you have to push through your fears and ask for the sale. Because, although it might seem like it would be enough to make your point persuasively, it’s not.
You need to ask.
Ask in a Way that Presumes Success
Here are better ways to ask the questions listed above:
• “Can I put you down on my list as a vote? What time will you be voting? Will you need a ride? Can I help in any other way?”
• “Great! It sounds like you really do agree with our position. Are you ready to sign the petition? Here’s my pen!”
• “So you do find our cause compelling. How much of a donation can I put you down for? Fifty dollars? Twenty? Okay, twenty’s great! Will you be paying cash, or by check or credit card? Here’s the form . . . ”
• “We have a volunteer training session for our campaign next Thursday. Can you come? No? How about the following Tuesday? Great! Do you need a ride? No? Okay. I’ll call you that morning to remind you, and I’ll look forward to seeing you there.”
Each of these formulations presumes that the sale was a success, and each provides a little extra encouragement to the customer at a critical point in the sales process. If you’ve done your marketing and sales correctly up until this point, most customers will be poised to buy. Phrasing your “ask” as if they’ve already decided provides the tiny bit of extra push needed to close the sale.
You may find these formulations manipulative or overbearing. I can respect that, and personally would never use them with customers I felt were too intimidated or confused or uninformed to say no. But most customers are perfectly capable of saying no, even in response to a strong ask.
Don’t use these formulations if you’re not entirely comfortable doing so. You will probably find, however, that after a little sales practice you’ll start to feel comfortable enough to ask in a way that presumes success. Your cause is important, after all, and you shouldn’t be shy about advancing it.
If You Get a “Yes”
If you get a “Yes” at this point, congratulations! You’ve “closed the sale,” in business parlance. At this point you need to:
1. Congratulate your customer immediately for agreeing to take such an important, worthwhile, brave action.
2. Immediately work to secure her commitment, signature or donation. This probably entails supervising the action she has promised to take to ensure that she does indeed follow through. And, of course, providing whatever support she requires to do so.
3. Begin working on a follow-up sale. Once someone agrees to buy something from you, they are receptive to making additional purchases. This is why fast food restaurants ask if you want fries with your burger, and the boutique owner shows you jewelry after you’ve decided to buy the blouse. If your customer has agreed to sign your petition, maybe you can ask her to attend your next meeting, make a donation or get three of her neighbors to sign. Again, if this tactic seems too pushy and/or manipulative, feel free to omit it. But most customers will be at least receptive to hearing about more ways they can work with you, even if they ultimately choose not to do so.
If you get a “No,” the sales process continues, as described in the next chapter.