General principles of closing
There have been a lot of books written about closing the sale. Like a lot of self-help books they promise great results with minimum effort. Like self-help books on losing weight, getting fit, being more successful with the opposite sex, being socially more successful, they seem to offer simple solutions to those things in life that concern us.
Who wouldn’t want to be slim, fit, attractive, successful, confident and at the same time close more sales?
The problem is, if you want these things, unless you are very lucky, it takes a lot of effort and application. It requires self discipline and a planned approach if we are going to achieve the desired outcome.
I have trained many thousands of salespeople since I started my Sales Training business in 1989. In that time have met quite a few natural salespeople who seem to have inherited a god-given gift that enables them to close sales with ease and never seem to struggle with their targets.
For the rest of us, success in sales needs a great deal of hard work and application.
If you really want to close more sales it’s not enough to just learn a few closing techniques. The best salespeople understand that sales is a process as is buying. The best salespeople make buying easy and are able to adapt their approach to suit the person they are selling to.
Too many salespeople, in my experience, have a simple selling strategy which is to make friends with their customers. This is okay with some buyers but can really irritate others. We have to have a more flexible and strategic approach to our selling if we are going to seriously close more sales.
What closing is and how it fits into the sales process
What is closing anyway? Closing is that part of the sales process where we ask the buyer for a decision.
Are they going to buy or aren’t they?
What is selling? The sales process is a problem solving process where we identify problems and needs and solve and satisfy these by presenting a solution that involves the purchase of our product or service.
I sell sales training. My customers tend to buy it either to make them better off (by increasing sales revenue and profitability) or stop them becoming worse off (by maintaining market share when there is a lot of competition in the marker place)
Sales is not just making a slick sales pitch in the hope that it will appeal to the customer and then getting them to say yes by using a clever closing technique.
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 sales person planning and preparing to meet with a customer. During the sales process various stages occur and we can follow each stage.
What actually happens during the sales process is that the salesperson:
• Identifies a potential customer, or prospect
• Gets their agreement to an appointment, or instigates a discussion by telephone, or by e-mail
• Opens the call, or meeting, builds rapport and sets an agenda.
• Asks questions that help identify a number of issues. These include facts, opinions, problems needs and wants
• Having clearly defined the problems the customer is looking to solve, the salesperson identifies a solution that meets the customers’ needs
• Presents the features and benefits of products or services that satisfy the needs of the customer
• Overcomes any objections the customer might raise.
• Closes the sale by gaining the agreement of the customer 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. However, what most salespeople fail to realise is that closing is more than just using closing techniques
What do we mean by closing techniques?
Closing techniques are strategies that have been developed over the years to help salespeople get a decision. One example of a closing technique that you are probably familiar with is the alternative close, where we offer a choice between 2 alternatives:
“Do you prefer deliveries am or pm?”
“Do you want it in red or black?”
“Would you like to start this week or next week?”
Many salespeople are looking for a closing technique 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. They want an easy fix that will convince the customer to say yes.
The problem is that the majority of buyers won’t say yes until they are convinced that our solution is the right one for them. Therefore if the customer is not ready to buy, techniques by themselves won’t work.
My personal theory is that closing is not about techniques, it is about confidence and timing. This means having the confidence to ask for a decision and asking it when the customer is ready to buy.
When the buyer reaches the point where a decision can be made he, or she has 3 choices; to buy from you, to buy from somebody else, or not to buy at all.
At this stage of the sales process 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 risking taking the wrong decision.
It is up to us as salespeople to have the confidence, at the right time, to ask for commitment and risk rejection. As salespeople, this is our role but unfortunately, 7 times out of 10salespeople fail to ask for the order or some kind of commitment which can lose them the sale they have been working so hard to achieve.
The most important principles, therefore, when looking at closing the sale are
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