Some people say that in the era of consultative-partner selling, closing is no longer necessary. An article recently published in a management journal quoted a trainer who wrote: ‘Forget about those closing techniques.’
The impression is that closing belongs to yesterday’s sales skills, and that so long as you have an excellent relationship with the customer and match their requirements, the sale will take care of itself.
But this is just not true. Yesterday’s sales skills certainly put way too much emphasis on the role of closing – phrases such as ‘close early and often’ and ‘always be closing’ are clearly nonsense – but as a salesperson you still have to ask for the business, otherwise the other party may simply procrastinate.
Emphasise this in your sales training: it is at the end of a sales presentation, after all your hard work, that the pot is boiling hot and interest is high. That’s the time to ask for the business or gain commitment to take it to the next stage – otherwise your customer’s interest will gradually cool, until it eventually goes cold.
Here’s an example of an effective close
LDL founder Robin Fielder tells this story: ‘I recall, as a prospective customer, sitting in a boardroom discussing the purchase of a freehold office building in which my company was interested. At one stage in the meeting I felt myself beginning to procrastinate, to back off; not for any particular reason, it was just a big decision.
The manager of the property development company that owned the building smiled and said, ‘We are here today to reach agreement so this transaction can take place. Are you happy to do that?’
I agreed and we did the deal that morning. It was an excellent buy. He helped me to make up my mind and get things moving.’
Closing is straightforward
Closing is straightforward. There is no mystique, nothing magical about closing – you close a piece of business by asking for it. Customers actually expect a good salesperson to ask for the order at the end of a presentation, so don’t disappoint them.
If you dither at the close, you affect everything that has happened previously, and present a confidence issue to your customer.
When should you close?
Whenever sales people discuss the topic of closing, the question invariably crops up: “When should I close? Is there a perfect psychological moment to ask for the business?”
Viewed through the lens of LDL’s core sales skill, find out and match (find out the customer’s requirement, and match your service to their requirement), the answer is obvious: you ask for the business whenever the matching is complete.
This may take two hours, two months, two years or two minutes depending on the size and complexity of the sale, how well your company is known, relevant risk issues and a hundred other factors.
Don’t close too early
What happens if you ask for the business before the matching is complete, before the customer can see how your solution satisfactorily meets their requirements? The customer says no, usually with a courteous ‘I want to think about it’ or some other objection. It is important to appreciate that traditional ‘objections’ are more accurately described as ‘areas of mismatch’. The customer is not yet convinced that your solution is the right one for her.
To avoid asking for the business too early, before closing we must find out whether we have achieved a good match or whether we still have more work to do.
Sometimes this is obvious from the customer’s comments. However, if you are unsure, test the matching by asking a test close question.
The test close
Here are four examples:
- ‘How do you feel about it?’
- ‘How does that strike you?’
- ‘Do you have a date in mind?’
- ‘Are you happy with everything we’ve discussed so far?’
If you get a positive response – ‘Yes, it looks good’ – then you have a green light to move on to the final close and actually ask for the order: ‘Would you like to go ahead?’
If you get a negative response on the test close, hold off. It means that there are still some mismatches or unanswered concerns in the customer’s mind and there is no point in closing at this time. Instead, loop back and find out what she is unsure about, deal with it and ask for the business again.
Learn more about LDL sales training, or take a look at The New Professional Selling Skills programme for a complete coaching in the latest consultative-partner selling techniques.