532: Best Practices In Closing A Sale | James Muir
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Presented by: George Leith
Guest: James Muir
Uploaded on August 10th, 2022
Join us as we welcome James Muir on the latest episode of the Conquer Local Podcast to share the best practices in closing a sale. James is the founder and CEO of Best Practice International and the author of a bestselling book on closing sales – The Perfect Close. James is on a mission to make the complex appear simple and is a sales veteran with over 30 years of experience serving in roles from Individual contributor to Executive VP.
James’ extensive background in healthcare led him to sell to and was invited as a keynote speaker for large companies in technology and healthcare from HCA, Tenet, Catholic Healthcare, Banner, Dell, IBM, and many more.
To find out more, reach out to James at PureMuir.com to explore a zero-pressure closing method that involves two questions, and has a 95% success rate.
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Best Practices In Closing A Sale
George: This is the Conquer Local Podcast. A show about billion-dollar sales leaders, marketers leading local economic growth, and entrepreneurs that have created their dream organizations. They wanna share their secrets, giving you the distilled version of their extraordinary feats. Our hope is with the tangible takeaways from each episode, you can rewire, rework and reimagine your business. I’m George Leith, and on this episode, we welcome James Muir. James is the founder and CEO of Best Practice International and the best selling author of the number one book on closing sales, “The Perfect Close”. James is a 30-year veteran of sales, having served in every role from individual contributor to executive VP. And his mission is to make the complex simple. He has an extensive background in healthcare where he’s sold to and spoken for the largest names in technology, including HCA, Tenant, Catholic Healthcare, Banner, Dell, and others. Those interested in learning a method of closing that is zero pressure and involves just two questions and is successful 95% of the time stand by, James Muir coming up next on the Conquer Local Podcast.
George: James, excited to have you on the show, thanks for joining us from beautiful Salt Lake City today. And you know, I went through the bio in the intro, but I’d love to hear from you, tell us a little bit about your organization.
James: Wow, well there’s two organizations, BPI is Best Practice International and that’s the side most people probably on your show would recognize me from, but I’m also the CRO for a holding company, and I manage a sales team myself. There are 20 of them and they’re busy working away here while we’re doing this interview. So we specialize in e-commerce.
George: Oh, that’s awesome to hear. I love talking to sales experts that do. So we’ve got you on the show and I gotta ask, 95% close rate, two questions. What’s the secret James?
James: That sounds like a pretty bold claim, right? Yeah. Well, actually there’s a study that was done by a company called gong.io. You might know them, they specialize in outbound calling and they analyzed over a million calls, looking for the answer to this question, “what’s the best closing approach?” And after analyzing over a million calls, they determine that the perfect close, which I’m hoping we’ll share with your audience here is hands down the best closing approach and that their top performers are actually doing it about three times per hour, which should suggest to you that it doesn’t get old the more you use it. The other thing I think people would like to hear is that it’s no pressure, it’s no pressure at all. So it’s very comfortable to use.
George: You know, as you can tell, I’m not a spring chicken, and I remember all of the, not all of the sales training that I’ve had because some of it was horrible, but I do remember over the years, you know, okay, here’s the five tricks that can get you a deal across the line, or the most definitive comments that you can make to improve your income and basically all the crap that has to be deprogrammed out of sellers. And I love that you made the comment that it’s no pressure. So let’s unpack that a little bit, why do you believe that it’s no pressure and that’s a good thing, obviously, from what you’re saying?
James: Well, I think if we just share it that your audience will realize that it’s no pressure, but I think a surprising stat is that about 50 to 90% of all sales encounters actually end without anybody asking for a commitment at all. And that’s, to me of like a mind-blowing statistic, I mean, why is that? And if you ask me after, I’ve read every book and I’ve done all this research, what I answer that as, is that most people when they go searching for a way to get a commitment from a customer, they search on the internet and about 99% of what you find on the internet is actually super bad advice. It’s already been tested, it’s been researched out, and in most cases, it’ll actually hurt your chances of getting a sale rather than helping you get your sale. And so the reason that that is, is because we see ourselves trying to use one of these techniques, like an alternate choice close or a yes to that close, there’s a million of these different closes out there. And we instinctively know that every one of those approaches damages trust, right? And we don’t wanna damage trust, what we wanna do is we wanna have long lasting relationships with our customer, right, the last a lifetime. And so since we normally can’t think of a good way to ask for commitment that doesn’t involve damaging trust, most salespeople actually don’t do anything at all. And so that’s why I think that statistic is so high. So when you give folks a way to do it that’s non confrontational, it makes it easier for them to try and it works. And so hopefully we’ll be sharing that with your audience.
George: Yeah. So I love the fact that we set this context behind it, because when I look at it, I’m like, boy, that just makes sense, I can see it in the notes here. So it makes sense.
George: But why I wanted to leave the context in there is, you’re right, the majority of salespeople don’t ask for the business, the majority of the salespeople don’t do proper discovery, the majority of the salespeople are afraid to ask for business because the deal might leave their pipeline. And so there’s all of these fears that we have to overcome. But now when we get you and we’re gonna do drum roll and we’re gonna do it up here, really good and you give us the nuggets, I want people to understand that it really is this simple, and it’s not a bad thing to ask for the commitments. Do you agree with me on that?
James: 100%, right, we’re trying to help, we’re trying to serve a customer. And so the problem is that selling has been so dysfunctional that there’s only one career that has a lower trust factor than salespeople and that’s politicians, that’s it. Where even lawyers are higher than salespeople on that at PSA, right? And so we go into every interaction, basically a suspect. And so we have to overcome that in order to get customers to move forward, but we’re trying to help them for their own good, right? So the best way to think of yourself and selling by the way, it’s not about persuasion, it’s not about manipulation, you’re just facilitating a decision on behalf of the customer that’s in their benefit, it’s a win-win benefit for you and them. And so once you understand that you’re just facilitating, you’re basically a coach and you’re just coaching them to get the outcome that they’re looking for. Once you understand that, there should be no hesitation in asking for any kind of commitment, because everybody wants to have a coach, right, we all love to have a coach to help us get to what we’re going for. And so that’s all we really are.
George: Well, James, when I was prepping for this episode and reading through your material in your book, I knew that you and I would be kindred spirits because I believe everything that you have said to a T when it comes to sales. So here it is, the long-awaited, the two questions that lead to a 95% close rate from our guest, James Muir.
James: Okay, here you go, maybe I should qualify that, ’cause that claim seems so outrageous, when I say 95% successful, what I mean is that you’ll either close it or you’ll get what I call an advance. And I didn’t coin that term by the way. So if you’ve never heard that term before, a man named Neil Rackham who conducted the largest face-to-face study ever conducted had to create this term after all the research that they did, because what he learned is that nine out 10 sales interactions don’t end in a win or lose, that’s not what happens. What happens in nine out of 10 sales interactions is we either get the sale move forward in a little way, right? So instead of getting a big close, like we get a contract, we get an order, nine out of 10 times, it’s moving forward in a little way, or you get what he calls a continuation, which is a situation where the sales doesn’t die, but it doesn’t go anywhere either, right? So he coined these two terms. So using the questions we’re gonna share here in a second, you’ll either get an advance, right, or you’ll actually close your deal every single time you use it, basically. And the first question is very, very simple, now all you’re gonna say, oh, maybe I should say this before you go to any interaction, you should have an idea of what you want the outcome to be. I mean, what do you want to happen, you know, at the end of this call or at the end of this meeting? And you should have an ideal advance, what’s the best outcome? And you should have a couple of alternative advances just in case your ideal advance doesn’t turn out to be realistic for some reason. Okay. So with that prep, you’ll be ready to use the two questions. Okay. And so the first question is just this, it’s, does it make sense for us to X? Okay, does it make sense for us to X or X is your ideal advance. So maybe that’s, does it make sense for us to do an SEO analysis or something like that, right? And so the SEO analysis in that example is the advance that we’re asking for. Now, there’s only two things they can say, right, they’re gonna say, yes, they’re gonna say no. If they say yes, awesome, you just got the advance you need, you don’t even have to use the other question, right? If they say no, then what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna use one of those other two advances that we prepared. Okay. And when we do it this way, it’s called a fallback, but basically, we’re just gonna say, all right, some other clients at this stage do this other thing. Does it make sense for us to do that? Okay. And what we’re doing is, again, we’re not manipulating, we’re just facilitating decision making, it’s especially important, by the way when people don’t make the decision that you’re asking ’em to make very often. Right, if they don’t change who’s doing their marketing very frequently, they don’t really know what a good next step is. So you suggesting a next step isn’t very helpful to them, right? Now, you can fall back multiple times, which is why you have multiple advances prepared. But basically, the last question that you can use, and by the way, you can just go straight to this, so when we say there’s two questions, it’s, does it make sense to X? And then this other thing I’m gonna share with you, which is what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna throw the ball back to them. And all we do to do that is we just ask the customer, okay, well, what do you think is a good next step? And what will happen in 90% of cases is the customer will suggest a very logical next step for where they’re at in their buying process. And customers are always comfortable with their own next steps. Okay. So literally, if you didn’t even use the fallback, right, if you just ask, hey, does it make sense for us to X? And if they can’t come up with anything or say no, and you just say, okay, what do you think is a good next step? You’ll end up with success 90% of the time. And there are other variations of the perfect close that’ll help you shore up that last 5%, but the truth is 90% is an astonishingly high success ratio. Now that doesn’t mean your sale closes immediately, sometimes it is, right, doesn’t make sense for us to sign the paperwork or whatever, but this is the thing that allows the customer to feel like they’re in control, but you’re coaching them along in the process. And so what’ll happen in every one of your encounters is they’ll all be moving towards closure. And so instead of having deals that stall out, and then you’re trying to figure out how to rekindle them, every one of your deals will just be moving forward. And that’s actually what happened to me, I’m actually an accidental salesperson. So I discovered this whole thing by accident.
George: So the thing that I love about this is you are putting the emphasis on the prospect to give you more information so that you can move the deal forward rather than pushing. It’s like, oh, well, if I dropped the price 15%, would you get the thing done? Like, no, let them ask what the next step might be and the next step might be, well, I don’t know if I like the pricing or I don’t know if I need all these features or you’re getting feedback from the customer. And I gotta share this with you, I was at this training years ago with a Xerox sales trainer. And I think that anybody that sells photocopies And that’s what’s on their resume, and then they build a training career is probably pretty good, right? And the trainer was like the deal that I don’t like is when I don’t get an objection. You ask a question and there’s no objection. It’s like presenting to a sphinx. And the reason is, you have nowhere to go. And I think that these two questions also help you with that because you start to see where the prospect is in their journey by these questions.
James: Yeah, it’s actually a very important insight what you just said there, but if you get right down to it, the thing that makes it magic and it’s very easy to be deceived, the questions are so simple, right, to get a, you could get confused about what it’s really doing there, but at its core, does it make sense, is actually a timing question, it’s not even a closing question. Right, you’re just saying is the time right for us to do this thing? And by the way, if that’s more comfortable for you, you can just say that instead, it will work just as well. It’ll work just the same. But, it means that regardless of what they say, you haven’t actually asked them for commitment yet, but they can clearly see the direction that you’re headed. Right, so if they say, yeah, that makes sense, great, let’s get our calendars out and schedule, right, or whatever it is the advance is that you were looking for. And so again, doing it this way, it tells you where the customer is, but if I said, will you meet with me? Or can we do an SEO analysis or whatever it is that our advance is? And you say, no, now you’re back to square one.
George: You stop.
James: Right. Yeah. And so this, what this does is, it puts them, it basically telegraphs what you’re gonna ask before you ask it, and it lets you test to see is the time right for it? And if it is, awesome, you keep moving forward. By the way, instead of falling back, you can add on too, if you want, this is like a bonus tip. If they say, yeah, that makes sense, you can add on the other advances that you’ve prepared. You could say, well, sometimes clients at this stage also do this other thing, should we do that too? And if they say yes, you could do it again. And then what you say at the end of that one, with the fallbacks, you say, what do you think is a good next step? Okay. With the add-on, what you do at the end is you say, are there any other logical steps we should be considering right now? And what that lets the customer do is they can suggest some logical stuff that maybe you didn’t even think of. And me and my team were working with this outfit in Sierra Vista, Arizona. It was a clinic and we were meeting with the CIO and his IT team. And I got my things that’s there listed, right, and I go, well, you know, actually, we didn’t even think we were presenting to the right people by the way on this one. We thought that the right people was the executive team, that’s who was gonna be making the decision, right? So, our advance, our ideal advance was to meet with the executive team. So when it comes time, I say, “hey, well, does it make sense for us to move with your executive team? We can get their input and feedback.” He goes, “yes, that’s a great idea.” I’m like, woo-hoo cha-ching, right. So I just looked at my list, I go, “all right, well, you know, a lot of clients at this stage will have us schedule time for our technical people to talk about the conversion, does it make sense for us to schedule time for our tech people to talk?” He goes, “yes, my guys are super worried about that.” I’m like, wow, okay, cha-ching. Right. And so I, I look at my list, I go, “I think we’ve got everything we need here for like a preliminary proposal, do you want me to put together like a preliminary proposal so you can get a feel for the scope of the project?” He goes, “yes, that would be great.” And I’m like, wow, I’m spent, I’m three for three, right. So I just asked him that last question I just shared with you. And I said, “well, are there any other logical steps we should be considering right now?” And you’ll never believe what this guy said, he looks around like he’s gonna say something secret, right? And he kinda lowers his voice, and he goes, “Well, James, is there any chance I can get a copy of your standard agreement? Because our legal people are kind of slow.” And so good slide, right, it’s a great slide.
George: Great slide.
James: Yeah. So of course, on the outside pulls a cucumber, oh, of course, I’d be happy to get you a copy of our agreement, right, but on the inside, I’m like, yeah, baby, are you kidding me? Of course, I can send you a contract. And so this is the crazy thing about it. And we didn’t even think we were presenting to the right people. So I never even dreamed that sending a contract would emerge as a logical next step for this, but this is the way that this perfect close thing works is if you prepare the advances, then you can either slow down to match the pace of the customer, or you can speed up to match the pace of the customer. And you’ve got these questions at the end that’ll let them take it as far as you want. So obviously the add-ons are the most fun, right, ’cause of the smooth and zen-like fashion, you just keep going on until you’ve matched the pace the customer is ready to go.
George: Well, and the one thing that we hate doing is leaving money on the table. So by adding those add-ons in now, you can actually enhance the deal rather than having to come back and expand it later, or maybe having somebody else that we’re gonna offer those items, right, they might get the deal if you weren’t providing them. So some great learnings there, James and I love how simple it is. And I had not heard the analogy of advances before. So now you got me thinking about how many times did we not get a deal across the line that I didn’t properly prepare my advances.
James: There you go.
George: That’s one of the things I love about hosting this show, I learn something every time when I get to talk to folks like you. Appreciate you joining, and one thing we always love to get our guests to do is if we want more, James, how do we get more James for our listeners?
James: Well, despite my last name being a four-letter word, it’s kinda hard to pronounce sometimes. So the domain, if you wanna go to my website is puremuir.com. It’s p-u-r-e-m-u-i-r.com And if you go to the resources page by the way, right now, there’s a way for you to get “The Perfect Close” book”, which has everything we talked about and a lot more on it, actually at no costs, right? You just pay for the shipping and we we wil send it to you. So that’s an option, but even if they don’t want that, they can sign up for the newsletter and there’s an entire bundle of free resources that they can get at the same time.
George: Our guest this week, James Muir, his mission – to make the complex simple. Thanks for joining us on the Conquer Local Podcast.
George: This staggering statistic, it still shocks me, 50 to 90% of sales calls result in the salesperson not asking for the close. Now, why is that? And James covered a couple of why’s, people don’t wanna damage the trust, they don’t want the confrontation of asking for the business. And also I believe that they don’t want all the work that they went through to get that deal into their pipeline and moving it through the pipeline to end in the deal leaving. So they’re reluctant to ask for the business. So these two very simple questions allow you to move the deal forward without risking some of that damage. And I love it. And they’re so simple. Question one, does it make sense to X? Now you’re gonna have to have a list of what X is and that’s why we need to sit down and map out what our advances are going to be or what our suggested advances are going to be. And we have a chance to fall back or to advance after we ask this question, because if we say, “Does it make sense to X?” And they go, “No, it doesn’t.” There’s a really good chance that they’re gonna give you the reason that it doesn’t, and then you can go back and address that issue. That’s why I drop the comment about the Xerox sales training person, I’ve never forgotten this, the deal that we hate is the one where we don’t get an objection because we have nowhere to go. And that’s what question number one allows us to find out is, where is the temperature? Where is the prospect at in their journey? And then we can ask a follow-on question and that’s all upsell. And I don’t necessarily like upsell because that’s all about us. It’s potential expansion or other problems that we can solve for the prospect. So that’s where people that I have dealt with in the past have also liked to discuss why at this time, or in my last three partnerships that we developed, we worked on Z or Z, if you would like, so we’ve got X, Y, and Z, and you could see that we’re adding on to the deal as we move it forward. And then I love question number two, “What do you think is the next step?” Now, if we ask question number one, as you heard James say, does it make sense to X? And we get an answer that maybe we weren’t expecting, then we can put it back onto them and say, “What do you think is the next step?” And then they usually provide a logical next step in their eyes. And that gives you the ability to mirror the prospect and understand where they are in their journey. If you’d like James episode discussing the best practices in closing a sale, let’s continue the conversation, check out episode 449, “A Mind For Sales” with Mark Hunter, or episode 437, “Every Job is a Sales Job” from Dr. Cindy McGovern. Please subscribe and leave us a review, and thanks for joining us this week on the Conquer Local Podcast. My name is George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you.