At the outset of each new year it is common for business organizations to set new revenue-growth goals, and people often seek best practices for closing sales more effectively.
But while there are certainly many techniques and approaches involved in completing a sale, closing is not a stand-alone activity; and a seller who attempts to “close the sale” more aggressively without properly executing the pre-requisites can do more harm than good!
3 Keys to Closing More Sales
Successful sales professionals are able to more effectively close sales not because they are silver-tongued or aggressive when it comes to asking for the business, but rather because they are diligent and proficient when it comes to implementing three important things:
First is the comprehensive execution of the selling process. As noted above, “closing” is not a stand-alone activity but rather it is part of a coordinated process. The effective movement from step-to-step within this selling process is what enables a sales person to develop the relationship, knowledge and confidence required to qualify and assess opportunities, present the right and most compelling solutions, and to ultimately close the sale.
Clark Green was managing a business development team at Infor, a global leader in business cloud software products, when he explained this perspective very nicely. “To be successful a Rep has to earn the right to go from one step to the next within the selling process, and along the way he or she must build a foundation on which to ask for the order.”
Next, the most successful sellers are not only able to consistently execute the entire selling process, but also to do so in a naturally-assumptive style. In fact, it is common for these sales people to honestly expect customers and prospects to buy. This attitude or communication style is often referred to as “assuming the sale,” which simply means that the sales person approaches each selling opportunity with a tone, demeanor and attitude that implies, “I’m sure when all the facts and options are considered, you’ll feel most comfortable doing business with me.”
Third, we must ask the right questions. While it’s important to realize it can be advantageous to assume a customer or prospect will, in fact, make a favorable buying decision, it is dangerous to assume we know their reason for doing so. “Assuming the sale” is not based on over-confidence or unfounded assumptions. Instead, it is the result of mastering the third pre-requisite, which is to ask the right questions and, of course, to listen carefully to our buyers’ answers. This will require some pre-thought and planning… and there are three specific types of questions that must be included:
- Assessment questions are used to help us understand each buyer’s situation and what they are hoping to accomplish. These questions tend to be more effective when phrased in “open-ended” style (requiring more than a simple “Yes or No” answer) and we must incorporate the information gained into subsequent questions and benefit statements. Ideally, we should never offer a solution until we fully understand the reasons why a person or organization should buy our product or service. Each potential buyer is different, and it is our responsibility as sellers to engage in a thorough qualification and need assessment before attempting to close the sale. Once the opportunity is qualified, our goal is to identify needs, priorities and best interests, and continue to do so until we can offer solutions that satisfy all three.
- Trial closing questions will help us to test or confirm our buyer’s receptivity as well as his or her understanding of our value proposition. These questions can be closed-ended, such as, “What do you think so far?” They are critically important for two very different reasons. If we receive enthusiastically positive answers our confidence level will increase, and we’ll know we’re on the right track for closing the sale. If we receive negative or spiritless replies then we’ll know there was a misunderstanding on someone’s part, and we can avoid making an unsuccessful attempt at closing the sale. Instead, we can revert to the assessment step and ask more in-depth or clarifying questions to see where we went off-track.
- Closing questions. These should be closed-ended and straightforward and must be posed with confidence. It is also important to be silent after posing a closing question, thus giving our buyer an opportunity to respond at his or her preferred pace.
If our qualifying, probing and listening techniques are well-executed, it is likely we’ll be able to more naturally assume and close the sale. If we fail to properly execute these steps, then closing the sale becomes a guessing-game.