Many sales professionals struggle with closing a sale. Here’s a sure-fire, six-step process, based upon a conversation with Linda Richardson, founder of the sales training firm Richardson and author of the bestselling book Perfect Selling.
1. Ignore the ABC strategy. Traditional courses in closing business emphasize the “ABC” (Always Be Closing) strategy. However, while it’s easy to remember, it’s also a stupid idea.
Customers don’t want to be hammered into buying. That tired, old ABC strategy creates a sense of pressure, which inevitably creates resistance to the sale. The customer starts feeling as if you’re more interested in making the sale than meeting his needs.
When customers succumb to pressure, they inevitably resent you, and often find a way to get out of the deal and not do business with you again. That means that you’re sacrificing the possibility for a long-term relationship with a customer. And that’s really dumb, especially if your high-pressure tactics result in a lost sale due to buyer’s remorse.
2. Cultivate the right mindset. Great closers believe that the clock has only one time — right now. If they get a lead, they’re on that lead immediately, and they follow up flawlessly.
If you want to close, you’ve also got to torque up your sense of persistence. If three salespeople are competing for the same business, the closer is the one who (for example) remembered to send a tailored follow up letter or email to the customer within one day of the meeting.
Closers are vigilant and inexhaustible in their follow up. They’re good at dialogue and possess the skill and confidence to know how and when to ask for the sale. More importantly, they realize that it’s almost always a mistake to close a sale that would, in the long run, alienate the customer and damage the relationship or the company’s reputation.
3. Set an objective for every meeting. Whenever you call on a customer, have an objective that is specific, measurable, and appropriately aggressive.
Specific objectives aren’t feel-good goals such as, “I will get closer to the customer.” They’re goals that can be easily assessed and measured, such as, “I will get a list of the key decision-makers,” or “I will ask for the business.”
Setting objectives doesn’t mean that you can’t be flexible and adjust the goal while you’re in the meeting. But a great closer always has a direction and understands where the meeting needs to go in order to maintain momentum and win the deal.
4. Constantly check if you’re on target. Throughout the meeting, ask “checking” questions to get feedback from the client about what you’ve said. Asking open-ended, non-leading checking questions allows you to gauge how the customer is responding and to adjust your solution accordingly.
Effective checking does not involve leading questions such as like “Does that make sense to you?” or “Do you agree” With leading questions, customers will often take the easy way out and nod along, without really agreeing. Instead, ask checking questions such as “How does that sound?” or “What do you think?”
Every time you position your products and services, you must check to get feedback. The best part about constantly checking is that, if you do it correctly, the client will often preemptively close the sale for you by saying something like “So, when do we start?”
5. Summarize; then make a final check. If the customer does not preemptively close, then you MUST move to close or you will lose ground and possibly the entire deal.
Give the customer a concise, powerful summary that reiterates the benefits of your products or services. Once you’ve done this, make one final check — not for understanding, but for agreement. Example:
You: “Our worldwide service capability will allow your employees access anywhere they travel, at a cost that’s significantly less than you’re spending today. How does that meet your objective?”
The purpose of this final check is to seek a green light to go for the close. The final check also gives the customer the opportunity to surface any final objections that might interfere with your close. If a final objection surfaces, handle it, and then restate the final check.
6. Ask for the business. Now it’s time to be direct and to ask for the business or next step. This must be done confidently and clearly. Example:
You: “We are ready to start. Will you give us the go-ahead?”
If the customer declines, acknowledge that fact to the customer and then find out why. As appropriate, make a second effort. Regardless of whether you actually closed, end the meeting with confidence, energy, and rapport to make a positive last impression.
Geoffrey James is the author of several books, hundreds of business articles, and currently writes the popular Sales Machine blog on CBS Interactive’s BNET website.
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