Closing the sale is not a skill that can be learned in isolation from the rest of the sales process. Closing is one element in a chain of events that begins with the salesperson planning and preparing for sales meetings and works through the sales process.
What happens during the sales process is that the salesperson:
Presents the features, advantages and benefits of their product, or service that satisfy those needs.
Overcomes any objections the buyer might raise.
Closes the sale by gaining the agreement of the buyer to make the purchase.
This is a very simplified summary of a complex process that requires a high degree of skill on the part of the salesperson, and it may take several meetings before the buyer is in a position to make a decision. However, what most salespeople fail to realise is that closing is more about timing and confidence than Sales Techniques.
Many salespeople are looking for closing techniques that will make the decision making process easier and take away some of the pressure felt by both buyer and seller at that moment of truth.
The problem is that at this moment of truth, the salesperson is worried about Getting Rejected and the buyer is worried about making a mistake, so it is all too easy for either, or both sides to delay the buying decision, rather than risking rejection, or making a bad decision.
It is up to us as salespeople to have the confidence, at the right time, to ask for commitment and risk rejection. That is our role and unfortunately, 7 times out of 10 we fail to ask for commitment and this can lose us the sale we have been working so hard to achieve.
The most important principles, therefore, when looking at closing the sale are:
1. Closing the Sale is an integral part of the sales process
This means that closing techniques in themselves are not enough to ensure success, if the other parts of the sales process have been neglected.
Before a buyer will place an order with you, they will have to see a need for your product and be convinced that your particular product represents the Best Solution to the problem represented by that need. That is, the cost is reasonable, they have confidence in your ability to deliver your promises and so on.
2. No salesperson ever closed every sale
Everyone who has ever sold professionally has had to get used to living with rejection. A good salesperson will always be rejected more times than they are successful.
In fact, if this is not the case the salesperson probably isn’t trying hard enough. The secret is to `learn to live with rejection’. Every time you fail, you move closer to the time you will succeed.
3. Selling is a `numbers game’
Given a `basic’ level of skill in sales techniques, the amount you sell is directly related to the number of calls you make. The more customers you see, therefore, the more business you will close.
4. Certain key ratios apply to your sales activity
By measuring your sales performance over a period, you will understand more fully the key ratios that apply to your business.
Examples of these could be:
Appointments booked to Number of Telephone calls made
Number of successfully `closed’ calls to Number of `cold’ calls made
Number of successfully `closed calls to Number of `enquiry’ calls made
Number of successfully `closed’ calls to Number of presentations made
In sales, these ratios vary depending on the industry, the products and how the products are sold. The key learning point here is that these ratios will tend not to change much over time and can be used in planning individual activity to exceed Sales Targets.
Also, by being aware of the relative success of different kinds of calls you will be able to plan your activity more effectively by spending the maximum amount of time on your potentially most productive sales activities.
5. The right time to close is when the customer is ready to buy
This is so important. Closing tends to happen towards the end of the sales call but don’t assume this will always be the case.
If the customer wants to buy early into your Sales Presentation then you should get commitment straight away. There may be more information you need to give, however, having gained commitment the customer will be more relaxed and less likely to raise objections at a later stage.
6. Look for more than one opportunity to close the sale
There will be several occasions during the sale when the customer is ready to buy. There will also be more than one opportunity for you to close the sale. Just because the customer says `no’ now, it doesn’t mean it won’t be `yes’ in ten minutes’ time.
`No’ can mean various things:
Not on the terms you describe
Not at the moment
Not in your timescale
Not at that price
Convince me further
I’m getting interested but I need more information
7. Buyer resistance is natural and should be expected
During the Sales Process the buyer is under as much pressure as the salesperson. The buyer is often thinking about the consequences of agreeing to your proposal.
The buyer may be thinking:
Does this represent value for money?
What will my partner/boss think?
Are they as reliable as they say they are?
They say they can achieve significant growth. Is that true?
Is their product better than their competitor?
Can I afford the monthly payments?
Often when the buyer hesitates during the closing stages they are seeking reassurance from the salesperson in a Consultative, non-threatening way, that the decision that is about to be made, is a good decision.
8. Buyers seldom ask you for the order
Most buyers rely on the salesperson to make the buying process easy for them.
However, they rarely ask for the order outright so the most effective and most obvious closing technique, having gone through the several stages of the call, is to ask the buyer if they wish to place an order.
By this stage, if you have carried out the other stages of the call, it is likely the customer will be ready to buy, but more importantly, you have earned the right to ask for the order.
It is a fact, however, that around 70% of sales calls end with the salesperson failing to ask for the order. This is due to the salesperson’s fear of rejection.
So, let’s look at how you can overcome this problem.
5 Sales Closing Questions
You had a great sales interaction: Both you and the prospect were calm and comfortable. You developed some rapport, and the prospect showed some positive buying signals during the meeting.
However, when you presented your proposal, it seems as though everything became silent, time began to slow down, and tension filled the air as you anxiously waited for the prospect’s decision.
If that’s been your experience, maybe you need to review the sales closing questions you ask to drive the conversation on, professionally and with confidence.
Each will ease the tension and help you maintain the flow of your sales interaction as you begin to ask for the order.
1. “Does that make sense for you?”
This question is simple and helps the prospect understand that what you have just proposed is, at worst, reasonable. You are not asking, “Do we have a deal?” You are simply asking the buyer if what you have presented thus far seems right in a business sense.
“So, Susan, we are talking about three cases of our classic style blades, and we will pick up the shipping cost, and as I mentioned, I am including a full year of maintenance at no charge. So, this gives you an entire year of worry-free operation for only £2,675. Does that make sense for your business?”
From there, simply assume the sale or address whatever issue the prospect feels does not make sense. For them or their business.
2. “Is that fair enough?”
This second question is perfect for the customer who loves to Negotiate. You know some prospects are going to insist on a lower price or higher value no matter what you first propose. This question considers this without challenging the prospect.
“So, this gives you an entire year of worry-free operation for only £2,675. Is that fair enough, Susan?”
The prospect’s answer will tell you whether you are required to look at ‘fair’ from a different perspective.
3. “Is that OK?”
With this question, you want to point to the future of your business with the customer. The proposal on the table is but a stepping-stone to a broad and long-term mutually beneficial relationship.
“So, this gives you an entire year of worry-free operation for only £2,675. This will get us started Susan and take care of your immediate needs. Then, after a few months we can begin to look at a plan to outfit your whole plant— is that OK?”
This gives the prospect the chance to decide now and look at future prospects for the rest of the business. By highlighting what could be happening in the future, you open opportunities for further discussions.
You determine what the benefits would be to the prospect if they agreed to go with your solution and then you introduce this ‘conditional clause’ to make the prospect realise when they would be receiving the benefits (saving money, making more profit, increasing productivity, etc)
“So, Susan, we’ve agreed that you would have worry-free operation for a whole year. If we get this sorted today, we can start saving you money from next week. Does that make business sense to you?”
5. ‘Does that sound good to you, too?’
Again, more of a statement first, but again it gives you the chance to recommend a solution for now and get the agreement of the prospect at the same time.
“Well, Susan, my recommendation is that you start with the three cases that we have been discussing, so you can see your overheads cut by 10% in the first quarter and continue those savings with our free maintenance in the first year. Does that sound good to you, too?’
You’ll notice that, by saying ‘too’ at the end of the question, you are showing that your recommendation already has a subliminal agreement with you, so it’s only natural that their business would benefit also.
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9 Sales Closing Techniques
The purpose of this section is to look at nine ways of closing the sale.
Any examples that are given will be general.
Write down, for the closing techniques indicated, examples in your own words:
Ask For The Order
It has been estimated that 7 out of every 10 presentations end without the salesperson asking for the order. Of the 3 salespeople who do ask for the order, 2 give up after the second refusal.
Having presented to your customer in a professional way you have the right to ask for the order and the customer expects you to do so. This technique alone will improve your sales results and give you more confidence in the selling situation.
Remember that closing is about timing. The best closers recognise there is a time to ask for commitment and they have the confidence to do so. If you get rejected, so what? What have you lost? In fact, you are better off because even if you get rejected at least you now know where you stand.
The Assumptive Close
By assuming that the order is being placed you can remove the responsibility for decision-making away from the buyer. This uses the buyer’s natural inertia.
The assumptive close uses words like `will’ and `when’
This will solve a lot of problems when it is installed.
When will be the best time to deliver?
Will 4 units be sufficient to meet your requirements?
Would you like the software training added to your order?
When would you like this installed?
The Alternative Close
This close gives the buyer the choice between 2 alternatives, both of which have been chosen by you.
Do you require delivery Tuesday or will next week be more convenient?
Will you be choosing the beginner version or intermediate?
Would you prefer option 1 or option 2 from the proposal?
Will you be taking the option of the alloy wheel upgrade, or do you prefer the assisted parking?
Would you prefer the green or the red? (Okay, it’s an old one!)
Closing On A Small Issue
Often the buyer finds it easier to make small decisions than large ones. However, having made the smaller decision the larger one becomes easier to make.
Choose a minor feature of your product and gain agreement from the buyer on that feature.
Delivery can be made on a weekly basis. Does that meet your requirements?
We can arrange for the colours to match your company logo. Would that be what you are looking for?
If storage is a problem we can arrange for a split delivery at no extra cost. How does that sound?
The Pressure Close
This enables you to put pressure on the buyer in terms of special offers or inducements that are available or penalties for not placing the order.
This price is only available up until the end of the month.
If you order the smaller quantity the higher price will apply.
We are providing free delivery and installation if you order today saving you £150.
Converting On Objections
An objection can be a very strong buying signal.
If the buyer raises an objection and it is the only objection that is preventing the order from being placed, you can use this to gain commitment to buy.
“James, you’ve said that you’re interested in the XYZ model but the discount terms that we offer are unacceptable. Is this the only objection you have? If we were able to work out a compromise, would you be willing to place the order today?”
People don’t buy products or services; they buy what your solution will do for them or their business
Confirm with the buyer what the future will look like after they have been using your solution. Make sure there is a good mixture of Logic v Emotion too.
It sounds something like ‘So, Mr Buyer, we’ve agreed that by using our new machine, your production costs will go down by x% hence saving you £xxx over the next three years’.
Get the buyer to agree with all your conclusions about the future changes.
Only then will they be in the frame of mind to make a positive decision
Recognise that buyers buy on value, not on price.
If the value of your solution is greater than the price they must pay, you are moving in the right direction
But don’t over-promise on the value simply to get the customer to say yes.
If you can’t deliver on that promise, you risk losing their trust and everything that goes with it
If necessary, introduce an air of urgency in the close.
This doesn’t involve tricks like ‘buy now or it will be gone’ or ‘this offer is only open for a few days’.
Those tactics lower your professionalism in the buyer’s eyes.
Instead, show them how much they can save by making a quicker decision, or how their productivity will increase when they decide.
When closing the sale create options for the buyer to consider.
Options put the control in the buyer’s hands
Each of the options should be beneficial for the buyer so whatever one they choose will be a good reason for progressing to ‘yes’.
Giving options makes the buyer think ‘Which one should I choose?’ rather than ‘Should I say yes or no?’
Explain how each of the options will take their business forward. They can then see which option would be the best one to choose
When they are convinced of the best option, work with them to progress to making a commitment.
That way, the decision they have made is confirmed as the correct one
Describe what will happen next.
Confirm that the results they will get will endorse their decision as the correct one
Make it clear what the next stages are in the process.
Tell the buyer what will happen next, so they understand what commitment they are making
Partner with the buyer, so they become your client.
This means identifying how to progress specifically with their business and showing them through your actions that they made the best possible decision to work with you and your company
Closing the sale doesn’t have to be arduous and difficult if you approach it as a natural step in the progress of the sale.
As the saying goes:
‘Don’t try and sell your products….just make it easy for the customer to buy’.
Try the closing statements I’ve covered within this article and see if there are improvements in your confidence and closing rates. If you would like to learn more, simply check out our Essential Selling Skills course or our Online Sales Training programmes.