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Sales Training - Presumptive Close

By Walter Cherepinsky

What's your social security number? How much money do you have in your bank account? What's your credit card number?

I'm going to take a wild guess and state that you wouldn't be comfortable answering those questions to anyone, particularly a stranger whom you've never met before. Given that no one wants their personal information known, how are you, the salesperson, supposed to acquire such information from people if that's what you need to do to make a sale?

I once worked as a loan officer for a mortgage company. My job was to call people from a lead list and sell them on our special 1.25-percent financing deal. Once in a while, people would call in and ask us about our offer, but 95 percent of the time, I was the one dialing. The list was comprised of people who recently got their credit checked, so while a few were actually interested in refinancing, others weren't even considering it (the credit check may have been for leasing a car or something like that).

The hardest part of the sale was getting personal information from each customer. We needed the social security number so we could run a credit check to determine what sort of deal we could put them in. Without the social security number, the sale couldn't go any further. It seemed like the only thing my boss cared about was whether I obtained the number or not.

So, in order to acquire the social security number, I used a tactic called the Presumptive Close. In other words, I never asked for the social security number; I made it seem like I expected them to give it to me.

Here's what a typical exchange sounded like:

Me: "OK, what's your address?"
Customer: "123 Fake Street."
Me: "How much would you say your house is worth?"
Customer: "$53"
Me: "And your birthdate?"
Customer: "Feb. 29, 1971."
Me: "And your soc?"

There's no easy way of asking that question. If a person is determined not to give that information over the phone, they won't, at least not right away. But there are people who will instantly, and those customers will be more likely to do so if you make it seem like it's no big deal. By saying "and your soc?" it makes the situation seem casual, as if you're a professional who has done this many times before - which is what you should sound like anyway.

This technique works in many facets of life, and it has other uses in sales besides acquiring personal information.

If you've been successful in the world of dating, you know you're not supposed to ask someone out; you're supposed to tell them you're going out. Rather than, "Uh, do you want to, I don't know, go out sometime?" you say "Let's go to the movies tonight" or even "I want to take you out this weekend."

By asking a yes-or-no question, you're giving a person an out. If you tell them something, the natural reaction would be "OK." If someone really doesn't want to do something, they'll say no regardless, but for those unsure of what they want to do, you're much more likely to get a positive response, especially if you seem confident in doing so.

In short, try to limit yes-or-no questions when making a sale. They'll give you their personal information, and once they see that they can trust you, the sale should basically write itself.

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