marketing+sales: Closing the Sale
Whenever I ask salespeople to rate themselves on their competence in the different parts of the sales process, they invariably rate themselves low at closing the sale. Unfortunately, salespeople who don't close consistently waste a lot of their time, waste their customer's time, and are not nearly as effective as they could be.
Being adept at closing the sale, and every step in the process, is an important key to productivity. So, let's examine the issue of closing, beginning with the first principle: Closing is a process that always ends with your customer's agreement to take action.
As you consider this principle, you'll realize that closing is not just asking for an order, although it certainly is that. It is a process you repeat at every stage of the sales process. In fact, almost every time you interact with a customer, you can close the interaction by asking for some agreement. Whenever your customer agrees to take action, you have closed that step in the sales process.
Let's illustrate this principle with a real life example. Suppose you're talking on the phone to a prospect, and he says, "Sounds interesting. Send me some literature." You say, "OK, I'll put it in the mail today." Have you closed that step of the process?
The answer is no. You have agreed to take action—send some literature—but your prospect hasn't agreed to do anything. Remember, a close always ends with your customer agreeing to take action.
So how do you close in this situation? Your prospect says, "Sounds interesting. Send me some literature." You remark, "I'd be happy to. After you review it, will you discuss it with me over the phone, say next Friday?" If your customer says, "Yes," you've closed. He's agreed to take action.
I recently made a sales call with a salesperson who left the call unclosed. The prospect was definitely interested, but the salesperson never asked for any action. Instead, the salesperson said, "I'll check back with you in a couple of weeks." We walked out of the sales call with no resolution on the issue, and the chance of making the sale significantly diminished.
Understanding this principle is crucial to closing the sale. Many of the offers and proposals you work on are complicated, requiring a number of steps in the sales process. As you proceed, you continually ask for some kind of action in order to keep the project moving forward. When it comes time for the final decision—the agreement to buy—that decision is often the natural, logical conclusion of the decisions that led up to it.
Closing, then, is not an isolated event that only happens at the end of the sales process. Rather, it's a routine part of every sales call. That leads us to the second principle of closing the sale: Every interaction can and should be closed. In other words, at the conclusion of every interaction with your customer, ask for an agreement on the action he or she will take.
The telephone conversation described earlier is a good example of closing the interaction. Here's another common situation. Let's say you've discussed a product or proposal with your customer. He says, "It looks interesting, but we're not ready for that now." You might then say, "When do you think will be a good time?" Your customer responds, "Probably around June." You might say, "OK, I'll make a note to discuss it with you then." At this point, you haven't closed the interaction or resolved the issue.
Let's take it a step further. Suppose you now say, "At that point in time, will you spend a half hour with me to discuss it in detail?" You have now attempted to close the interaction by getting an agreement for action on the part of your customer. You've put the issue on the table, and you are attempting to resolve it.
But suppose your customer says, "No, probably not." You now have a decision to make. Should you probe the reasons why, or should you accept his decision? Let's say you choose the latter. The conversation still had value to you, in that you learned that this proposal isn't going to fly in this account. The early "no" saved you months chasing something that wasn't going to happen. That's the value in resolving the issue.
Let's now say that your prospect, instead of responding "no," responds to your close by saying, "Yeah, I think it has enough merit to spend that time discussing it with you." You now have his commitment to spend some time with you, so you have moved the issue forward. You're one step closer to the ultimate sale.
Implement these two principles and you'll dramatically improve your productivity. Keep in mind that closing is any agreement for action on the part of your customer, and make it your goal to close every interaction.
(Excerpted from Chapter 13 of "Take Your Performance Up a Notch.")
By Dave Kahle
Dave Kahle is one of the world's leading sales authorities. He's written 10 books, presented in 47 states and 10 countries, and helped enrich tens of thousands of salespeople and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine or check out his Sales Resource Center for 455 training programs for every salesperson at every level. For more information, visit www.davekahle.com.