Closing the Sale - A Realistic Perspective
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There is not a
salesperson in existence who hasn't repeatedly heard of the need to
"close the sale." Every new sales manager must view the process of
encouraging his/her sales force to "close the sale" as an initiation
into the profession. If you're going to be a sales manager, you,
therefore, must improve everyone's ability to "close." Doesn't it come
with the job?
training literature is awash with advice. Some of it tedious and
trivial: "If he says this, you say that." Other advice is grandiose:
"35 new sure-fire closing techniques." Still other is harmful.
"Overcome that objection," as if selling in the B2B world was a contest
between you and the customer, with one of you winning (overcoming) and
the other losing (being overcome). That's an attitude that won't get
All of this
advice shares one common element. It's incredibly overdone. There is no
one aspect of sales (at least in the B2B world) that undeservedly
receives more disproportionate time and talk than the subject of
"closing the sale."
Not that there
is no need to "close." Every project must come to a conclusion, every
offer be resolved one way or the other. It's just that, in my
experience, closing has never been the result of verbal gymnastics on
my part. It's not my clever refrains, my slick tactics, my memorized
"objection over-comers" nor my manipulative perseverance that has
brought me business. Instead, it was the suitability of my offer to the
needs/desires/values of the customer.
occasions where my offer precisely met the customer's combination of
desires, values and preferences, I got the business. Where my offer was
off, and some competitor's offer was a closer match, I didn't get the
I don't mean
to imply that every sales opportunity is that black and white. Clearly
there is a lot of grey area in the process. But, from my perspective,
the grey area tipping point was most often the personal factors of
rapport, relationship and trust, and almost never the tactical
manipulations of the salespeople involved.
early on in my sales career that it was far more important and
profitable to "open" the sale precisely than it was to close strongly.
If I spend a lot of time, energy and mental acuity on learning the
precise dimensions of the customer's needs, and if I crafted an offer
that matched those precisely, there was very little need for concern
I realize that
I am tramping all over the hallowed ground of a vast number of sales
managers, sales trainers and sales consultants. I am, however,
reflecting thoughtfully on my 30-plus years of selling all kinds of
things, and my 18-plus years of training and developing sales people. I
believe that most thoughtful salespeople will line up on my side of the
All that said,
there some principles and simple rules that can give us direction on
this issue. Let's start with our language. Instead of "closing the
sale" let's first call it "resolving the next step." Not only should
the project in general have a resolution, but also every sales
interaction (a conversation with a prospect or customer), should have
as its goal the identification of a next step in the sales process and
the natural and logical commitment to that step.
example, when you are seeing a prospect for the first time, the ideal
next step is to get a commitment from the prospect for a second
meeting. Without that, you have no hope of getting the ultimate
purchase order. To walk away from the sales call without resolving
"what happens next" is to leave the sales call incomplete and
The ideal next
step for a meeting when you are collecting information about the
customer's needs is the customer's commitment to view your presentation
of your solution.
The ideal next
step following a sales call in which you present your solution is for
the customer to identify the next step in his/her buying process, and
commit to that.
On and on we
go. Every sales call should end in some resolution of the next step in
the process, even if the resolution is "no next step with you."
Notice that in
each of these occasions, the definition of the "next step" is a
commitment on the part of the prospect or customer to do something that
moves the project forward. Acquiring that commitment, in each and every
sales interaction, is one of the habits of the most successful
salespeople. It's what I term "resolving the next step."
If the goal is
to successfully arrive at the ultimate resolution, the perceptive
salesperson understands that the means to that is a step-by-step
process. Every sales call is an investment of time and energy on the
part of the customer. And every investment of time and energy should
result in some kind of an action step. Unless you are so entertaining
that the customer looks at his/her time invested with you as a
substitute for the movies this weekend, he/she probably doesn't want to
squander his time with you. He probably wants to accomplish something
as a result of his investment of time with you. The something will take
the shape of a "next step" in his process.
thoughtful and effective salesperson recognizes that, and merely asks
the customer to identify the next step. When he does, it's nailed down
with a deadline. The project moves forward, the sales process
continues, and you know exactly where you and the customer stand.
All of that
brings us to one the most powerful "resolution" strategies. I call it
"Alternate next steps." The definition is this: An alternate next step
is an offer made to the customer following the stated or implied
rejection of a previous offer. It always involves a smaller risk on the
part of the customer, like plan B. If the customer agrees to the
alternate offer, it always keeps you in the game and the project moving
example. You are offering a one year contract on a product which the
customer uses every month. The customer indicates that he's not ready
to sign that. Instead of confronting the issue, you resolve it. You
offer plan B, an alternate next step.
instead, that the customer buy two months worth of the product to see
how it works out, and then you and he will get together to assess the
benefits of continuing. Instead of a 12 month contract, your offer is a
two month trial.
offer represent less risk to the customer? Of course. If the customer
agrees to that step, are you still in the game? Is the project still
going forward? Yes to both.
You see, the
reason the customer didn't say yes to your original offer has to do
with his concerns - perhaps issues that have nothing to do with you or
your product. By offering an alternate next step, you reduce his risk,
and provide a mutually acceptable way to resolve the next step. The
reason he didn't offer a positive solution to your original offer has
more to do with you missing something in the customer, than it did with
your lack of verbal dexterity.
"closing the sale." Instead think, "resolving the next step."
that effective "opening" is the best single tactic for closing.
3. Create a
habit of always asking for action as a way to resolve every sales
4. Develop the
habit of offering "alternate next steps."
If you can
execute these four things with ever growing excellence, you'll enjoy
your customers respect, you'll maintain positive relationships and
become far more important to them, and, you'll far outsell the
manipulative "closers" surrounding you.
About the Author
Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written ten books, presented in 47 states and eight countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every sales person at every level.
You may contact Dave at The DaCo Corporation, PO Box 523, Comstock Park, MI 49321, or firstname.lastname@example.org
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2013-05-12 11:30:59 in Marketing Articles