When we conduct our sales training, a fast rule we follow is that there are no special skills in closing. In a different article, the Myth of the Perfect Closing Script, I relayed as much. Those closing scripts and closing tips are a part of a different era, a different environment, and different customer culture.
Today, the reason we say there is no special skill in closing is because we believe that closing has more to do with the sales reps confidence, not his or her ability to follow a script.
In all the assessments that we have done prior to conducting our training sessions, I’ve seen that the ability to close is related to how an individual deals with scarcity and abundance. For instance, if the salesperson is operating out of a scarcity mentality, and they don’t have much in their sales pipeline, they’ll be more likely to accept a “maybe” from the prospect. They may be opposed to challenging the prospect, vetting out objections, clarifying objections, and using any language that may put the relationship at risk. They can’t afford to lose any opportunities.
On the other hand, when we find sales reps with a more abundant mentality, their pipeline is might be three or five times their goal, and they are more apt to give a prospect a push, try some new techniques, and challenge their objections. They don’t lose sight of their people skills, but they are a little more assertive when dealing with buyers.
Sales as a Series of Yeses
In looking for sales closing tips, we realize that closing in today’s complex selling environment is not something that is tacked on at the end of the sales process as an afterthought. It happens throughout the sales process. Selling is a series of yeses:
- “Yes. I’ll meet with you.”
- “Yes, you can ask me questions.”
- “Yes, you can present something to me or prescribe something to me.”
- “Yes, you addressed and resolved my objections.”
- “Yes, I’ll buy from you.”
You’ve got about 5 necessary yeses when shepherding your prospect through your sales process.
When you look at the sales process this way, we see there are 5 critical junctions where you must overcome some type of resistance, or “objections”. Understanding where you are in the sales process and understanding the type of resistance, or objections, you are facing will help you close better.
Closing Tip 1: Know What a Buying Signal Is
The first one of our sales closing tips is being able to identify a buying signal. Looking back at the collected sales wisdom of the past, we have ample descriptions of buying signals from the experts. Your prospect is sitting across from you: they are leaning forward, they look attentive, maybe they are rubbing their chin, perhaps they are asking clarifying questions…all are buying signals.
However, an alternate narrative might be they are confused, and they are trying to understand what you are saying. Perhaps they have an itchy chin, or they need a shave.
The truth is you don’t know which explanation adequately explains what you are seeing.
So, what’s a buying signal? A buying signal is anything a buyer says or does that indicates some level of interest.
Closing Tip 2: Know What a Warning Signal Is
Now, let’s flip the coin over and look at the other side. What’s a warning signal?
Again, going back to all those sales books and psychology books that made attempts at codifying body language, we can look at past descriptions. Your prospect is sitting across from you with their arms crossed. They aren’t paying attention. Perhaps even looking at their phone. Alternately, they could be cold and trying to keep warm. Maybe they’ve got another meeting scheduled and your session is bumping into that time. Or maybe they just got a call from home.
Again, we don’t know which description explains your observations. And again, we are left with trying to define a warning signal.
A warning signal is anything the buyer says or does that indicates disinterest at some level.
The question becomes, for both buying and warning signals: if you can see what they buyer does and you can hear what the buyer says, how do you know if they are interested or disinterested? The answer is: you test them by asking a trial close question. It might be something like, “how does this sound so far?”
This is like sticking a toothpick in a cupcake to determine if it’s done. If the toothpick comes out clean, then you are ready to move to the next phase. But if the toothpick comes out with stuff attached, then you have some more cooking to do.
Closing Tip 3: Identifying an Objection
A third in our list of closing tips is to recognize an objection.
We have different categories of objections. In my best-selling book, Selling is an Away Game, we talk more about your financial marketplace-driven objections. There are objections that are wrapped in cost, value, price, or budget.
An objection, one that we typically think of as a sales objection, comes after you’ve proposed or prescribed your solution to your prospect. And objections, by their nature, reflect a certain level of interest in your solution.
An objection is anything the buyer says or does that indicates hesitation to move the sale forward.
Closing Tip 4: Distinguish Your Inherent Objections
In a previous article, I mentioned an inherent objection. These are objections that occur because you didn’t do something well in the sales process.
I was recently with a group, the Baltimore Ravens, and we were discussing objections. Someone in the session said, “What if your prospect just doesn’t want to meet with you? Is that an objection?”
Well, this is what we call a put-off because the “objection” is more about you and your process and not about any solution you’ve offered.
Inherent objections mostly occur early in the sales process and often relate to your prospect being preoccupied, busy, distracted, or not wanting to meet with you. You find a level of disinterest or disengagement with your prospect. These all occur without you offering any type of solution to their problem.
You need to be able to distinguish these inherent objections (the ones in which you have not yet gained the prospect’s trust) from your standard sales objections (the ones in which your prospect is interested in your offering and might move forward if you can resolve the issue at hand).
Closing Tip 5: Asking for the Business
The last of our closing tips is to close the business once you’ve pitched a real solution. Following the sales process will get you most of the way to the close. However, you still must ask for the business.
As we’ve stated before, the close is not something that is forced at the end. When you walk your prospect through your sales process, the close flows naturally. But it won’t happen on its own. You still must ask the question. And so many sales reps miss this. They either try to force the close or they become shy as the end approaches, as if they’re afraid that they’ll scare off the prospect by asking for the business.
Most of the time, the simplest close is the best. I’ve seen sales reps try to overcomplicate the close by cloaking it in some “mystical language” that only sales people can understand. Don’t get fancy. Just ask if they are ready to proceed.
I can’t emphasize this enough. If you have followed your process and addressed their concerns, then the close is merely the doorway to the next phase in the customer lifecycle. Simply ask them if they are ready to move forward. If the buyer says yes, then move forward. And if the buyer says no, then treat the response as an objection and find a way to overcome it. Either way, you’re moving forward. So stop hedging and start moving!
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