Taking Your Prospect’s Temperature

Why in the world would you want to take your prospect’s temperature? You’re not a doctor. Well, it’s not your prospect’s body temperature I’m suggesting you take. It’s your prospect’s buying temperature.

Testing the Water

Just like you might test the water before you jump into a swimming pool to see if the water temperature is too cool, you can also check your prospect’s buying temperature before jumping in with a close.

In fact, if you never want to hear the word “no” again when you ask for an order, learn to look before you leap and start using trial closes. Trial closes tell you when to stop selling and start closing.

What’s a Trial Close

A trial close is an opinion-asking question, the answer to which indicates the prospect’s readiness to buy. This is also known as “taking the prospect’s temperature.” If the prospect isn’t hot enough to buy, don’t ask him to buy. It’s as simple as that.

Failure to Use Trial Closes

There are three primary reasons why salespeople don’t use trial closes:

They are not finished selling and don’t want their pitch interrupted by something as mundane as getting an order.
They confuse a Trial Close with the Alternate Choice Close and force the prospect to make a decision instead of offering an opinion.
They simply aren’t prepared to use one.

To add to the problem, some salespeople don’t know when to use a trial close. Because trial closes are so non-threatening, they can be used early in the sale and as often as you feel the need to take the prospect’s temperature.

Standard Trial Closes

Because it is simply an opinion-asking question, the trial close can take many forms. Here are some easy ones:

How does it sound so far?
Does that make sense?
Is this what you’re looking for?
What do you think?
How close do you feel this comes to meeting your needs
Any question that starts with, “In your opinion”. For example, “In your opinion, do you feel this product will do the job for you?”

Trial Close Responses

If, when you ask your prospect, “Is this what you’re looking for?” he responds with, “Absolutely! I’ve been looking for that for a long time. It looks great!” you should consider that a “hot” response and go for a close by asking for the business.

What if your prospect responded to your trial close with, “It’s sort of what I’m looking for” or some other lukewarm response. In this situation, going for a close is risky at best and a better approach is to probably continue selling by presenting some additional benefits and reasons for the prospect to buy and then use another trial close to test the waters again.

While getting a cold response to a trial close is unusual, it can and does happen. For example, what should you do if you ask the question, “Is this what you’re looking for?” and the response is “Not really”? This should be considered a cold response. If you have a death wish, you can keep on selling and continue to pile on additional benefits and reasons to buy in the hopes of turning the situation around. All you will do, however, is annoy your prospect. He has just told you that your presentation is off the mark and any continued attempts to go in that direction are only going to result in you digging an even deeper hole for yourself.

What should you do then? Immediately stop selling and re-qualify your prospect. Find out what went wrong. Why are you mentioning product benefits that are missing the target? Did you misunderstand something the prospect told you earlier? Has something changed that you didn’t pick up? Whatever it is, find out what is going on before continuing to sell.

Leading to the Close

In general, a strong response to a trial close usually leads directly to a close. Here are a few trial-close techniques that can instantly turn into a close when the prospect responds in a positive manner.

The first is called the Recommendation or Suggestion trial close. The idea is for you to act as a resource to your prospect and make a recommendation or suggestion that moves the prospect towards a decision in your favour.

Example: “What I recommend is that you get the lawn tractor with the 42-inch cut so you’ll get the job done quicker. What do you think?” Or “I suggest you go with the 18 hp lawn tractor so you have the additional power. How does that sound?”

A positive response to either of these questions means you’ve made the sale.

The  If I / Would You is another trial-close technique. The basic formula is, “If I (do this) would you (do that)?”

Example: “If I can get one of these units from stock, would you want to take it with you today?”

If you’re receiving strong buying signals, you might use the “What We Can Do Next” trial close. This is where you get the prospect to agree upon a next action.

Example: “It looks like this system is going to do the job for you. What we can do next is get the paperwork together at our end for your approval. Will that be okay?”

Stay Away from Noes

There are two ways to avoid getting a “no” at the end of the sale. One way is to not ask for the business. Far too many salespeople take this approach and simply wait for the prospect to buy. Not a good technique.

The other way is to test the waters before jumping in through the use of trial closes. Once you experience the power of the trial close, your fear of asking for the business will disappear because you’ll be getting fewer and fewer “Noes” when you ask your prospect to buy.

In your opinion, isn’t that how it should be?