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Tips on Selling

Taking a questioning approach can be an effective sales technique.
Taking a questioning approach can be an effective sales technique.

How to close the sale by asking the tough questions

GREG GLADMAN provides a script to help retail staff successfully navigate the situation when they are confronted with customers’ well-known sales roadblocks.

Retail can be challenging – and the higher the price of the item, higher the probability the customer will talk themselves out of the purchase.

Every salesperson has heard a customer say, “I need to think it over” and watched them leave the store empty-handed, never to return. So, how can they overcome this sales ‘roadblock’?

Excuses, excuses

Customers buy based on emotion and justify the purchase with logic.

For example, if there is a 50 per cent-off sale and they love the piece of jewellery, the emotional part of their brain convinces the logical part to make the purchase because of how much money they will ‘save’ if they buy it now, while it’s discounted.

In jewellery retail, the emotional connection to the product is particularly high – and yet the customer still frequently walks out of the store without the item they desire.

One of the most common excuses for a lack of purchase, as told to jewellery sales staff, is that the customer needs to think it over.

Other variations of this include that they need to get their partner’s permission to buy the item, that it costs more than they budgeted to spend, or that it’s not exactly what they are looking for and they will return to buy it once they have looked around other stores.

Sometimes these excuses are the truth and other times fiction; the key is to find out if the customer can be convinced to make the purchase today, or if they are likely to make the purchase when followed up.

Put simply, is the excuse genuine, or is it simply a way to end the sales conversation completely?

A good start
“Sometimes these excuses are the truth and other times fiction; the key is to find out if the customer can be convinced to make the purchase today.”

The sales process starts with a greeting when the customer first enters the store, when the salesperson begins to build rapport and trust. This influences their ability to ask tough questions later.

Once trust and rapport have been established, it becomes natural to ask the customer about their budget and to get a feel for why they want a specific item.

Next, the salesperson needs to understand the customer’s buying criteria – that is, the most important factor needed for them to actually make a purchase.

The salesperson must build tension or emotion around the purchase – for example, the fear of missing out or the pleasure of having an item they have always wanted – and find a piece of jewellery that fits their criteria.

At this point, the customer may say, “I need to think it over,” which puts the salesperson in a good position to respond by asking the tough questions.

To know, just ask

The salesperson should start by acknowledging the customer’s statement, saying, “I understand that when you are looking to purchase an amazing piece like this, there is a tendency to think it over.”

Then, they should ask the first tough question: “To help me understand, what specifically do you need to think over that has stopped you from buying today?”

Let’s say the response is, “It is just a little bit more that I have to spend,” the salesperson can counter with the next question: “If this was under your budget, is there anything else that would stop you from making this purchase today?”

Usually, a customer will say that there is no other reason.

The salesperson can then respond with the third question: “What is your budget that you can commit to spending today?” allowing the customer time to respond with a numeric figure.

They can then follow up with the final question: “If we could find a way to help you come under that budget, could you make the purchase today?”

This type of ‘presumptive close’ takes away any other objections, and provided that the salesperson can either make the sale at the slightly lower price or provide a financing option, the sale can be closed.

Alternatively, if the customer is still not prepared to make the purchase, the salesperson can try one last tactic – gaining a commitment to follow up later that day or the next day, via phone or email.

Many high-performing jewellery salespeople have mastered this technique of ‘re-engagement’ – giving themselves another opportunity to close the sale.

However, if the customer won’t make this commitment, the salesperson is then free to focus their energy on other customers.

As a retailer, it’s important to equip your sales team with the knowledge and ability to overcome the “think it over” barrier by asking the tough questions.




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Greg Gladman

Contributor • 

Greg Gladman is CEO of Objective Assessment and founder of Sales & Leadership Performance, an Australian sales development organisation focused on customised transformation programs. Visit:

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