This may come as a shock to some of you, but I need to confess that I’m not a huge believer in “closing” techniques. I realize that may seem like sales blasphemy coming from a sales trainer. After all, “Ask for the order” is something that has probably been beaten into you since your very first day in sales. “I need closers!” scream out the recruitment ads for sales positions. Good people know how to close the sale, right? “Always be closing”, “Go for the close”, “The customers are waiting to be closed”, and of course, the infamous movie line, “The coffee is for closers!”.
Not only I’m not a fan, but I actually take serious issue with that approach. There is an important distinction between moving the sale to a close, and “closing” someone. I strongly believe that if you have to “ask for the order” or “close” someone then you didn’t do your job correctly during the prospecting and presenting phase. That’s right. If you need to close people to get business, you are either a bad salesperson, or selling a bad product, or both! Sales isn’t a bullying proposition. Sure, some people sell that way, but every profession has people who do it wrong, from doctors to teachers to police to engineers. I’m not interested in modeling my approach after the low water mark of my profession, and you should not be either.
Always remember that people buy for their reasons, not yours. If you have to ask them to buy, or somehow close/trick them to buy, then you’ve ultimately failed to get them to realize one or both of two things:
1 – Their current status quo of either not buying this product or buying it from someone else is a situation they need to change. (the existence of a problem)
2 – The other options out there are not as good as your solution. (you have the best solution to that problem)
Sales comes down to helping a prospect disqualify your solution as not viable for them, or qualify it as the best solution they are aware of. It is that simple. It is not always easy, but it is simple.
Your sales process, from the initial prospecting contact to needs assessment to the bid/proposal needs to be built in a way that allows a prospect to come to one of two conclusions. Fit, or not a fit. That is really where the “closing” happens. In your process of qualifying and/or disqualifying a prospect’s needs is found all the motivation for them to take action. Ideally, by the time you present, you are merely filling in the blanks of how you plan on accomplishing something your prospect has already decided they want done. Resorting to obvious pressure or begging for the business at the end of a sales conversation means you didn’t do your job correctly. Properly qualified prospects don’t need to be closed. They are ready to buy.
Now here is where a common mistake happens. Many will see this belief as weak, or start being weak towards the end of sales conversations under the justification of their incorrect interpretation of this belief. Some clarification needs to be added because leaving conversations open ended and allowing prospects to stay in “maybe” land is a good way to create an endless lake of undecideds in your sales pipeline, really annoy your manager and fast track your involuntary exit from your sales position.
A properly trained sales professional does pressure the client after presenting. They pressure them for a clear decision or a precise next step. You want to force a decision, but any decision. Artificial closing techniques are based on trying to force a “yes”. Proper sales science calls for pressing for any clear answer. Yes, No, More info needed, this or that decision maker need to be added in/presented to. These are precise and clear, and provide an agenda, even if that agenda is to walk away for now. Things like “we need to consider it further”, “We’ll think it over”, “Let’s touch base next week/month/year” do not provide any agenda. They are often stalling or avoidance techniques prospects use because saying “No” is uncomfortable. It is your job to make them comfortable to tell you the truth, even when and especially when the truth is that they are not buying. If you correctly identified a problem and correctly presented your solution into that problem, getting a yes isn’t hard. If you missed on either, getting a no shouldn’t be hard and if you didn’t get clarity on those, then identifying a next step to get clarity should be easy.
You’ll hurt yourself under the pressure of thinking that your job is to get every prospect to say yes. Your job is to get every prospect to give you a clear answer. That understanding allows you to abandon the gimmicky closing tactics and professionally set the expectation of a decision being made.