Keep Trying; TRIAL CLOSES!

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky

Whenever we’re working with a customer, it’s easy to fall into a habit of merely talking about the product, but never actually “trialing” a close, asking a customer their opinion of the feature/benefit you’ve just shown or explained to them.

Trial Closes are our way of “taking the customer’s temperature” as to where we are in the dialogue.

“Will that work for you?”

“Is that an improvement on what you’re doing now?”

“Does that appeal to you?”

“What do you think of this feature?”

“Where would you put this in your studio?”

“Does this do everything you’re asking for?”

“What else do you need it to do?”

“How soon were you thinking of acquiring?”

Ask questions. Ask for opinions. The answers will lead you to preparing the best solution and the best close.


When customers come into your business, they are looking for something. However, in today’s world of constant distraction, it’s rare that their focus is solely on business. They may be annoyed at the bad traffic, they may be thinking about their lunch appointment, or trying to decide if they are really ready to make a purchasing decision today. They may be thinking about the weather. It’s anyone’s guess, but with smartphones, mental multitasking, and daily stress, don’t kid yourself; the client isn’t always thinking about your product, your business, or you.

attentionHow do we get their attention focused on our business, our product, or you (the sales person)?

In the next paragraph, I’m going to introduce you to a friend named SAM. Sam is an attention-hound. He’s a constant multi-purpose tool that offers up varying methods of getting the client’s attention. Sam can be employed in some form or fashion, no matter what the business may be. Sometimes, using more than one of Sam’s methods may be necessary to maintain the client’s attention.

Meet “SAM:”

S-tartling statement
A-sk a question bearing on a need
M-Mystery Question

N-ews/big N-ames
E-hibit or E-xample


Sam is introduced as a way of grabbing someone’s attention. You’ll find that these methods work outside of sales, too!

STARTLING STATEMENT; This is anything you say, that the customer isn’t expecting. Even in today’s modern world, customers still expect to hear “Can I help you?” or some variant.  Instead, try something along the lines of “How’s your golf game today?” or other personal question relevant to the customer. One sales person I worked with years ago would ask “What’s shakin’?” It worked quite well for his type of personality and style.

ASK A QUESTION, BEARING ON A NEED; This could be as simple as “what brings you in today?” or “Did you need an XYZ for your ZYX? (the client may be carrying a product or part).”

MYSTERY QUESTION OR STATEMENT; This was a tactic of door-to-door salespeople back in the day, yet it’s quite effective in web or personal sales. “If you can guess what I’ve got in my hand, I’ll give it to you,” or some semblance of that statement. Websites frequently use mysterious headlines to grab attention, sometimes known as “Click-bait.” Verbal “click-bait” can be effective, when used in the proper context and situation.

COMPLIMENT; The key word to paying a compliment to a client, is to be SINCERE. Pithy, hollow compliments will have the opposite effect, and you’ll lose your client’s focus before the compliment is finished.

REFERRAL; This is a good one from both angles. Either you’ve been referred by a client, or you’ll reference a client to the new person coming in, ie.; “Jim Marshall mentioned you’d be coming in this morning…” The only thing better is when the client meets us and says “Jim Marshall told me you’d be great for my business.

INSULT; Use this technique ever so carefully. Some clients we know well, and playful banter might be terrific. Some clients have personalities that no matter what, even a playful insult may bother them. Know your client, know their business before using trash-talk. Even if you know the client is a sports fan, be sure that they have a sense of humor about their favorite sports team’s losing streak before you bash the team logo on their ballcap.

NEWS/NAMES; Big news or big names, particularly when it’s relevant to your business, is always a good attention-getter. For example, “Did you hear that Trevor Noah is replacing Jon Steward on the Daily Show?” Or more specifically “Did you hear that Howie Mandel’s new show is being captured on common consumer cameras?” would be a good attention-getter for an electronics or imaging firm.

GIFT; Gifts are common attention-getters. Everyone loves a gift, whether it’s simple trade-show swag or something more personal or involved.

EXHIBIT/EXAMPLE; Some manufacturers have products cut in half to show their inner workings, or an example of component integrity. Or, perhaps there is an exhibit of a product being used in an environment. Both work well as conversation-starters and attention-getters.

SERVICE; This is easily the most powerful attention-getter there is. People love service. Frequently, clients or customers will chose service over product quality (depending on the industry). For example, I frequent a restaurant not because the food is amazing, but rather because the waiters all recognize me, refer to me by name, and make me feel incredibly welcome when I walk through their door.

SAM is a great tool for remembering and implementing attention-getting with clients, and getting them focused on our product/sales presentation and how we can best provide solutions to their problems or challenges. Getting their attention is the first step in the sales process.

valueFrequently, customers phone in versus coming into your store, asking for a price quote on a particular item. Too frequently, a salesperson will respond with “We have those for $XXX.XX,” and this ends the conversation. The customer may (and likely will) have further questions, yet we’ve already affixed the price firmly in their mind.

I submit you NEVER END IN PRICE when asked about a price over the phone, in person, or via email!

When someone asks for a price on a product, they’re asking “how much is this going to cost me?”

What we’d like to do is to affix the VALUE of their purchase vs the COST. ROI, or “return on investment” is an indicator of what someone gets for the amount of cost or effort they put into owning or doing something.

VISA keys in on this well with their ads of “PRICELESS.”

A successful man treats his elderly parents to a wonderful vacation, and watches them reliving childhood fun.

  • Business class tickets: $7000.00
  • Luxury car rental: $500
  • Amusement park tickets: $300.00
  • Watching your parents become children again: PRICELESS!

We too, can build this same value, even in a short phone conversation with a customer calling around to get pricing.


Let’s imagine being a photo retailer with a customer calling for a price on a MeFoto RoadTrip tripod.
He asks for a price on the tripod.
We could answer “Those are 199.99.” And that’s what most sales people would do.

However, we can also respond with “We’ve got those on sale for $199.99, and that includes a Cordura carry bag, a mounting shoe, and spike adapters. Would you like me to pull one aside for you?”

Even if it’s a simple thing, such as a price quote on a lens: “The lens is 699.99, and we have it in stock. It comes with the lens cover, carry bag,  and end cap, but does not come with the bulletproof warranty. You’ll probably want that for a lens as nice as this one.”

Three things happen in the above paragraphs.

  • First, we’ve offered a price.
  • Second, we’ve increased the perceived value of the product by highlighting what the customer is getting for the price/cost.
  • Third, we’ve closed them.

roi-awardIt’s quite possible that one of three conversations occur after you’ve quoted a price in this manner.

  • They’ll tell us we’re too high (which then gives us the chance to discuss the price, and/or use the “If I Can” Close.
  • The customer will ask more questions (questions are awesome, they allow us to gather and share more information, making the sale more likely).
  • They’ll simply say “yes.” And then we’re asking when they’ll be in to pick it up, or would they prefer us to ship it to them?

Either way, it’s a win/win when we’re having a dialog with our customers. We can further increase the value by pointing out they’ll likely want a second shoe for a second camera, making it easier to switch cameras. We likely will also have the opportunity to actually sell, vs merely answering a phone and hoping for a sale.


We provide services to many people, every day.
These people have choices. Customers/Clients have more choices today than ever before. That they’ve chosen your company, is reason enough  to be grateful for their patronage and opportunity to serve them.

EVERY invoice should be followed up with a thank you, within 3-4 days.  

We can thank customers for the opportunity they’ve given us to provide a quote. These sorts of “thank yous” should follow within 3-4 days (at most).

We can thank customers for the opportunity to generate an order, and use the opportunity to let them know we’ll be keeping them informed of an order status. Order communications should happen every 5-7 days.

With this in mind, I’d like to offer up some sample templates for email to customers. Of course, we expect each sales person to adapt these templates to each customer/situation for best fit.


“Dear Mrs/Ms/Mr/Dr (use the appropriate name or title), Thank you for your recent purchase of _____________.

I want you to know how much we enjoy serving your imaging needs and consider you a special customer. Of course we appreciate your orders, but we also appreciate the positive lift we get from your visits.
We look forward to the next opportunity to serve you.”


Hi (first name, or appropriate name),
I wanted to congratulate and thank you for your recent purchase of _________________. I’m sure you’re going to be thrilled with the (whatever product you offer) you create with it.  Would you like me to stay in contact with you regarding (hardware updates, software updates, new add-ons) for your _____________?
Thank you for choosing (Company name_!
Hello (Customer), 
Congratulations on your purchase of _________ from  (store name/location). We’re grateful that you chose us as your supplier for your (whatever product you offer) needs. We’re always here to offer advice or information regarding your new _________ or anything else related to creating great images. 
I’ve attached a pdf copy of your invoice for your convenience.


(Customer name),

Thank you for trusting us to be your source for top quality (whatever product you offer)  products in (your location). We appreciate your kind expressions of appreciation, and are especially grateful for the recent purchase of ______________. You’ve chosen a terrific product for __________ and we’re sure you’ll be pleased.

Thank you for choosing (company name) for your (whatever product you offer) needs. We look forward to hearing more your successes with the ___________.

A “thank you” letter sends a message that you are both considerate and professional. This goes a long way to supporting the positive impression you’ve given your customer/client when they’ve purchased or requested a quote/proposal from you or your company.


If possible, address your letter to a specific person
Avoid addressing a thank-you letter just to the company or organization in general.

Be sincere
Would YOU appreciate an insincere “thank you” (or any other communication)?

Make your letter stand out
Be creative. Be specific and include details from the event or experience.

End the letter on a positive note
Closing depends on the type of thank-you letter. For example, you may:
Restate your gratitude, or suggest a possible future opportunity. Perhaps ask if it’s acceptable for you to stay in touch. Remember, asking a question is the best way to assure a response, right?

Close with either an expression of thanks or an indication of your intention to continue contact.


Have you yet wearied of sales people asking you, the sales manager, to discount a price with no specific reasoning behind the request? Are margins slipping?


“I had to cut the price to get the order”. I hear this from client’s sales teams all the time. Rather than actually selling, they’re clerking by offering discounts. If you’re discounting, there should be a reason. Yet many of them start with quoting a price, and then suggesting “Let me see what kind of discount I can get for you.”




Read this paraphrased poem from 19th century (think about that, 19th century) writer, John Ruskin herein titled, “What Is Price?”

“It is unwise to pay too much but,
It is unwise to pay too little.
When you pay too much you lose a little money – that is all.
When you pay too little you lose everything – because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing you bought it to do.
…If you deal with the lowest bidder it is well to add something for the risk you run.
And if you do that…
You will have enough to pay for something better.”

Is this 19th century quote still valid? Not sure?

Of course it is!

Ask yourself, what is your value proposition and are your customers willing to pay for it? If not, why?

Remember: In the absence of perceived value, the determining factor is…price.

Your value to your customers is your knowledge and ability to serve them like no one else.  You (hopefully) have a brilliant sales team, people who have forgotten more about your products and craft than most of your customers will ever learn. People that WANT to succeed while looking out for the customer/client’s best interests.

You’re able to provide complete, total solutions when customers or clients come in asking for a specific piece of the solution, perhaps thinking “that’s all I need to fix ______” More often than not, even the most informed customer/client doesn’t know what they don’t know. It’s the salesperson’s job to remedy this lack of information, even if it means the customer doesn’t purchase from your company.

If you’re honest and compelled to provide ‘all the right stuff’ to your customers so that they don’t find themselves out on projects missing parts, extra batteries, all the accessories to make the project, activity, endeavor purr, swing, hum, or fly right, that will not only make them happy, but let them know you care for them, their project, and want to be their total solutions provider.


Every time a customer comes to you, they’re taking a risk.

Making a purchase is taking a risk. How big the risk is determined by price, but more importantly the value of the purchase should outshine the cost, and our salesteam is the vehicle through which that happens. Take in point, a recent customer I’d talked down after a terrible experience with a retailer. She walked into a retailer asking for a “complete system, ready to use, out of the box. She bought a camera system, expecting to shoot near professional-grade images of her family over the weekend. The “complete system was quite expensive, and she was thrilled to have a system ready to roll when she unboxed it all. The customer paid a high price, but didn’t care much about the price; the focus was on what the purchase was going to allow her to do.

Unfortunately, the retailer failed to provide her with the key to the product she purchased; she needed a memory card for her several thousands of dollar camera purchase! Imagine buying a car, and not receiving the keys, and the dealership is closed. Not a good situation.

The retailer failed to meet her particular need, reducing the value of the purchase. Because of a missing 35.00 memory card, her perceived value wasn’t there, and she wanted to return the product. Had the retailer provided the card as part of her “total solution,” price never would have mattered. She bought from from the retailer because she valued their expertise, trustworthiness, and history. For the want of a $35.00 memory card (less than 2% of her overall purchase, the customer was lost.

Rarely do customers think about the overall price more than they think of the value of whatever they’re purchasing. This is easily set aside by suggesting “We’ve got quite a pile of gear here. Thankfully the cost you spent will be forgotten when you’re out making great images with it. Great photography is all about the image, and (list a few items here) the tripod, monitor, wireless system, lights…all of these things together…you’ll be glad you have them with you instead of wishing you did when that great shot is right in front of you.”

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten”

Truly, consumers around the world put perceived value over price, as price is quickly forgotten while the value lives on. Ask yourself how often you think about the price you paid for a favorite thing in your life such as a motorcycle, piece of jewelry, a warm coat, or other favored product/item?

I’ll bet it’s not very often, if at all.

If price over value mattered, how many of us are driving used Yugo’s, watching television on an old 8″ black and white television, using flip phones, or searching Craigslist for an old DV camera?

Likely, none of us.

Few of us make our purchasing decisions based on price so why expect that our customers do?

So how do we go about reducing the perceived “risk?”

1. Build solid, deep relationships with the customer. Relationships mitigate risk. The greater the relationship, the lower the perceived risk. That’s why the salesman with the longer relationship almost always has the benefit of the doubt in a competitive situation. Its not the price – its the risk. Ask any B2B salesperson why they are successful; they’ll likely tell you it’s because the client knows them, trusts them, and knows they’ll take care of them. It’s entirely about building that relationship.

2. Use of third party recommendations, other customer purchases, case studies and testimonials.
All of these say to the customer that someone else, or lots of “someone elses,” have used the product. That means its less risk for your customer to purchase.

3. Try to get our customer as physically involved with the product as possible. For example, if you’re selling a piece of equipment, try to get the customer to trial the equipment, or at least visit somewhere its being used. The more your customer can see and feel the actual thing, the less risk  to them. Remember our “try before you buy” policy.

If you’re not selling extended service plans, for example, it may well be that you’re making decisions about the customer’s perception of risk.  Remove that preconception from your mind, recognize the customer’s risk is truly elevated WITHOUT the service plan.  Imagine that customer coming back in two weeks, angry because their tripod fell over and they now have a useless piece of gear, simply because we failed to reduce their risk by providing them a Service Plan/secondary warranty? Certainly, you don’t want to be “that person” that didn’t consider the best complete solution for the customer, and provide (or attempt to provide) every component to assure their success!

Reduce the risk of purchase by putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. “What would I want if I were out on this adventure, starting from scratch?” Providing the customer with everything they need, giving them security in their purchase, feeling great about their relationship with you; you’ll have life-time, loyal, and happy customers/clients.


Too often, we find ourselves managing our sales, vs making sales.

A significant part of a salesperson’s role is to seek out new customers, bring them in to our world, and help identify, suggest, and service a customer or client’s need. A good sales person is able to provide a complete solution.

Part of this is doing our due diligence for customers/clients, and finding the specific tools they’ll need in order to be successful with the products we provide for them.

As we seek these solutions, we’re constantly quoting, building opportunities for future sales. It’s a great opportunity to practice trial closes. Rather than actually asking the customer to buy, ask “May I get you a quote on that?” 

These quotes become liquid in the pipeline. Whether they come to fruition or not is dependent on how you manage your quotes and orders, communicating and asking questions at regular intervals with your customers.

At the end of the day, the standard rule of thumb is that for every four quotes written, one sale completes. So if the goal is to generate $100K in sales, we need to quote $400K to assure we reach our goal.

What if customers aren’t coming to you?

Then you go to the customer. Find them in your CRM system, lead systems, Facebook, LinkedIn. Find them at Meetups,  hobby gatherings…seek out new life, and new customer-nations…

There never has been an easier time to find and fill the pipeline, but it does still require work.

Fill your pipeline by quoting often (you’ll need to close to do this). Build your business for your next week, next month, next year by
You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results of a filled pipeline.

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