October Field Lessons: Learning to Close

field notesI am big believer in and doer of field trips.  As a person who constantly needs exposure to new ideas and inspiration to better help my clients, and get ideas for speeches and posts, field trips are the best muse, and a requirement for business development.  With so much on my plate lately, I’ve been a little remiss in this valued activity.

A friend of mine had a great idea recently: let’s go to the Chamber of Commerce’s Customer Expo in another city and state, and act like pure consumers for every business that’s present.  The goal was to id how the businesses there qualify me as a viable lead, how they sell to me, and how they close.  (I will be utterly transparent here, closing is /was a big problem for me, and I am working on a new process to help people with the same problem – learning to close).  Truly the ultimate goal was to learn tips and techniques to help my sales and closing techniques.  Let’s face it, everyone can still use some polish in learning to close. But the outcome happened was completely different than expected.

The Results:

The Chamber did a great job ‘selling’ businesses on the importance of having a table at the expo, but oversold the attendance and value to the businesses.  They fell down on their job promoting the event and its value to the appropriate consumers. I believe they felt as if simply putting up a sign and piggy backing off another huge event in town would work.  People – specifically your target market –  are getting way too smart for that.  The Chamber didn’t promote enough to convey all the benefits.  So here were all these businesses who paid for a table, but didn’t get the necessary foot traffic to cover the expense.

One would think though, that these businesses would then be in ‘hyper-sales’ mode, working their best ‘close the deal’ tricks, and getting people to sign up for their lists. Doing that would have garnered extreme lessons and tips / techniques for me & others, but that was not the case.

It seemed people went into the ‘this day is waste’ mode.  Not many businesses went into the ‘pull you in mode’.  There was even one business owner who said nothing as we went by, but sat in front of her table, doing her best seated Vana White interpretation in front of her display.  The person behind the table was clearly tired or hung over or ill, and put her head on the table.  One could probably assume 2 things: these were rented employees or help – not owners, and they didn’t really sell much or acquire any leads all day. (pssst: ‘call me mr. tub renovation guy’).

There was another larger business which capitalized on the give away wheel (after 3 losing tries, they gave me an ice scraper – which I actually needed) and handing out information.  The info I got about that bank was because I asked, especially to my question, why should I do business with you / what makes you different?

Only one business engaged me with basic conversation, and then told me about their products. I must admit, they did a smooth job. And did come right out asking me qualifying lead questions.

Only one business actually shared valuable info, and after qualifying me & determining I wasn’t in their market, offered info to help me find what I needed and to help my situation, by offering to connect with other people that could. We even shared a brief rant about Zillow.  I’m keeping this business’s  info and referring people I know who fit their demographic.  I’ve talked about these people 3 times this week. So while they didn’t close me, in exchange for sharing valuable info with me, they received a few warm leads. Not a bad deal. This business was actually the only one who asked me to sign up for their list, and personally took the paper and wrote notes on it.

The remaining 20 businesses did not qualify me, did not promote benefits, did not try to close me.  Seems like more of us than not have problems with valuing our services, being able to communicate the real value of those services, and then following up with a close. Hmmm – could that be why so many businesses fail within the 1st 3 years, and so many emerging speakers never get off the ground?

We here at the Bureau hope to help all of you with that.

The Key takeaways from this field trip:

1. Never rely solely on the promoter of an event, that they will actually do their job.  Do some Due Diligence ahead of time and ask them for specifics of their efforts.  Use some back up insurance and do some promotion of your own. Even be so bold as to suggest some risk insurance:  If at least ### (pick a reasonable number) visitors do not come to the event, I require at least half or all of my entry fee back. They may not say yes, but at least it opens the door for conversation and gets them thinking & holds them accountable.

2. Always be learning.  If you encounter an event like this, use it to learn / practice a new technique, meet some new people, look for other opportunities.

3. At the very least, engage people in some basic, non sales conversation to create a connection.  Look for something in common. Goal here is not to sell, it’s to warm people up to you that you are not a snake oil salesman.

4. Work on finding a hook that entice people to take your information, but more importantly, to leave theirs.

5. Take some time before the event to focus on your target market, find a niche that you truly connect with (mom’s with 2+ kids between the ages 0 & 4; young professional women between the ages of 27 and 35 with no children; stay at home dads who secretly play fantasy football, etc).  Focus only on this group, speaking their language, understanding and having solutions for their specific pains and needs etc. Make sure to actively reach out to this group only at the event – the rest is just bonus.

6. Set specific goals (not too high in the beginning) on how many people you want to meet, how many signups you want to get, how many people you want to start a relationship with, etc.  Set some value add for the customer goals too – “I want to surprise at least 3 people that are my target, but a hard sell, with something unexpected (a referral, some insider info, a free book or cd or sample product)”.


Here’s my challenge to you, to experience the value of a field trip and practice the Field Lessons in this post.

The Taste of the Boathouse event is coming up Oct. 22nd.  It is where I am trying to secure as a location for some of our SB events / summits, in addition to the Conference Center at BCC.  More info on the event can be found here:  http://venue.camdencountyboathouse.com/taste-of-the-boathouse-2013).  Free food and networking with event planners and corporate professionals seems like a no brainer, but is also something you may not typically attend.

As a speaker, and for me as Chair of the Bureau, these are people we need to know and have in our rolodex, both from having venues to do events at and for beginning to establish relationships with people who could eventually hire you.  In order to do connect & get these people into the active section of our rolodex, we need to have our elevator speeches and 10 second commercials DOWN PAT! For people who don’t have those nailed down, now’s the time to start developing and practicing!  Add your 10 second commercials and elevator pitches below, and let’s help each other build the strength of our messages.

In addition, attend a new networking event in the next 30 days – not for connecting and selling yourself, but as a field test to see what others are doing, and note the good, the bad, the ugly, and use those lessons for yourself and share with the others here.

Many of us have issues with closing because it’s something very uncomfortable, many of us hate ‘imposing’ (among many other reasons for the hatred & uncomfortableness of it all).  Others despise closing because it seems so final.  How about we look at as the ‘Opening’ – the ability to open up the possibilities of this relationship and getting our product and services (& speeches) out there to the people that need them and who will use them – making their lives better, easier, faster, more profitable. Whatever  technique works to make you open up your pipeline….

The takeaway:  Get out there, use the power of field trips! You’ll have fun, while learning in the process.  And you will also get to meet some really terrific people!  (Who knows, you may even score a hot lead or client! And that’s always a welcome bonus.)

Leave your tips, techniques, and lessons below – along with those 10 second commercials / pitch lines!

To your Speaking Success,

I’m Rae-Ann, and yes you can!


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2 Responses to “October Field Lessons: Learning to Close”

  1. Tom
    October 7, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    While most of us have a propensity to avoid ‘the close’ due to fear, it is the very activity that empowers us to create positive change for others, to move our business forward, to fulfill one’s goals.

    There is an old saying, “Close early. Close often”. Why close early? A seasoned salesperson understands that there is a point where you can talk someone out of the deal. Yes, speaking too much can blow it! Asking for a commitment early helps you to gauge their interest, as well as, brings out their objections. Ah, the point of closing often – remove their fears and objections until they are able to buy with full confidence.

    If you offer a valuable product or service, you have a right and an obligation to sell it. If your speach will help those that hear it, then you need to close with the same confidence and passion that accompanies your speech!

    Your words set you apart… use them wisely.

    • Rae-Ann Ruszkowski
      October 7, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

      Tom – Thanks for this input. You are spot on. While I am not skilled at the close early part, and originally disagreed with that message – I completely get it – because to close early, you need to be crystal clear on your selling proposition, and those hooks to ‘lure’ someone into the benefits. It requires you to be confident in yourself & your product or service. Love this: “If your speech will help those that hear it, then you need to close with the same confidence and passion that accompanies your speech”. Our words are what set us apart, and define us. Great advice – thanks.