Ask SUCCESS: What’s the Best Way to Close the Sale?

Ask SUCCESS is your place to get questions answered on how to market more effectively. In each issue, marketing expert Bob Serling is joined by another expert to answer your questions. Have a question you’d like answered? Just email it to [email protected]

Today’s question, submitted by Gopolang Themba, is: Once I have my prospect's attention, what is the best way to close the sale and get them to buy?

Bob Serling: Perry, I've always highly respected your entire process, starting from the beginning of getting the prospect’s attention and then shepherding them through the sales process. So please take it away.

Perry Marshall: Thanks! Getting attention versus actually getting a sale was always the hardest thing that I traditionally struggled with as a salesperson, especially when I got started. I have a method that I use to sort things out. The starting point of all of this is the 80/20 principle.

80/20 says that 80% of your results are going to come from only 20% of what you do, and 20% of your results will come from 80% of what you do, which means that 80% of what you're doing is really kind of a waste of time. 20% of what you're doing is gold.

The first thing that you need to understand about 80/20, is that it applies to just about everything that you can count or measure. Most specifically, it applies to which people will buy and which ones won't and how much they'll spend when they do. Let's start right there.

Bob: Perfect.

Perry: If I have the attention of 100 people, I don't even have a chance of selling 80% of them anything at all. Probably only 20% of them have any likelihood of giving me money.

It really helps to know that so that when you're completely new, you don't think you're an idiot because you tried to sell something to ten people and only two of them bought it. That might have been really good.

The next thing, the very next thing to understand about 80/20, is that you can peel off the bottom 80% and 80/20 still applies to that top 20%. We peel off all of the disinterested people and we're only looking at the 20% who are even interested. And it's only 20% of them that are actually likely to do something anytime soon. Now, we're down to 4%. Let's say that those 4% buy.

Well, only 20% of those will spend a lot of money or buy the deluxe version or get super involved or be raving fans. That's basically 1%. The whole lay of the land is you get your 100. You start with 100, 80 don't even matter, you've got 20 left. Those are only somewhat interested, only 4 of them are super interested and only 1 is going to be a raving fan.

Bob: Wow, that’s very interesting and sobering at the same time.

Perry: That is the math. Now, the good news is that if you get 100 to buy, one of them is not just going to be a raving fan. They might camp outside three days before the concert and climb on top of the tour bus so they could get a closer look at you. There's an upside to it. This is the basic math of Sales 101.

Where it gets interesting is when you start applying this to why people buy and what itches that they have to scratch.If you take your twenty interested people, you're probably going to find that the one who actually bought was the person who had an itch that you could scratch, that nobody else could scratch.

In other words, your unique selling proposition matched up to his need perfectly. It sure is a lot easier to sell somebody something when you figure out what they need and what they want and then you make it or put it together for them, compared to making something and then going, "Well, who might I be able to find to buy this?" This is where asking some questions up front with some good market research will save you gallons of tears.

So let's take this home. There are three questions that you can ask a group of people who might be interested in buying something to find out what they actually would buy. The first question is, "What is your biggest question or issue about problem X?"

So, if you sell drills, their problem is holes. It's not, "What is your biggest question about drills?" It's really, "What's your biggest question about making holes?" If you ask all twenty people that question, you're going to get some kind of an answer.

The next question is, "How hard has it been for you to find a way to solve this problem of making holes?" Is it "not very hard" or is it "kind of hard" or is it "very hard?"

The only answers that really matter are when people say, "It's been really hard. I’ve been trying to solve this problem. I can’t solve this problem for the life of me. I’m beside myself. I would do anything to solve this problem." If somebody says, "Well, you know, it's doable. It's okay. I can live with it." or "Well, there's a workaround." or "Well, there's this drill all the other guys sell. It's not great, but it'll do the job." That person is not your customer.

The third question is, "What caused you to try to make a hole today?" They're going to tell you a story. If you design your product to solve the first question, you've got your unique selling proposition in place. If you design your elevator pitch to answer the second question of "What led to this product?" and "How did all come to be?", then you have your sales pitch and there you go. That's how you're going to find the one person or the twenty people or whoever many are actually going to give you money.

Bob: That's great advice, Perry. So, let me just add a little to that. What you've just done, in a very short period of time, is lay out a rock solid strategy for converting prospects to customers and the hard reality of it, which I think is really important for people to understand.

The piece I'll add on is about the tactical side of this. It really ties into those three questions, and there are three points to the tactical side as well.

The first point directly ties into what you just said about the three questions. So the first point is that you cannot sell anything to anybody who doesn't have a strong interest in it. A lot of people believe that you can invent interest, but that does not work.

Secondly, if at all possible, (and this isn't mandatory),but in most cases, if it's something that they're also passionate about, that's even better. Now, somebody may not be passionate about getting the right accounting solution the same way they'd be passionate about catching the biggest bass in the lake. But they still have a burning need for getting it done properly.

The third piece of the tactical approach that I think most marketers miss is that if you can somehow get your prospect to experience the result you’re offering, and experience that in advance, then making the sale is much easier.

Let me give you a specific example. I used to have a program that taught consultants how to be licensing consultants and to license marketing campaigns to their clients. Whereas most consultants would just sell their services on an hourly rate and they would reinvent the wheel and create a new campaign from the beginning, this gave them pre-done campaigns that they could customize over and over again, across many different markets. So it eliminated the need for developing new marketing and allowed them to take it to market immediately.

It sounded great and it was easy to build a good case for it. However, that case is primarily logical. It does stir the prospect’s emotions somewhat, but it's still primarily a logical argument. What I did to overcome this was to embed into the sales letter an actual technique and actual example that they could freely apply right away and make money with. Even make enough money to pay for the program.

The best part was not a lot of people needed to actually do it. The few that did got great results and were elated and immediately reported back the results they produced. I then sent out a message to everyone who had not bought and said, "Hey, you know that technique I showed you? Here are four people that used it. Here are the results they got. I promised you could accomplish this in just two days and these folks did. You may want to take another look at the program."

Each time that occurred, we'd get additional waves of results and we'd just keep dripping the news of the results to the prospects. So this tactic gave prospects the ability to actually experience real results ahead of making the purchase and say, "That's very different than having the prospect think, "Yes, this sounds good, but what if I can't do it and I wait 32 days but it's a 30-day guarantee period? Then I'm out the money."

So if at all possible, if you can tie these three tactical components together–that interest, the passion and giving them the experience in advance it makes it a lot easier to turn that prospect into a paying customer.

Perry: Interest, passion, experience. That's right. I think 20% of the people who have interest will have passion. 20% of the people that have passion will engage in an experience. I think you've got an excellent chance of getting their money.

Bob: Well, I’m the world's worst mathematician but even I can understand that. I couldn't agree with you more.

Bob Serling helps business owners and entrepreneurs generate more traffic, make more sales, and do both more often. Get his free ebook of interviews with 30 leading experts, including Success publisher, Darren Hardy, at

Perry Marshall's Chicago company, Perry S. Marshall & Associates, consults both online and brick-and-mortar companies on generating sales leads, web traffic, and maximizing advertising results. Get a preview of Perry's forthcoming book and a Free Action Guide: Make More By Working Less: Harness the Explosive Potential of 80/20 at


Bob Serling is the founder of Profit Alchemy. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs increase their profits with no cost and no risk. Get his free eBook to discover 42 no-cost, no-risk ways to double your profits at

Leave a Comment