The end goals of every sales person is closing a deal and empowering clients to solve their business problems. The art of the close is a balancing act. Closing is often associated with the final signed contract, it actually should be layered through the sales cycle.
Stop thinking of ‘closing’ as a one time event and see it instead the culmination of the deal cycle. Think of your sale cycle as building a house – each day you are building on top of the foundation. You follow a blueprint and at times adjust the plans based on new information within the process. During the building process you don’t second guess that at the end of construction the house will be completed.
I use this analogy because to succeed in the close you need to strategically focus on building the proper foundation to close. The steps involved in this vary depending on product and deal complexity. Regardless of how transactional the sales cycle is -value and preparation leads to successful closes.
Most sales professionals enjoy having conversations about product and building rapport with clients because it doesn’t feel pushy. However when it comes to asking for a client’s business and money it often feels awkward and forced, especially when we haven’t built the proper foundation to roll into a close and ask for the business.
When you focus on building value and how the direct positive business impacts you solution provides their business – the close isn’t so much asking for the sale as ‘advising with authority’ that you solution will exceed their needs. Building the proper foundation for a close through discovery and preemptive objection handling establishes you as a partner – who is not trying to sell as much as help the client decide on how to purchase technology.
While discovery and proactively providing value to the pain (overcoming objections before they even arise) – are critical, it is also important to be transparent and candid with clients about the end goal:
“We want to win your business and at the end of your research we want you to purchase our solution” – I paraphrase this, but the point is that you can still be a ‘counselor-style’ salesperson and be direct. It is the intention that matters here. Gracious transparency and genuine desire to ‘win their business’ as the best vendor to solve their unique business problems.
You don’t test drive a car without expecting the dealership to ask if you are ready to purchase it…the same goes with technology sales. The key is your approach, be genuinely interested and transparent.
Two closing methods that empower counselor sales professionals are the ‘Trial Close’ and ‘Service Close.’
- It is important to be direct in discovery to find out if the client is actually intending to purchase technology or are they just ‘window shopping.’ As simple as this sounds, sales professionals often forget to ask the client on the first call/IQM if they are planning to purchase a solution. This is not on purpose – usually the conversation has buying indicators like ‘we are looking for a new CRM’ or ‘we don’t like out old technology’ – so you dig into the pain and establish all the other key factors like decision-maker and needs – but don’t ask for budget and timeline.
- A trial close simply asks:
- Are you looking to purchase technology
- If we can validate that our solution meets all your required capabilities are you ready to move forward today
- This works well in more transactional sales, but can be edited for a longer and more strategic sales cycle:
- ex:If we meet your required capabilities would you be able to take this to the purchasing team…
- Using a trial close towards the beginning of the initial qualifying meeting/discovery ensures you and the client are on the same page.
- Ex: Yes, I need something right away and am seriously looking to purchase
- Ex: Not today, but I do expect to make a decision in the next few weeks after speaking with my team and looking at other vendors
- Ex: No, I don’t have the budget now, but we are looking a potential software for next year
- You get the idea – asking a Trial Close helps you gauge how to best work your client and anticipate timeline and objections
The Trial Close should be part of the initial discovery and is easy to blend into qualifying questions.
Information from the Trial Close can be incorporated into a Discovery Agreement (ex: client agrees that they will purchase after solution is evaluated if it meets the required capabilities. You can affirm this with the DA)
You have presented your solution, built value and discussed how you can solve their business objectives…you are ready to wrap up the deal and close it down…
But…before you rush into the final close (asking for the business and offering to send the PO), I recommend the ‘service close.’
A service close is a final check in to make sure all outstanding objections and questions have been addressed. The service close establishes trust by ensuring you are listening to client hesitation and confidence before going into the final closing strategy.
A service close validates that there are no issues preventing the customer from moving forward with the sale, based on the functionality alone.
“Based on the functionality alone – do you see any reason why you would not want to move forward with our solution?”
The service close is helpful because it enables the client a space to discuss concerns openly before you lean into the final closing stage. You can be a consultant here tackling each of their concerns step by step.
- It also holds them accountable if they agree that there are no functionality concerns – so if they object to ‘features’ or lack of value in the final closing stages you can hold them accountable with the information gathered in the service close
Many clients (ourselves included when purchasing) often hide behind budget as our objection. While price is usually a factor, often it is not the root reason for ‘no’ – unless we’re talking about your buying a 36 million dollar Chateau on your own island – typically the budget objection is not the real objection.
By using a service close to eliminate any potential objections to functionality – you are more equipped to handle the budget objections and also ensure you can address any fears of moving forward based on functionality.
ABC – Always be Closing is a popular expression – and I agree with it in the context of always working towards the close as a consultant and partner in solution selling. Don’t use ABC to constantly pressure and force closes on a client who has genuine concerns. If the client isn’t ready to purchase ABC becomes always be curious and graciously dig into the reason(s) why.
The Trial Close gages the seriousness of the buyer and budget
The Service Close validates functionality outside of budget
Both help you and the client reach the end goal of closing the loop on the business problem with a resolution (your product/solution)