Of all the challenges salespeople confront regularly, none confound and cause anxiety as much as the close. Why is this? It probably has something to do with who’s ultimately in control, or the perception of who’s in control. No matter what skills, polish, or panache sales pros have at their command, the ultimate decision to buy, hold, or back off belongs to the customer. If you think too long and hard about that, you can intimidate yourself into feeling powerless.
Many theories exist as to why closing a sale can prove vexing, and the work of Mark Suster at his Both Sides of the Table blog adds some heft to the conversation. He writes that “the number one reason sales stall [even] when customers see the value in what you do is because they often don’t have a reason to buy NOW.”
Suster calls this the “burning platform,” and he sums up his way to the close as follows: “If you’ve documented their pain in economic terms, if your product uniquely solves this pain and if you build a compelling business case as to why implementing your product will make money, lower costs, or reduce risks—you’re well on your way toward a new customer.”
That’s a good overview of how a close should work in theory, but what about the finer points of the art? For this, Yesware turned to some sales authorities to get their thoughts about the Art of the Close.
1) If you want a close … ask! So says Grant Cardone, author of Sell or Be Sold and host of the National Geographic TV show Turnaround King. “This is number one reason deals are not closed,” Cardone insists. “The salesperson for whatever reasons, justified or not, refuses to ask, ‘Can we do this right now?’ We recently were hired to mystery shop 500 retailers and about 30 percent of the time, the salesperson [neglected] to ask for an order.”
2) Listen with your eyes and show respect. Gloria Petersen of Global Protocol, Inc., believes that the best way to a close lies through the undivided attention you show a client. That may sound like a no-brainer, but think of how many salespeople get distracted by text messages and email—even in the middle of client presentations! “Paraphrasing back what you hear confirms listening and helps you retain what was said,” she says. “Allow a thought to be finished by listening for the period at the end of the sentence, then respond. The listener can tell when he or she does not have your undivided attention.”
3) Switch roles with the buyer. Cardone covers this concept in Sell or Be Sold: a salesperson legitimizes the customer’s reasons for not buying. The trick, as Cardone describes it, is to turn objections into core reasons for buying. If someone says a new product is expensive, you might reply: “I agree this costs a lot of money. That’s why you need to invest in this technology now, so you can start getting a return on your investment now, and not fall behind your competitors.”
4) Build up to your close. Petersen stresses that most people remember how things begin and end. In the stage play that is the sales call, you’ll want to build up to a great ending that tips the customer towards a close without saying so overtly. “Every interaction should begin and close with confident posture, eye contact, friendly expression, and handshake,” she says. “If you are closing over the phone, stand, smile, and be positive. Your voice will sound stronger and your energy will be felt. Make sure that your closing handshake says, ‘You can count on me.’”
5) Don’t just think close: Think long after the sale. The close marks a one-time event, and often a nerve-racking one. But you can put it into its proper perspective by putting the stress on the long-term relationship, says Allen Guy, author of Playing to Win: The Sport of Selling and How You Can Win the Game. “Buyers want to know they have made the right decision. The future payoffs can be enormous when we take the time to build the buyer’s trust in us. This not only opens future doors for you, but it also makes those future calls easier. You may also be surprised at how forthcoming a buyer is with additional leads for you.”