Closing The Sale: A Primer

It’s the most coveted, sought-after step in the entire sales process, but nothing produces more worry, anxiety, argument, stress and flop-sweat.

Ultimately, however, the close is what separates the men from the boys and the neophyte from the master. How you handle this step in the sales cycle can make your career a pleasure or an ongoing source of tension and distress.

Happily, the basics of closing the sale are not hard to learn and understand. Also it might surprise you to discover that the best closing methods are also the oldest.

Why?

Because, the simple, natural laws of selling predate all the newest and latest, guaranteed closing methods.

You’ll find that focusing on the principles instead of methods is the time-honored way to move into the winners circle consistently.

This short article is a primer – an introduction to the elementary principles of closing the sale. It is unique as it focuses on the proven, natural laws of sales closing and why they work.

No matter what you are selling this approach gives you a solid foundation to build whatever sales closing methods work for you.

Lets get started.

Closing the sale

Some salespeople hate closing. But you’d better learn to love it, or be ready to change professions.

Why, you ask?

Because:

  • It is the final test of the abilities of a sales professional.
  • Income is commonly based on closed sales.
  • Salespeople who cannot close, have short careers.

Here is a short summary of the overall sales process:

  1. It begins with a friendly contact between you and the customer and finding things you have in common.
  2. Next you build agreement to gradually strengthen trust and confidence.
  3. Then clarify their purposes and show how you can help them have what they really want at a price they can afford.
  4. Finally, once the prospect see the benefit for themselves, bring the process to a close.

It really is as simple as that.

If you’ve got the wrong tools, or don’t know how to use what you do have, you’ll be working a lot harder for unsatisfying results. Like trying to cut down a tree with a handsaw, it’s frustrating.

The last step (the close) gets the most attention, but importantly, that step is completely dependent on completing the steps before it. All the trouble you have in sealing the deal can be traced to not fully completing the earlier steps.

Treating the sales close as just another step in the process often helps avoid the stress and tension that often rears its ugly head as you begin to move toward closing the deal.

This is important because if the salesperson seems under stress at any point, this comes across to the customer as a generalized uncertainty.

Customers often don’t know why they feel stressful – they just feel stress coming from someplace.

Note: Stress creates uncertainty. Uncertainty creates doubt. And the primary barriers to closing the sale are stress, uncertainty and doubt.

Moral: Don’t create stress for the customer.

OK, now what is “the close”?
It’s the final step of the overall selling process as discussed, but you’re using slightly different tools.

Sales closing is a specialty in itself.

The focus in sales closing is to move from the general idea of generating interest and agreement though selling, to the point where the customer understands the personal benefits that your solution will give them.

They may now be ready to buy, but they still need your help in getting past the usual barriers that go with anything involving parting with their money!

The close is also the point at which the buyer and the seller reach a final agreement on the next step.

Got that?

No agreement = no sale.
Agreement = possible sale.

Building agreement is the most important element to any closed sale. The easiest way to do this is by finding common ground between you and the customer.

Establishing common ground is, in fact, one of the core skills in contacting, connecting and engaging people. Commonly, your genuine interest in them, will always lead you to something you both have in common.

Don’t underestimate the power of this simple concept of building agreement.

Why?

Because, what happens when you try to force someone to agree with you?

You create resistance and disagreement that wasn’t there to begin with.

Agreement, commonality, or a meeting of the minds, also includes a perceived personal benefit in the mind of the customer.

This is the result of carefully planned and executed steps of the overall process leading to this point. It’s what you’re looking for, as it signals a very real possibility that the sale will close at this point.

Good question: When is the right time to try to close a sale?
Obvious answer: When the customer is ready to buy.

Most buyers make up their minds to buy only when they understand the personal benefits involved. It doesn’t matter what you think or what you say.

If they don’t see the benefit for themselves, it doesn’t exist.

You can’t force it or demand it, or become frustrated with them. It’s your responsibility to comfortably make it real in a way that they can accept and understand.

Hint: If they see it, it’s true. If you say it, it’s questionable.

Note: They don’t have to tell you their personal reasons about why it’s a benefit. You’ll should see the non-verbal signals anyway so just bring the sale to a close at that point with no further selling.

Remember: Stop selling when the deal is closed.

Any selling you do after the sales close is complete will threaten the already closed deal. Don’t do any selling after the deal is closed. Instead, just go ahead to the paperwork and scheduling as this cements the fact of the close.

As a salesperson, you’re there for one reason: to help the customer.

When it looks like they understand the benefits, they may be ready to buy. There is no guarantee, but you should try to close at that point. Good judgment and common sense are in high demand at this point and they are tools you should use liberally.

Good question: What personality type is the most successful at closing the sale?
Obvious answer: The type that fits best with the customer. The focus is always on the customer, never on the salesperson.

To expand on the idea of sales personality types, here are the three primary types:

  1. Aggressive
  2. Submissive
  3. Assertive

You can estimate which group you fall into by evaluating your strengths in these categories:

a) defining customer needs;

b) establishing and maintaining agreement;

c) controlling the presentation;

d) closing the sale.

The overly aggressive type may control every interaction with the customer, but falls short because they believe they know-best and fail to gather information on what the prospect really needs and wants. They tend to talk more than they listen.

When the prospect doesn’t understand something and resists buying, (because of a misunderstanding or disagreement) the aggressive type becomes irritated, forceful, even bullying and overwhelming, which intensifies and creates greater disagreement and sales resistance (the death-knell of any closing possibility).

The submissive salesperson is often excellent social interaction, over coffee, at dinner in restaurants and other social occasions. They are effective at establishing rapport, but tend to fall down on effectively controlling the sales process.

Too often they simply accept the customers’ needs and wants without question (too agreeable). They back off from asking probing questions to further uncover the real problems. (too cautious and “nice”)

At the close, the submissive salesperson fails to give comfortable yet effective control necessary to overcome natural trepidation on the part of the customer at parting with their hard-earned cash; and the sale slips away. (too timid)

The assertive salesperson is self-confident and self-assured.

While controlling the process without forcing the customer, and all the while maintaining open, relaxed communication, they build agreement by genuine caring about and responsiveness to the customers’ needs and wants.

By careful questioning and active listening, they glean valuable information that may not have been otherwise volunteered.

By being natural and being yourself and building agreement in comfortable increments, aligning the customers’ purposes to what the salesperson is selling, responding to objections with real solutions while maintaining comfortable control, the close becomes somewhat automatic.

It is axiomatic that the salesperson must be ready to close when the prospect is ready to buy.

It’s a mistake to continue selling when it’s clear the customer is ready to buy as you can easily talk yourself out of the sale!

Another major reason for failure in closing the sale is that some salespeople seem unwilling or unable to ask for the order.

Fear that the customer will say “no” has lost many sales. Don’t be afraid to ask for the order when the time is right.

Some salespeople use up all their “sales ammunition” too soon and have nothing left, when just one more advantage presented at the right time, might have put the sale in the closed column. Hold something in reserve if you need it.

There is one primary purpose for studying sales principles and natural laws of selling: To help the prospect.

The fact that you experience a personal benefit from increased confidence in your skills is secondary to the primary purpose of your job. Always keep in mind that all you’re ever doing is trying to help the customer.

Sales pressure
This subject must be looked at although some may find it uncomfortable to do so.

Just remember these two facts:

  1. Sales pressure is your friend.
  2. Forcing the customer is your enemy.

Many salespeople shy away from using sales pressure often because they don’t understand it or they confuse it with force.  This is a mistake. Don’t be afraid of using pressure when called for in closing the sale.

The dictionary states that pressure is something that affects thoughts and behavior in a powerful way. This is not a negative thing.

Sales pressure is another way of saying you care about the customer and you’re convinced that what you’re offering is the best solution for their problems.

Customers generally do not mind sales pressure when appropriate, but they uniformly hate being forced to buy. Learn to tell the difference.

People have different tolerances of how much pressure is acceptable and when it seems like they are being forced.

Just remember:

Pressure is welcome if it helps the customer make tough decisions.

Force is always resisted and always resented. Don’t do it.

Objections
Some salespeople avoid objections. My guess is that they fail to recognize that “No” doesn’t always mean “No.”

Mostly, it means you haven’t done your job on the earlier steps. In any case, you should not shrink from handling this important step.

Remember, if you never ask for the order, you may never hear “No.” But, you’ll also never get the order!

Example:

Lets assume you have already qualified the customer and they can afford what you’re selling. Also, you have established that they need and want what you’re offering. Now, the final step is to seal the deal by securing the payment.

Ask for the offer.
If they say, “Yes,” you say, “Good,” then start the paperwork immediately.

If they say, “No,” then you handle as necessary with the simplest way possible that still gets the result.

Examples:

They start to doubt their decision to move ahead with the deal:

You say, “Well, you do want (product or service) don’t you?”

“Lets get it done today.”

If they come up with a general objections that can’t be handled right then, you say,

“OK, that’s an interesting point of view. Let’s take a look at that.”

Then you get it down to specifics so they come off the generality.

Get them gradually off the generalized “stop or slow down” and remind them of what they really want.

Then show them how they can get what they wanted.

If they say,

“I’m going to do it, but I’ve got to work out the money. I’ll get back to you after I go home and figure it out.”

You should say,

“Well, what exactly do you have to figure out?

They’ll squirm around a bit because the excuse they have given is not the truth. Get them through it and you’ll help them get what they really want.

As the salesperson, you have to be able to face the back-off and barriers that you may have on asking people for money. You cannot shrink from  those barriers. You cannot be timid or careful about asking people about these areas and helping the prospect get past the mental barriers that are stopping them (likely in more ways than one).

Your job is to help the customer.

The close is the step where you help them move past the obstacles stopping them from getting what they really need and want.

Help the customer by being on their side. You’re their ally not an adversary. You’re there to help them get what they want.

Keep their attention on the result not the process and you’ll close more deals with less effort.

To turn mystery into mastery in closing the sale, remember these points.

Natural Selling Laws:

  1. Closing the sale starts with the first contact with the customer.
  2. The sales close is just the last step in the overall selling process, no more or less important than any other.
  3. Building agreement (common ground) throughout the sales process takes the stress out of buying.
  4. Uncertainty, doubt and fear are caused by stress – the primary barriers to closing a sale.
  5. People don’t buy products or services; they buy solutions to their problems.
  6. Sell what they want to buy, not what you need to sell.
  7. Keep your attention on adding value to the customer, not on the money.
  8. Maintaining comfortable control during selling process eliminates the need for forcing the customer at the close.
  9. The fatal flaw in closing stems from an incomplete handling of the prior steps, or even trying to skip one of them entirely.
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask for the order when the time is right.
  11. People generally like buying. They don’t like being sold.
  12. “Yes” usually comes as one word, but “no” is commonly accompanied with reasons why not.
  13. “Magical closing methods or miraculous techniques “will not work if the prospect is not prepared for buying.
  14. Force is the enemy of closing, as it creates resistance and disagreement. Pressure is not force.
  15. Sales pressure means caring about the customer combined with the conviction that your solution is the best for them.
  16. Agreement = closed sales. Disagreement = no sale.
  17. Help the customer get what they want and they’ll give you what you need.
  18. Natural laws and basic principles are few, methods are infinite.
  19. Principles drive methods, not the reverse.
  20. People can’t decide on what they don’t understand.

daniel w. jacobs
(c) 2012 – 2030, all rights reserved.

One Response to “Closing The Sale: A Primer”

  1. Brad Kinkler Says:

    Excellent insight on the “back story” of what sales is all about.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: