If you listen to most sales trainers, Sales Managers, and countless authors of sales books… you would think closing is the most important skill in sales. Yet, scientific proof demonstrates typical sales closing techniques are ineffective and down right damaging to your sales success. Here’s why.
The closing techniques taught by those sales trainers and authors are very effective at shortening the sales cycle and increasing sales when AND ONLY when you are selling relatively low cost products. When you try those same techniques to sell an expensive product or service you FAIL. You fail because those closing techniques pressure the prospect to buy. Prospects will NOT be PRESSURED into making a buying decision when there is a lot on the line. In fact, once you attempt to pressure the prospect to close the sale you dramatically increase the odds you walk away without a sale today and with no hope for a sale in the future.
All because you crossed the line and destroyed your opportunity to open a relationship with the other person.
Here’s where the confusion really reigns. Most people think closing is about pressuring the prospect into making a commitment to purchase. WRONG sales breath. That is not what closing is about.
Closing is Obtaining a Commitment from the Prospect to take an Action
Please reread that definition. Okay, now that you’ve read that again I want to make certain you understand why this is the definition you want to live by. Low cost products are sold in a single encounter.
You don’t go to the store to buy batteries and walk away telling the store clerk you have to think it over. No; you go to the store find the right battery, take those batteries to the register for checkout, pay the clerk, and leave. End of story.
High ticket product and service sales almost always involve a multi-step process. The idea you would meet and ask for the sale on the first appointment is almost ludicrous. It might happen on rare occasions but you certainly don’t expect that as standard practice. And if you try to shorten the sales cycle by pushing to close the purchase then you also shorten the time it takes to get to “no sale” because you are forcing the issue and offending the prospect.
When you move into big sales you can usually anticipate the sales process will go through 4 phases. In the first phase you introduce your solution and open the conversation. In phase two you determine relevance and specific needs. In phase three you demonstrate your ability to produce your solution. In the final phase you obtain a commitment.
Another thing you will notice about the definition for closing that I’ve used here is that it isn’t specific to the sale. Due to the very fact that large sales often involve more than one meeting you need a way to successfully conclude every interaction. Each interaction should CLOSE by concluding with a plan for the prospect to commit to an action. Both you and the prospect must have a clear understanding of what happens next at the end of every interaction.
The way you successfully close an interaction is by setting the right objectives for action. Simply gaining agreement for a future meeting isn’t enough. There are 4 ways a sales conversation is likely to close.
- Money in the bank – you gain a client and earn the sale
- Next steps - the prospect agrees to take an action that moves them closer to a purchase decision
- No commitment – you didn’t get the sale and the prospect did not agree to an action that moves the sale forward
- No sale – you will not be doing business together
Money in the bank and next steps are successful objectives for closing the interaction. No sale is also a success because you know you need to move on and find another prospect. No commitment is an absolute failure because you are either allowing the prospect to string you along, or you are prolonging a sale that should have concluded already.
When You Hear…
”I need to think about it”
“Why don’t you stop back next month”
“I’ll call you when we need to take things further”
These are all examples of no commitment. You can’t allow a conversation to conclude this way. These statements are big clues that should tell you that you did not do your job. A prospect will not make a commitment to act unless you:
- help them identify an immediate need for what you offer
- answer their questions and concerns
- review how they benefit
- recommend a next step
Obviously, you can’t recommend a good next step if you don’t have a clear understanding of what your best next step options are. If you haven’t already, list the actions a prospect must take to do business with you. Never forget each action they take should improve your relationship not harm it.