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Sales Solutions
Closing vol 2, issue #24
December 15, 2004
I thought it fitting, as the year 2004 comes to a "close" and we're all under pressure to "close", to pen a column on closing. Now personally, I've never liked the term, "closing." Here we are "opening" what we hope will be a long-term relationship with a new customer, and we call it "closing?" I prefer, instead, "gaining commitment". But "closing," is, of course, more widely-accepted. Besides, I figured you're more likely to open an email with a subject line of "closing" than one that contains the word, "commitment!" So I went with "Closing." Such are the deliberations of a writer!

First, let's dispel with some misconceptions about closing:

  1. The prospect will be, or should be, so instantly wowed by what we have to say that the sales cycle will be short
  2. The more you tell the prospect, the higher the likelihood you'll close him
  3. When they're ready to buy, prospects will explicitly tell you they are
  4. Except for products that lend themselves to one-call closes, Closing is an event that occurs at a stage (the "closing") of a sales cycle

Effective closers expect a sale to take time to develop, understand that selling is as much about listening as it is about talking (perhaps more so), know that prospects need to be prodded to get off the dime and make a decision, and are "closing" throughout the sales engagement.

Now, let's take a look at some Closing mistakes many sales people make:

  1. Attempting to close the sale too soon
  2. Continuing to sell when the prospect is ready to buy
  3. Not asking for the order/not closing when the customer indicates he's ready
  4. "Going for the close" in one fell swoop (during the "closing phase")

If you try to close a prospect before he is ready, you not only are likely to be rebuffed, you run the risk of coming across as self-serving. On the other hand, if you fail to close when the time is ripe, you're shooting yourself in the foot, and frustrating the prospect, who now wants to get on with using your solution. Lastly, if you haven't built up commitment to your solution along the way, your close will just seem unnatural (really big decisions are difficult to make; prospects have to be eased into them gradually).

So what are the "secrets" to effective closing? Like any thing else, it requires good closing technique and the ability to "read" the prospect:

  1. It starts - contrary to intuition - at the beginning of the sales cycle, by asking questions to gain an understanding of the prospect's situation, needs, goals, and selection process
  2. Being patient. Closing when the prospect is ready and receptive (all the pieces are in place, all objections have been dealt with)
  3. Gaining commitment and acceptance along the way by using trial closes
  4. Being alert for buying signals - indications of acceptance, both verbal and non-verbal
  5. Knowing when to talk, and when to stop talking
  6. When the prospect is ready, asking for the order!

Bottom line: A properly-executed sale doesn't need a drum-rolling, nerve-racking "closing moment". Rather, the "close" should casually transition the prospect from a buying mindset to an owning mindset. Once you've demonstrated the superior value of your offering, gotten buy-in from everyone you need to, and dealt with all their objections, the "closing question" need only be something as innocuous as, "So, when would you like to take delivery?"

Good Selling, and lots of success in the New Year!

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