1. Sales Closing Techniques
The internet is littered with websites claiming 101 different sales closing techniques, mostly written by marketers who are simply trying to get web traffic to their website.
The reality is that if you walk, talk and squawk like a salesperson you will get treated like a salesperson – for the most part, this means Gatekeepers won’t put your calls through, prospects won’t return your emails and buyers will smell your closing techniques a mile away.
When the buyer knows your moves before you even make them, then they are in control of the sales conversation and they will have their own moves pre-prepared to counter you.
This usually sounds like “send me a proposal” or “can you confirm this in writing and we’ll get back to you”.
2. Sleazy Sales Closing Phrases – Please Don’t Use
2.1 The Impending Event Close
- This is the last one at this price
- The prices are going up on Friday
- There’s a special discount if you buy while I’m here
These sales closing techniques try’s to create a sense of scarcity and the fear of missing out for the buyer, however, they have been used or rather misused so much, even if they were true no one would believe you.
2.2 The Assumptive Close
- Thanks for the feedback and I’m really pleased you enjoyed the presentation do you think you would prefer to start this month or next?
Before using the Assumptive Close you should remember the saying that “When you Assume you make an ASS out of U and ME”.
2.3 The Puppy Dog Close
- Thanks for the feedback and I’m really pleased you enjoyed the presentation do you think you would prefer to start this month or next?
This closing technique is based on the hope that if you take the product you will love it so much like a puppy dog that you won’t want to give it up. There are a million SaaS salespeople who have given free trials to prospects that will tell you this rarely works and is hugely inefficient.
2.4 The Temperature Close
- On a scale of 1 – 10 with 1 being you hate this idea and 10 being you love it and you want to start right away where are we?
Like all the others this close is so old the prospect knows what the game is and as prospects will never give a 10, the resulting follow up questions just lose you any credibility that you ever had.
2.5 The Alternative Choice Close
- I’m in your area next week and wanted to drop in. Would Wednesday morning or afternoon work better for you?
- Would you prefer the red model or the blue one?
The Alternative Choice close seems to have been around since Biblical times and there is probably no close that sounds more cheesy than this.
The world has moved on from the times when these closes were created and may well have worked, however the Modern buyer is better educated than ever before and they will smell these cheesy and sleazy moves a mile away.
There is a certain Machismo in Sales with things like Closing Techniques and Cold Calling in that your not a real salesperson if you don’t cold call or use hard closing techniques.
Even if these techniques did work most salespeople would never use them because they clash with their personal values.
3. Different Sales Closing Techniques
What if there was a way that you could sell without using sleazy sales closing techniques?
If you want different results and want to be treated differently then you need to understand the real problem and many salespeople might not agree with this.
Let’s take a step back and look at the whole sales process.
Professional Selling is an area of constant change, debate and opinions and for many, this confuses people on what to do, how to do it and when to do it. Couple this with the constant desire for a quick and easy fix and it’s easy to see how salespeople and sales leaders can misunderstand the problems they face. In addition, when you don’t understand the problem then it’s unlikely you will come up with the right solution.
For example, when sales are down the majority of people look for some form of Sales Closing Techniques.
In our experience Sales Closing Techniques are seldom the issue, as the salesperson (or the business) has done something, or missed something earlier in the sales process , that means they are trying to “close” a buyer who doesn’t want to, or cannot be closed. Numbers from Google keywords suggest 1600 people per month search for the phrase, “How to close a sale”, yet only 30 people are searching using the phrase “Sales Qualification Process”.
The reality of the situation is that not every buyer is qualified to buy, and more importantly not every salesperson is qualified to close. Premature closing not only is unlikely to close the sale, but it is more likely that after trying to close unsuccessfully, the salesperson feels less inclined to continue to court the buyer in the future, and the buyer is less likely to want to be courted in the future.
When you go into an Apple shop to buy a phone no selling takes place. The reason Apple don’t need to sell is because of many reasons however from a sales perspective they have a powerful and unique Value Proposition, they have built a strong brand and are good at marketing. The “salespeople” in Apple shops just focus on service and don’t need any closing techniques.
Your business is not Apple, you don’t have the brand or marketing power of Apple so what can happen is salespeople then try to “force” the sale which can remove trust and rapport, provide a negative experience and damage your personal and business brand.
Whenever you encounter a problem in the sales process remember, the root cause of the problem is rarely with something at that particular stage in the process. More often than not, the cause the problem is earlier on in the sales process.
Low Closing rates may well be caused by poor qualification for example. Low Lead qualification rates may be caused by Lead Generation which is targeting the wrong industry sectors.
So, if you are looking for a magic wand or the one line that immediately gets every buyer to get their cheque book out, then stop NOW. Closing the sale is more often than not, done much earlier in the sales process in the buyers mind.
If buyers are mentally selecting their supplier early in the process then the opposite must also be true, in that the buyer can make their mind up NOT to buy long before any presentation or proposal.
“57% of the purchasing decision is made before a customer contacts a supplier”CEB
Many Sales Reps are simply trying to “close a buyer” who cannot be closed.
There are many reasons a prospect cannot be closed such as:
They don’t have the budget (just because they said they did doesn’t mean they do) , they may have to collate the information to take to a meeting where a group will jointly make a decision, their needs may have changed or they simply don’t see the issue as a priority at this moment in time.
This may mean that the salesperson has done something wrong or simply missed something earlier in the sales process that has in some way put the buyer off. Quite often, this was something “trivial” in the sales person’s mind, if indeed they are even aware of the problem. Salespeople miss orders by inches, not miles.
There is no magic wand or quick fix to closing sales, the sales closing techniques or big moves some people believe will close the buyer, simply do not exist.
4. Alternatives to Sleazy Techniques in Sales Closing
In the modern sales environment there can be a lot of pressure to hit sales targets and when the sales pipeline is light, there becomes a tendency to push deals through much harder than when the pipeline is full and sales targets are being satisfied. We would suggest rather than pushing too hard and potentially blowing deals that the focus should move to understanding the right sales activity required to getting better quality sales leads.
4.1 Get More Sales Leads
Finding what works and what doesn’t work in terms of B2B lead generation can be expensive and time consuming for companies, however whilst no two companies are the same there are lessons we can all learn from each other in developing sales leads.
A survey by www.marketingprofs.com has produced some great insights into the various methods companies are using to generate new sales leads.
It’s usually impossible to undertake every lead generation activity on the list and we wouldn’t advocate you even try, however the list might give you some ideas and inspiration in terms of what you can do.
The list was interesting for us, as in our own particular B2B business the top five methods we have experienced for generating new sales leads are:
2) Inside Sales
3) Executive Events
Rather than viewing the survey as definitive, we would suggest this is used as a guide and you review all the methods you are currently using. Don’t stop any of your existing Lead Generation methods unless of course you know for sure they are not delivering any form of return. Instead use the list to cherry-pick new ideas and then A/B test them with your existing methods of generating sales leads.
Regardless of the methods you are using to generate new sales leads, focus on doing a number of the methods consistently, rather than trying to use too many of the different methods. For most companies this means doing between 5 and 7 activities and with the consistency this brings you will also start to improve on the quality of your execution. Doing a small number consistently well is much better than doing a large number randomly with varying degrees of quality.
4.2 Get Better Quality Sales Leads
Sales leads have a poor conversion ratio when followed up by sales people, despite surveys showing most B2B Sales Reps are struggling to hit sales targets.
Surely when sales people are under pressure to hit targets, then logic would dictate to follow up sales leads would be a priority.
Furthermore surveys show following up is key to sales success, for example, a survey by InsideSales reported “Salespeople who follow up a lead within 5 minutes are 9 times more likely to convert them” and “50% of sales go to the first sales person to contact the prospect”. Why then, is there such a disconnect between Sales and Following Up?
“50% of sales go to the first sales person to contact the prospect”InsideSales
Due to the perceived quality of the leads, Sales Reps simply do not believe the Sales Leads provided will convert to a sale. Content Marketing has helped drive a different type of web traffic – people searching for answers. This is not the same as people searching for solutions they are willing to pay for. Once the traffic is on your website, marketing then drives the list building process via the numerous lead capture methods, such as white papers, video demo’s and free ebooks.
With most sales leads coming from online, companies can only influence not control who visits their website and who fills in the web contact forms. According to Marketing Sherpa a massive 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales and only 27% of leads passed to Sales are qualified.
“79% of marketing leads never convert into sales and only 27% of leads passed to Sales are qualified.”Marketing Sherpa
There is then a mixture of Sales Leads in terms of quality and rather than simply passing these on to sales people, the Sales Leads should undergo an initial qualification by marketing or inside sales, before being passed to Sales Professionals. Should these Sales Leads not be “ripe” enough to qualify, they should then enter the Lead Nurturing process until they are “ripe” and ready to buy. According to The Annuitas Group, nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured Sales Leads.
Content Marketing is here to stay, but we need to align our sales process with it, if we want to get the most from it, and not increase the gap between Sales and Marketing. Giving Sales People unqualified Sales Leads not only wastes their time, it demotivates and distracts them from what they should be focusing on – the qualified Sales Leads and their existing sales pipeline.
“Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured Sales Leads”The Annuitas Group
3. Slow the sales process down
The most common mistake we see, however, is that Sales Teams are trying to close opportunities that are not yet ready for closing. What’s worse, is that more often than not, by trying to close an opportunity that is not ready, salespeople can very often lose the opportunity completely.
There is a balance to be struck between the timid “never ask for the order” salesperson and the blunt force “Always be closing” approach. To optimize your opportunities, and choose the perfect time to use those Sales Closing Techniques, you can follow these 7 simple steps, to determine for yourself when a prospect is ready for closing.
Rather than rushing to the Presentation stage of the sales process, if salespeople were to spend more time accurately diagnosing the root cause of the problems, the business and personal impact of the problems, buyers would be much more likely to want to move forward with a sales professional proficient at this, than anyone using Sales Closing Techniques.
WITH REGARDS TO THE GAP – The gap is the difference between where the buyer is right now and their desired state in the future.
1) Has the buyer verbally acknowledged the existence of a gap between where they are now and where they need to be?
2) Has the buyer verbally acknowledged the symptoms caused by the Gap?
3) Has the buyer verbally agreed with your joint Root Cause Analysis?
4) Has the buyer verbally acknowledged the impact on their business of this Gap?
5) Has the buyer verbally committed to eliminating the Gap?
6) Has the buyer quantified the cost of the Gap?
7) Has the buyer verbally stated the emotional reasons for closing the Gap?
This form of Gap Analysis requires great product knowledge, experience and Consultative Selling Skills.
You will notice we use the phrase “verbally acknowledge” often. In our experience, most salespeople fail to clarify exactly what is important to the buyer and what is being said by the buyer, versus what they are hearing. Optimism, enthusiasm, desperation, assumptions and simple inattention to detail, all serve to cloud the hearing of salespeople. Unless the words come from the buyers’ lips, the salesperson needs to confirm everything.
By teaching salespeople this step by step process, you will find that buyers start to give the salespeople the order before the salesperson has to ask for it. The best sales people simply facilitate the right conditions for the buyer to buy. Also, you will find this process easier to teach than closing techniques, as it will not conflict with any negative paradigms the salesperson has, and buyers are much more comfortable with this process.
Whilst we strongly advocate you follow the seven-step process to allow the buyer to buy, this does not mean you never use Closing Sales Techniques or never ask for the order. If the salesperson has walked the buyer through the seven steps, they have every right to ask for the order and indeed should do so.
The great thing about this process is the flexibility in terms of the time taken to go through the seven steps. For smaller, less complex transactional sales it might only make sense to be taking a light touch, on each of the seven areas over a 15-minute conversation. For complex Solution Selling with multiple decision-makers and influencers, you can drill down into each of the areas in real detail. Remember if you want to speed the sale up, slow the sale down to make sure you cover all the bases.
The best Sales Professionals do not need to use Sales Closing Techniques, as their buyers close the sale on themselves. Once you master this, you will find selling is much easier, and a much more enjoyable process for your sales team and your buyers.
5. Sales Closing Techniques Example
Closing Sales Techniques and when to use them is by far the most common enquiry we receive from Sales Managers and Business Owners. Whilst we sympathize and understand their need to close more sales, unfortunately, the need for Closing Sales Techniques is an indication of a more deep-rooted sales problem and culture as follows.
If you imagine for a minute that you have a bad cold, and you go for an appointment at the Doctors. As you walk into the Doctor’s office and sit down, he asks “How may I help you?”, to which you reply “I have a runny nose”. What would your opinion be of the Doctor if he produced a box of tissues?
The Doctor would be guilty of treating the symptoms ie the runny nose not the underlying problem which could be a heavy cold or flu. In reality, after you have explained that you have a runny nose, your Doctor would use a follow-up question such as “Are you experiencing any other problems?”
If you truly had a bad cold you might say “Well, my throat is a bit tender”. Again the Doctor would use another follow-up question such as “Anything else?”
Note how the Doctor is never anxious to jump in. You answer “Well I think I have a bit of a fever.” Only after a full diagnosis will the Doctor prescribe any medicine.
Hence the saying in Sales Training, “Prescription of solutions without proper Diagnosis is malpractice.”
5.1 Before any Sales Presentation or Proposal you Must Ask…
As a quick reference you might want to use the following checklist, before you even give a prospect any form of presentation, let alone try to close them:
1) What is the Gap between, what you have now and what you would like to have in the future after we have delivered our product or service?
2) Given everything on your desk right now what is the importance of the Gap and are you committed to closing the Gap?
3) What resources have you allocated (one of these resources will be money) and are you willing and able to utilize in order to Close the Gap?
4) What process and criteria have you in place to select your preferred supplier and who all else is involved?
5) What is it you would need to see in a presentation/proposal, that would make them you choose our Solution?
6. Coach Salespeople to get Prospects to Close Themselves
There is a possibility that your Sales Team needs help with creating the right conditions for the Buyer to close themselves. Sales Managers should coach the Salespeople using the following questions to make sure that their prospects are qualified to close.
- What Gap does the prospect have between, what they have now and what your solution would provide in the future, or what is the gap between where they are now and where they want to be after you have delivered your product or service?
- What importance does the prospect place on closing the Gap and are they committed to closing the gap?
- Does the prospect have adequate resources (not just money, access to people, systems, support etc) that they are willing and able to utilize to Close the Gap?
- Has the prospects shared their decision-making process and all the stakeholders involved?
- What is it the prospect would need to see in a presentation or proposal, that would make them say Yes?
In the example above, note how the questions lead the salespeople to take the prospect through a process of self-discovery, where the prospect discovers for him/herself what is, the root cause of the problem.
Sales Professionals, know that most prospects misdiagnose their situation and ask for solutions to treat the symptoms, not solutions to treat the problems.
Your sales team may need help with Sales Closing Techniques, however, typically, any problem that you encounter in the sales process is rooted somewhere earlier on, in your sales process.
7. Recommended Reading
Sales Closing techniques are covered in our online sales training course.
You can read more about and download all the FREE tools templates and guides mentioned in this article via our B2B Sales Tools page.