Ask for the Sale


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I once saw a motivational speaker walk into a crowded room and ask a person in the front row for a dollar. That person, obviously thinking the speaker was going to use that dollar in some kind of example, gave it to him. The speaker then pointed to another person and asked her for a dollar...and she gave it to him. The speaker asked another person, and another person--eventually, everyone in the room had given him a dollar. Then, with his fists full of dollars, he walked back on stage, folded the dollars, put them in his pocket, and said “Thank you very much.” He then began his speech as if nothing had happened.

Of course, everyone in the audience was surprised and then started laughing. He looked around as if he was surprised and asked, "What? What’s so funny?"

Someone from the audience yelled, “You took our money!”

The speaker looked back at the audience with a smug look on his face and said, “That’s right. I did take your money. Actually, I didn’t take it…you gave it to me. And you gave it to me because I asked for it which is the whole point--if you ask for something people will generally give it to you. How many of you ask for the order when you’re selling? How many of you actually ask the prospect to give you the order?”

And that’s the point isn’t it? We try to do everything right. We work hard to make the cold calls, to get appointments, and to get in front of prospects. We practice and polish our pitches and presentations to the point of perfection. We make sure we dress for success and look as professional as we possibly can. In short, we prepare like our world depends on it and then we go in there and give it all we’ve got. Except we fail to ask for the order. We forget or decline to do the one thing we are supposed to do. We don’t ask for the one thing we want…the order.

Why don’t we ask for the order when the right time comes? Why don’t we build up to asking for the order, making it an integral part of our sales presentations? This is a question that continues to puzzle me. It puzzles me because it’s such an obvious part of the sales process. Why is it left out most of the time?

I work with salespeople. I coach them on how to make that sale. When I start working with a salesperson one of the first questions I’ll ask is if they ask for the order--do they ask the prospect if they can have her business? I regret to say that most of the time they will sheepishly admit they do not.

When I query them further they admit that it feels impolite to do so--like they’re asking for a favor or a loan or something. They tell me they are uncomfortable asking for the order as though they have some kind of tacit agreement with the prospect not to put him or her on the spot. It’s as if they feel they will be acting crassly if they cross some kind of imaginary line and ask for the business.

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