In the last post, I recounted a study from Mutual of Omaha that examined and challenged this myth about the sales close.
If you recall, out of 1,000 really good leads who were poised to say “yes” to the deal, only about 7% closed because the salespeople didn’t ask for the sale.
Here’s the ugly truth: there is no skill in closing. Real closers, like fairies, pixies, and leprechauns, don’t exist. However, if you ever looked at the classifieds or online for sales jobs, companies are always looking to hire “closers”. It has become a mystical assumption that selling skills are all concentrated in the sales close.
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The Sales Close is like a Plane Landing
Here’s an analogy that comes from my time on the road. I travel fifty times a year, and I don’t know much about the science of flight or what it takes to be a pilot. But I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of information to consider when a plane’s taking off. The plane has to have enough thrust, enough fuel, the pilot has to think about headwinds, and they have to have the right speed to get that plane to take off. And I always conclude that the pilot’s skill set is actually about getting that plane up in the air. In fact, I’m still amazed to this day that a two-ton piece of steel tubing can thrust itself through the air at hundreds of miles an hour and stay in the air while traveling from Columbus to San Francisco.
When I think about flying though, I also think about gravity. I know at some point, intentionally or not, that plane is going to come down because gravity is going to pull it down. Which means at the end of the journey, with the assistance of gravity, the plane is going to come down. The pilot is going to bring that plane down for a landing, but not without factoring in gravity.
I equate that process to sales, where the majority of the heavy lifting is done in the beginning to build momentum. At some basic level, sales is nothing more than a series of yesses. And most of the time the challenge with the sales close comes from inherent objections.
The Skills Involved in the Sales Close
As stated before, there are no special skills in closing. The sale is going to come to a freaking end. Now, It might not roll in your favor, you might not get the deal, or you might get a no. You may even get a maybe, which as we pointed out before, would really suck! But the sales is going to end. And if you put in your work ahead of time to build momentum, then the amount of work you need to put in at the end to have a smooth landing will be minimal.
Recently, my VP of sales, Allison, and I were on the phone talking to Dave and Buster’s. Actually, I was invited to sit in on the call. Allison had approached me and said, “Hey, I haven’t been on call with you in a while. Would you give me some feedback on this call?”
I said, “certainly.” So before long we were pitching one of the VPs from Dave and Buster’s, named Jackie.
As the meeting neared the end, Allison was asking good questions. “So what are your thoughts moving forward?”
Jackie laid out how to follow up and said, “Give me a couple weeks. Let’s talk then.”
“That’s great,” replied Allison. “So we’ll kind of target the next two weeks.”
At that point I jumped in because I was waiting for Allison to say something specific, and she didn’t.
“Hey, Jackie,” I said. “You’re so busy. Why don’t we pencil in Monday the ninth? Say, one o’clock, so you’re not chasing us; we’re not chasing you. We just have it locked in. At that point we can discuss whether or not we move forward with this pilot program.”
“That’s fine,” she said.
Overcoming Indecisiveness to Close the Sale
We got off the phone and Allison said, “You have some feedback?”
“Your opening was rock solid. I probably would have had her give her observations first. Remember, telling is not selling. And then the other thing is that you left the next steps open. You were way too casual with it.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“You were just going to leave it at, ‘Hey, let’s follow up in a couple weeks.’ And it was going so well, Allison,” I said. “I get why you were doing that. But sales is all about building momentum. You have to create next steps, close, and create decisiveness to move forward. Remember, if you’re dealing with indecisiveness, you need to be decisive, right? In Latin, that means to cut off from. You cut off other possibilities. That’s why you need a yes or no, and that’s why maybe sucks. So even in that situation, even though that was an incremental agreement to move forward, you have a next step locked in. If you didn’t have that locked in, it’s easier for her to put you off longer and not do business with you.”
Much of the fabled sales closing skills we hear about are nothing more than maintaining momentum until you are ready to “bring the plane in for a controlled descent” and then landing the plane. It’s no different from what you’ve done throughout the sales process.
The Sales Close is a Part of Your Sales Process
A while ago, when I ran several franchises, my now Director of Technology pointed out something to me. Back then, all members of my team had to have sales training and experience selling. After one of my internal sales training sessions, he handed me a book by Dan Kennedy about direct marketing and said, “You have to see this. It’s exactly what you just trained us on, closing the sale.”
The passage he highlighted is reflective of my philosophy towards sales since I started selling. It simply read that if you, as the salesperson, consistently execute your sales process, then the sales close won’t be forced, but will follow as a natural extension of your sales process.
So remember, if you want to be a “good sales closer”, then open your sales call with power, build momentum throughout the sales process, and remember to ask for the sale.
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