Closing the Sale
STEP #1: Ignore the ABC Strategy
I’m not kidding.
Traditional courses in closing business emphasize the “ABC” (Always Be Closing) strategy. However, while it’s easy to remember, it’s also a stupid idea.
The reason is simple. Customers don’t want to be hammered into buying. That tired old ABC strategy creates a sense of pressure, which inevitably creates resistance to the sale. The customer starts feeling that you’re more interested in making the sale than meeting the customer’s needs.
And when the ABC stuff actually works, you’ve created a whole ‘nuther world of woe. Here’s why. When customers succumb to pressure, they inevitably resent you, and often find a way to get out of the deal and not to do business with you again.
That means that you’re sacrificing the possibility for a long term relationship with a customer. And that’s really dumb, especially if your high pressure tactics result in a lost sale due to buyer’s remorse.
STEP #2: Cultivate the Right Mindset
Great closers believe that the clock has only one time - right now. If they get a lead, they’re on that lead immediately and they follow up flawlessly.
If you want to close, you’ve also got to torque up your sense of persistence. If there are three salespeople competing for the same business, the closer is the one who (for example) remembered to send a tailored follow up letter or email to the customer within one day of the meeting.
Closers are vigilant and inexhaustible in their follow up. They’re good at dialogue and possess the skill and confidence to know how and when to ask for the sale.
More importantly, they realize that it’s almost always a mistake to close a sale that would, in the long run, alienate the customer and damage the relationship or the company’s reputation.
STEP #3: Set an Objective for Every Meeting
Whenever you call on a customer, have an objective that is specific, measurable and appropriately aggressive.
Specific objectives aren’t feel-good goals like “I will get closer to the customer”; they’re goals that can be easily assessed and measured, such as “I will get a list of the key decision-makers” or “I will ask for the business.”
Objectives should be aggressive, but appropriate to the stage of the sales cycle. For example, on a first sales call for a complex multi-million dollar deal with multiple decision makers, it would be overly aggressive to set an objective like “I will close the deal today.”
Setting objectives doesn’t mean that you can’t be flexible and adjust the goal while you’re in the meeting. But a great closer always has a direction and understands where the meeting needs to go in order to maintain momentum and win the deal.
STEP #4: Constantly Check If You’re On Target
Throughout the meeting, keep the customer involved. During the meeting you will (of course) identify the customer’s objectives, strategy, decision process, time frames, etc. and position your ideas, products, or solutions to satisfy those needs. That’s basic selling.
However, you must also ask “checking” questions to get feedback from the client about what you’ve said. Asking open-ended, non-leading checking questions allows you to gauge how the customer is responding and to adjust your solution accordingly. Most importantly, this checking process will give you the information you need to confidently close.
Effective checking does not involve leading questions such as like “Does that make sense to you?” or “Do you agree?” With leading questions, customers will often take the easy way out and nod along, without really agreeing. Instead, ask checking questions such as “How does that sound?” or “What do you think?”
Unlike leading questions, checking questions encourage the customer to provide you with frank, vital information. Example:
You: “We have a first rate delivery capability in all key markets.” (The salesperson did not check after expressing this view.”)
Prospect: “How do you handle invoicing?”
Note that in the example above, the conversation has moved on and you have no idea whether the customer agrees or disagrees with the “first rate delivery” assertion.
You: “We have a first rate delivery capability in all key markets. Do you think that might be useful?”
Prospect: “I’m concerned you can’t meet our global needs.”
You: “I understand that you have global needs. Why do you feel we may not be able to meet them?”
Prospect: “We want feet on the street and you don’t have international offices.”
You: “It is important to have people deployed internationally. For that reason, we have partnerships with the top companies in regions where we don’t have our own offices. Would that address your concern?”
Prospect: “It might, providing you can invoice centrally.”
Note that in the example above, you are now learning what the prospect thinks and repositioning your company’s capability in order to build toward the eventual close.
In short, every time you position your products and services, you must check to get feedback. The best part about constantly checking is that, if you do it correctly, the client will often preemptively close the sale for you by saying something like “So, when do we start?”
STEP #5: Summarize, Then Make a Final Check
If the customer does not preemptively close, then you MUST move to close or you will lose ground and possibly the entire deal.
You’ve positioned your products or services so that the customer understands how they meet his or her needs up to now. You’ve used checking to get feedback to make sure there is agreement and understanding. Now comes the mechanics of the close.
First, give the customer a concise, powerful summary that reiterates the benefits of your products or services. Once you’ve done this, make one final check - not for understanding but for agreement. Example:
You: “Our worldwide service capability will allow your employees access anywhere they travel, at a cost that’s significantly less than you’re spending today. How does that meet your objective?”
The purpose of this final check is to seeking a green light to go for the close. The final check also gives the customer the opportunity to surface any final objections that might interfere with your close. If a final objection surfaces, handle it, and then restate the final check.
STEP #6: Ask for the Business
Now it’s time to be direct and to ask for the business or next step. This must be done confidently and clearly. Example:
You: “We are ready to start. Will you give us the go-ahead?”
If the customer declines, acknowledge that fact to the customer and then find out why. As appropriate, make a second effort. Regardless of whether you actually closed, end the meeting with confidence, energy, and rapport to make a positive last impression.
Thank the client for the business or reinforce the desire to work with the client.
Follow up immediately.