Don’t you hate when you run ads, get the call, set the appointment, run the lead, price the job, and present the offer, but your prospect needs to “think about it”? Egads. No close, no sale.

In your mind (and this “projection” is another problem altogether), they’re doing all that “thinking” while dialing up competitors and/or their drooling, semi-employed brother-in-law with a pipe wrench.

Okay, so maybe I need to lay off the double espresso just before bed — or maybe I need counseling. But something has really been bothering me lately: Doors.

See, all your marketing efforts are “doors” into your business. The questions are, how many do you have, what shape are they in, and how easy and inviting are they to enter?

Some plumbing companies are content with a shabby “door” represented by an ill-designed Yellow Page ad; others have dozens of well-designed ones generating calls, referrals and appointments in a steady stream.


Set yourself up for success

But no matter how many doors you have, it doesn’t matter if you don’t turn those who enter into sales. You let them in, close the deal and lock them in as repeat customers. Fine and dandy, but two things can go wrong here. If you’re not closing the sale, you’re sending these costly prospects elsewhere. Secondly, if you’re not locking the door behind the closed sales, you’re leaving paying customers vulnerable to even more loss.

There are three parts of a sales visit: the presentation, the proposal and the close. The presentation sets up the others and vastly improves your closing ratio, but it’s at the close that even great presenters get jittery.

Let’s take ‘em in order:

1) The Presentation is when you gather the info you’ll need to close. This is generally done with a “Home Energy Survey” (do not ever call it an estimate!). The answers to specific upgrade and price questions are handled here.

Advised for service calls: Present a “green sheet” of your services, products, pricing disclosures, and guarantees on one sheet of paper. This credibility-builder is something your competition is not doing (differentiation), or they use a slick brochure clearly from a manufacturer. Yawn.

Hand the Green Sheet to each new customer or service call, saying, “These are just a few of the reasons that we’re glad you chose us, and hopefully you will be, too!” Better yet, include a small gift bag with a pen, mints, refrigerator magnet, coupon for their next service call, and more. The total cost for Green Sheet and Gift bag is around $4, but the cost of not using it? Senseless.

Advised for higher-ticket upgrades: Provide a presentation binder, which allays fears by making comparisons to other products and even competitors (yes, I said competitors — this is the most effective way to overcome shopping and build your credibility). Likewise, you’ll have testimonials, guarantees, installation photos and more in this binder. You should also include all of these on your website, too. This gives your customers the ability to close themselves.

2) The Proposal is where you reframe the prospect’s exact answers and put them on your proposal form. Your form had better be like a sales script and not some generic form that only you can follow. Fill it with guarantees, benefits and comfort statements.

Advised for service calls: Show two prices — one with an agreement (yes, for plumbing contractors), and one without.

Advised for higher-ticket upgrades: Show the prospect a “good, better, best” approach to pricing for the higher-ticket items.

Then you go right into:

3) The Close. If you’ve done your presentation properly, you eliminated the objections on “thinking about it,” “the price is too high,” and “our air conditioner is fine,” so the close is natural.

Closing is not an isolated step in the selling process. It is the natural conclusion to what has already occurred. Still, it’s this last part that sends techs or designated salespeople into confusion. 


What you should—and shouldn’t—say to close a sale

The language of sales is one in which complex thoughts are simplified. Vexing decisions are reduced to their obvious conclusions. Lack of clarity becomes crystal clear.

This language contains words and phrases capable of stirring emotion, stifling indecision, conveying agreement and convincing even the most adamant prospect. Words are powerful.

Be aware of the words you use. Be aware of the reactions you cause. Are they positive or negative? What facial expressions are reactions to your language?

Here are a few examples.

Do not use the word “Contract.” Use “Agreement” or “Proposal.”

“Contract” is a traditional sales word that is seen as very formal or potentially destructive to the customer. The replacement word, “agreement,” involves the customer or another person. The customer feels better because he is agreeing with you. “Proposal” implies that the consumer makes the ultimate decision.

Do not say “I need your signature here” or “Sign this here” — instead, say, “Please okay this here,” or “Please okay this and date it.”

You want to make the consumer feel like he has power. It is, after all, his decision. The latter two phrases present the task simply and with much less formality. “Signing” is often associated with “Signing away something.” “Okaying” is much more like “Agreeing.”

Do not say “Buy” or “Spend” when you can say “Invest.”

“Buy and spend” infer that they are giving something up that may not come back; “investment” implies a return. You can also refer to something as a “good investment” or as “getting a good return on this investment.”

Your words can be like music when said pleasantly and with encouragement.

When you close a sale, you have moved systematically towards that close in “small incremental steps” that have gotten agreement, or been acknowledged as “okay” with the prospect.