Closing is the art of gaining of commitment. Some commitment gaining occurs at the end of the sales cycle. But more often there are many smaller commitments that allow the sale to move forward. The industry has historically placed far too much emphasis on the closing event at the end of the sales cycle and far too little on the commitment gaining that occurs at and between all of the stages of the sales process (this is one of the reasons that it may sometimes feel like your sales process is broken).
1. Know Your Outcome
The first way to improve your closing is to know what outcome you are seeking. People often mistake activity for outcomes. They are not the same. Making a sales call is not an outcome. The outcome is gaining agreement to move forward towards a deal.
Before any and every sales encounter, you have to decide what you want the outcome of that sales call to be. This is the most important and most overlooked piece of effective sales call planning.
Make a list of the all of the stages of your sales cycle. Now make a list of all of the agreements that you have to obtain in order to effectively move a deal from the beginning of that process to the final closing event. Make a list of the commitments that you have had to obtain that aren’t part of your sales process, like agreements for access to stakeholders that aren’t traditionally needed and access to information that normally isn’t required.
Refer to this list before every sales call and decide what commitment you are trying to obtain.
2. Close For What You Have Earned
It isn’t enough to know what outcome you are trying to obtain. To obtain commitments from clients, you have to have earned the right to ask in the first place.
Closing is very natural and very easy if you have earned the right to do so. We earn the right to ask for commitments to move forward together by creating value during each and every sales encounter. “But wait,” you say, “how do I create value during a needs analysis? I am not even presenting my ideas.” Exactly!
The way to create value on each and every sales call is to leave the prospect or client in a better position that they would have been otherwise. Sticking with the Needs Analysis example, you leave the client with a deeper understanding of their situation, a greater understanding of the implications, and perhaps a clearer vision of how their future might be made better. Without presenting, you may create value by exploring the needs for change and how that change might be made. But you have to be really good to make this happen.
Make a list of the sales calls you make in the regular course of your sales process. Answer these questions. How does the client benefit from this interaction? How could they benefit even more? What do I do on a sales call that earns me the right to ask to advance towards a deal? What could I do? What would create value for me if I were sitting on the client’s side of the table?
3. Close For Something That Creates Future Value for Your Client
In order to obtain commitments, you have to be able to explain the value of moving forward. This is easy at the end of the sales cycle. When you have an ROI analysis in hand, it is easy to explain the value of moving forward. But what about the beginning of the sales cycle and all the little steps between opening and closing?
Let’s stick with the needs analysis example. Maybe you need to acquire additional information from other stakeholders and decision-influencers within the client’s company. How does the client benefit from granting you access to the additional stakeholders? You, of course, get the access you need to move the deal forward. What is their ROI? How do they benefit?
By now you have a list of commitments that you need at each stage of the sale and a list of all the little commitments that may not be part of your formal sales process. You also have a list of how you create enough value on each sales call to have earned the commitment.
Now you need to make a list of the benefits the client will receive by agreeing to move forward in the sale. Answer these questions: How does the client benefit from agreeing to move forward to the next stage of the sales cycle with me? Even if they go no further in the process, will it be worth their time? What can I do to make sure it is worth their time?
4. Kill the Yellow Book
Closing isn’t about tactics or techniques. If what you say to obtain commitments is found in the middle of a yellow book, you shouldn’t be using it. We could stop right here with the simple instruction to remove these books from your bookshelves and remove anything you have taken from them from your repertoire. Sales isn’t for dummies.
Closing and obtaining the commitment should feel natural to you and to your client. If you have pull out the yellow legal pad and draw a line down the middle, it will not feel natural to your client. It will feel creepy. If it feels natural to you, you were born sometime before 1935.
Simply asking for the commitment you need to move forward, explaining how the client will benefit from taking that next action, and asking for their agreement is all an effective close need contain.
Write down the language you use to ask for commitments. How does the language meet the criteria listed above? How could you make the language both more natural and more effective?
Closing is the first skill or attribute a salesperson must possess. Not because they need to be able to close a deal, but because they need to obtain the commitment to open the possibility of working together, which is the first and most critical commitment the salesperson must obtain. Salespeople obtain commitments only after they have created value for the prospect of client, and they close for the commitment to create future value together.
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