Did ‘Closing’ Become A Bad Word?
Closing a sale is nothing more that leading the process to a conclusion.
It’s laying all the groundwork and asking the prospective customer
to proceed with the action plan. But if it sounds that easy, why is it
so tough to accomplish?
NASCAR driver Kurt Busch says
it takes to win a championship is to have your preparation meet the
opportunities, whether it’s out on the racetrack or behind the
scenes.” In sales, winning starts at the beginning. Do the right
things throughout the process and you’ll be better positioned for
success. The steps can vary, but in talking to hundreds of successful
salespeople about the pitfalls of closing sales, some very specific
disciplines are regularly mentioned:
Let’s look at some strategies for each of them.
We may not ask because of the ‘feel good’ advice we’ve heard in
recent years that “good sales
men and women don’t close the sale, they let it happen!” Make
your presentation, stop talking, and the sale will close itself!
Unfortunately, that advice is like telling a pilot not to worry about
landing because the plane will get to the ground one way or another.
Even the best businessperson can be indecisive. If I make a terrific
presentation, then just wait for them to say “yes,” I’ll likely
never hear it, and ultimately lose a once-promising sale. Why? Because
I haven’t asked them to make a decision. Plus, my lack of action
could plant a subconscious seed of doubt in the prospect’s mind.
If I want to avoid rejection, not asking for the business is the way to
go. Early in my sales career, a senior co-worker told me to “go out
and get as many ‘no’s as you can.” It didn’t sink in right
away, but it wasn’t long before I understood what he meant. Ask for
the order often.
The second discipline is to make sure you’re asking the right person.
Have you heard the phrase “don’t
take ‘no’ from someone who can’t say ‘yes?” It’s great
advice. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always fit real-life. Often, we
find ourselves ‘boxed into’ a scenario where our primary contact
is not a final decision-maker, and that’s the way the company works.
The ‘buyer’ deals with suppliers, gathers information and prices,
but the ultimate decision is made by committee or in budget meetings.
One solution is to make connections at the top. Call the company
President first and set up a meeting.
It’s absolutely amazing how easily executive doors open to
outside salespeople who show a genuine interest in meeting them. Once
the connection is made, continue to follow up with them. Thank you
notes, even summaries of proposals, can be passed along, keeping that
door open and keeping you top-of-mind.
In addition, give your direct contact everything they need to sell the
proposal internally. A company I consult for was considering new
software packages. I sat in on the meeting where the IT manager tossed
copies of three proposals on the table, asking everyone to take a look
and, in effect, choose one. Effective questioning would have helped
one of those vendors to see the IT manager didn’t want to decide
alone, and could have offered to attend that meeting and give the
group an overview of their proposal.
While most of this appears to apply only to large companies with deep
management structures, the same rules apply to small businesses, too,
or even in-home selling, where the presence and commitment of a spouse
will spell the difference between closing the sale and closing the
Finally, make sure that the prospect is convinced. This might have a
ring of Sales 101, but is often the greatest roadblock we face! Our
fast-paced business climate forces us to conserve our time, and
theirs, so it’s not unusual for a sales call to consist of a phone
call, invitation to visit a web site and a price quote by email. I,
myself, am a huge user of tech tools, and have to continually remind
myself that efficiency in time is not always efficiency in selling.
You can boost your closing ratio right away by asking yourself these
Does the customer have a burning need, or are they just mildly
I’ve always been good at selling ‘meetings,’ convincing people to
give me a piece of their time. I figured that we’d talk, they’d
see the need to act, and I’d have a sale. I was wrong. When a
prospect didn’t see me as a solution to something, my chances of
making a sale were nil. And their burning needs aren’t always
obvious. A retailer might want to draw more store traffic but, if
their deeper need is to position themselves against bigger, discount
retailers, they might see spending more money as throwing good money
Is this a fast track decision, or future exploration?
You’ll want to know in advance if they plan to make a decision soon,
or are looking at pricing for future consideration. Sometimes we add a
prospect to our ‘pending’ list without knowing that prospect’s
timetable or intent.
What is their status with other suppliers?
Comfort levels make us do strange things. If that buyer has a good
relationship with someone else they might be indicating yes to you,
but finds it more reassuring to go with the other.
Have I presented my case based on their needs and goals?
One-size-fits-all presentations have far less effect than one that is
tailored to the customer’s exact needs. For instance, if I sell
accounting software and learn that the company’s office manager
dislikes long learning curves that bog down productivity, my proposal
will include a strategy for getting their staff trained and acclimated
within a specified timeframe. That might not be a feature of the
software, but my presentation will be more customer-centered, and that
increases my probability of closing.
The final step in any sale, and the part that has really become a lost
art, is asking for the sale. Sounds simple, and it is. Asking for the
sale can be in the form of a single question or statement, like
“should we go ahead and get started?” or “Let’s get the
paperwork done and we can start shipping next week.”
The absolute worst thing that can happen is the prospect might
not be ready, and will tell you why.
Closing is never a bad word in professional selling. Our job is to take
the time to understand customer needs, demonstrate a sincere desire to
be of service, and then confidently lead the sales process to a
mutually-beneficial conclusion. That’s closing. It’s also where
real customer relationship begin.
Read other articles and learn more
about Joe Guertin.
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