As a sales professional you're already aware of the many steps leading up to that grand finale: the close. At a high level, the process looks like this:
Step 1: Prospecting and Qualifying
Step 2: The Approach/Initial Contact
Step 3: The Presentation
Step 4: Closing the Sale
Step 5: Delivery and Support
Each of these steps require a specific sales-related skillset and must flow in perfect harmony to turn a prospect into a paying customer.
In this article we focus on Step 4: Closing the Sale
There is no simple answer to closing a sale. It's a skill learned and mastered over time. It can be one of the hardest steps for any salesperson to learn. But it's absolutely crucial to get right, lest you risk wasting time with someone you can't convert.
We spoke to 33 top sales leaders to get a list of advice, tips, and insights designed to get you more pens to paper.
This Week's Recommended Reading For Aspiring Sales Leaders:
Just before we continue to the list of 33 ways to close the sale like a pro...
Whether you're brand new to sales or are already a seasoned sales professional, we all know that in order to make it to the top and stay there you must stay current and consistently learn new sales tips and techniques from the best. Below are three of our favourite sales books that have been published by leaders at the very top of their game.
Highly recommended sales leadership books:
33 Ways to Close the Sale Like a Pro: Let's Get Started...
1. Always Ask For the Business
Michael J Ringer (Chief Revenue Officer & Sales Trainer) CommissionCrowd
Many sales agents don't ask for the close, even when they know their solution fits their clients' needs.
More specifically, a staggering 81% of sales reps neglect to even ask for the business. Selling is a skill that's been ingrained into us from childhood. As the saying goes, "if you don't ask you don't get."
As a child you learned to ask your mother for something differently than the way you asked your father. In the same way you learned your parent's needs and responses, you must also get to know your prospects and what they need to solve their problems. Every buyer is different, and while you always need to ask for the business, you also need to ask in a way they can relate to.
2. Slow Down and Focus on Your Customer's Success
Jill Konrath (Sales Strategist/Author) Jill Konrath
Tap the brakes when moving towards the close. Make sure things aren't going too fast. Even if you're showing your stuff, sending collateral, and giving pricing, a client might still not feel like you're focused on his success. Take the time to build a relationship where the client feels you're a truly credible resource and not just self serving.
3. Salespeople Don’t Overcome Objections, Prospects Do
Keith Rosen (Global Authority on Sales and Leadership) Keith Rosen
The only person who can truly overcome an objection is the prospect. Salespeople create the opportunity for this to occur through effective use of questions. Selling is therefore the art of asking questions, listening intently, and gaining information rather than giving it.
4. The Questions You Ask Determine Your Fate
Jeffrey Gitomer (International Sales Trainer and Keynote Speaker) Gitomer
Great questions uncover a prospect's motives, real needs, and general situation. Don't make a speech. Present a compelling message that's value driven rather than product driven. Keep your conversations short and sweet. This is about them, not you.
Me? I assume I have the order when I walk in the door. The best close is no close. It's a combination of making a friend, presenting a compelling reason to buy, being value-driven, being profit-driven, being outcome-driven, and assuming the sale. I hope you have enough self-confidence and self-belief to do the same.
5. Begin Closing the Moment You Meet a Buyer
Tom Hopkins (Speaker, Sales Trainer, Author) - Tom Hopkins International
I begin closing from the onset. Establishing rapport builds trust. My qualifying questions confirm whether or not the prospect can make a decision and which benefits she wants to own. I present those benefits and then address the most common money concerns before asking directly and specifically for her business. I say, "With your approval, we'll welcome you to our family of satisfied clients and schedule your training by (date)." I then remain quiet and wait for her to approve the order. Whoever speaks next owns the product. If I speak, I break the closing momentum. Always let the prospect speak first.
6. Lose Your Attachment to the Outcome
Colleen Stanley (President) - Sales Leadership Inc.
There is no one step in closing a sale. It's a series of steps that start with your mindset. The best way to close is to lose your attachment to the outcome. That creates a sales conversation that is real world and safe. As a result, you uncover the true buying criteria not often found in superficial conversations.
Colleen Stanley also makes a wonderful point about the buyer/human mindset and how to avoid becoming an 'ABC' (Always be Closing - a term taken from the hit movie Glengarry Glenross) sales person.
The “ABC” salesperson hears a problem and translates it to a buying signal. She jumps on the challenge like a sumo wrestler and does a trial close. “Wouldn’t you agree that some of the solutions we offer would solve this problem?” (Does anyone talk like this at home?) The prospect recognizes that the question is a set-up for the big close and shuts down.
The skilled sales professional knows that trial closes like, “Wouldn’t you agree…” create a biological reaction in the prospect. There is a part of the brain called the amygdala. It is often referred to as the old brain. When this part of the brain senses danger, it puts a person into fight (hostility), or flight (end the meeting early) mode. Neither response leads to business. Top sales professionals avoid the “ABC” method. As a result, there is not a fight or flight type of response from prospect. Instead, a collaborative and smart conversation occurs with both parties treating each other with respect. - Colleen Stanley (source: www.salestrainingadvice.com)
7. Timing is Crucial
Nick Kane (Managing Partner) Janek Performance Group
Timing is critical when closing a sale. Capitalize on the natural momentum of the sales call and close appropriately. Closing too early can lose you credibility, while closing too late can raise unfounded concerns. Once it’s the right time, move forward by advocating your recommendation. At this point you'll have built enough trust and rapport that your prospect will look to you for guidance on the product or package that's right for him. Next ask for the business in a clear, confident, and concise way while clearly defining the next steps.
8. Ask These Three Closing Questions
Trevor Finigan (Senior Business Development Executive) Inkas Security Group
When all else fails and you feel stuck ask these three questions to find out what you need close the deal:
1). Is there anything else I can do to help?
2). Do you have any concerns?
3). Can I count on your business if I address these concerns?
Salespeople often complicate things trying to oversell themselves. Ask these basic questions any time you hit a wall to make it an open door or find out why you're stuck. Either way, you'll find yourself moving towards the sale again! Happy selling!
9. Be Your Prospect's Trusted Advisor
Ryan Mattock (Co-Founder) CommissionCrowd
It's important to remember that the word 'closing' is purely an internal term salespeople use to mark a single stage in the sales process.
A salesperson's job is to help make well-thought-out, informed decisions that eliminate a pain point or in some way enhance the prospect's business/personal life.
You're the trusted adviser, the person clients trust to make the right decisions with their money. A good salesperson forgets about the deal and takes on a purely consultative role to ensure that his client makes the best possible decision. That might sometimes involve losing the sale if your solution doesn't fit his need.
You absolutely must have your prospect's best interests at heart. The close comes naturally when you stop seeing prospects as just money in your pocket. Find what you're passionate selling and ask yourself this: if you wouldn't sell it to your mother, how can you sell it to anyone else?
10. Focus on What the Buyer Cares about, Not What You're Selling
Barbara Giamanco (CEO and Sales Advisor) @barbaragiamanco
I close the sale by collaborating with buyers on possible solutions to their problems. I don't pitch, sell features, or bore them by only talking about me or what I sell. I do homework upfront to learn about their business.
I ask good questions, listen, and then make suggestions for possible solutions. In short, I focus on what the buyer cares about and not what I have to sell. You don’t need gimmicky closing techniques. When buyers start co-creating a solution and including their own suggestions, that’s when a deal's getting done.
11. Lay-Up the Close
Mark Ruthfield (VP of Sales) Zaius
I'm a huge fan of my sales team also becoming project managers, getting so close to the sales cycle that the close is just a lay-up. I learned this technique from what John Barrows refers to as his sales follow-up email. My Team calls it an SOE (sequence of events) recap.
In this scenario the rep makes a discovery call, ensures that the activity will lead to revenue, builds value, and confirms that the prospect wants a pilot. Having demonstrated value, he can understand what the next steps should look like working towards a business relationship.
So before hanging up the phone, we tell the customer we want to give an what it's like to be with Zaius. We confirm the success criteria and internal process to earn the client's business before sending an SOE recap email that asks if everything is accurate. We then list the success criteria, how Zaius can help, and any action items/dates/owners. Through this process a rep can become a project manager with an easy lay-up on the horizon!
12. The Silence Rule: First to Speak Loses
Julien Arucci (CEO/Head of Sales) @JulienArucci
One of the best and most overlooked techniques in closing is the silence rule. Make sure to let your client speak first after you've announced your price. The customer will usually tell you something important for the negotiation. The longer the silence goes on after a closing question, the more likely the prospect is ready to buy. Once you break your silence, the customer gets the opportunity to procrastinate or come up with another objection.
13. Ask A & B Questions
Jimmy Woodard (Chief Business Officer) Routine Solution
Don't ask yes or no questions to close the sale. Ask an "A and B" question. So instead of asking, "Does this sound good to you," ask, "Would you like us to deliver this in two weeks or a month?" When selling a product, don't just ask if the client wants one item. Ask if she wants three or five.
14. Don't Shy Away from the Hard Close
Gene Caballero (Co-Founder) Green Pal
Salespeople tend to shy away from the hard close. Instead of asking for the sale, assume it. Ask where your client would like the product shipped or what card he will be using. The hard close takes nerve, but it can bring out the closer in anyone.
15. Use the Assumptive Close
Mark Hunter ( Sales Innovation & Leadership Keynote Speaker) The Sales Hunter
Believe in yourself and fully appreciate what you're doing. You're helping a client see and achieve what he didn't think was possible. Sales is leadership, and leadership is sales.
The most effective way to close a sale is to ask for the order using the “assumptive close.” Ask, “Would it work best to have it delivered on the 16th or the 21st?” It’s important that you display confidence by using a strong voice and good eye contact. Then be silent and wait for your customer to respond.
16. Know Your Product
Morlyn Duma Maturere (Freelance Sales Consultant)
Closing the deal can be a walk in the park once you've immerse yourself in your product. Once you understand the value you bring to the customer and can speak with boldness and confidence, the deal is almost done.
17. Listen and Let Customers Tell You What They Need
Jessica Magoch (CEO) JPM Sales Partners
5 "How can I help you?" Those are the five magic words. No matter what you're selling or who you're selling to, those world can make the sale. They're more than just words, though. They're a mindset. When you put yourself in the mindset of helping the customer, listening more than talking, and putting your needs last, everyone wins. The customer will tell you exactly what she wants to buy, and all you need to do is sell what she wants.
Yes, it's simple. Yes, it can be easy. No, it doesn't have to be icky, sleazy, or just plain annoying. Cheers!
18. Use Emotion & Logic in Your Presentation
Zig Ziglar (Author, Sales Expert, Motivational Speaker)
Logic makes people think; emotion makes them act.
For example, when selling cookware, we would take the logical approach and explain that, according to the USDA, the average shrinkage of a four-pound roast in an oven or ordinary pot is one pound and seven ounces. When you cook with our method, you only lose 5 ounces. Logically, you could say, "If you had a cook that stole one pound off every roast, you'd fire him. No hesitation! Here you've got this old, beat-up pot that's been stealing from you for 20 years. I think it's time you fired it. Fire that old pot and get a new one!"
That would make sense logically. Then we could say from a practical point of view, we are what we eat. If the food you put in your body is short on nutrition, then eventually you're going to pay for it. Sometimes I'd say, "Our set of cookware will help your baby grow up with a better chance at good health."
19. Build Trust with Your Prospects
Estefania Velasco (Sales Development Manager) ForceManager
My absolute number one piece of advice is to build an element of trust, whether it’s with a gatekeeper or the VP of sales. Without it you’re going to struggle to close out the sale. In my experience, I've built it by adding a unique, personal touch. Act naturally. If you have a follow-up call or scheduled demo, try and remember what was said previously. Did your client mention a holiday? A crazy dog? A favorite sports team? Think about it like a regular conversation. Remind your client that you are, in fact, a real person, and not some sales rep from Glengarry Glenn Ross.
20. Be the Solution
Katie DeCicco (CEO) Celebration Saunas
Be the solution. Most customers will tell you how they want to buy. Listen well and identify their pain points and reasons for wanting your product in the first place. Then apply your product or service solution. Take control and ask questions. There are often common reasons for pain points that the prospect hasn't considered. Pointing these out and applying solutions convinces your prospect that you're a partner and advocate for their success.
21. Close More Sales by Asking More Questions
Thom Singer (Speaker, Conference Catalyst) Thom Singer
If you want to close more sales, ask more questions. I close more when I am curious about the prospect, his company, and his desired results. When people understand you care, they pay more attention and gain a larger desire to collaborate now and in the future.
Pierre Monette (Speaker, Conference Catalyst) Mpmquebec
I use MADRID. Measure, Agree, Demonstrate, Review, Ice the cake, and Do it again. I measure the problem I want to solve. I obtain an agreement from the customer with the numbers measured (ROI). I perform a demonstration of tools and equipment if necessary. I hold a review with the stakeholders. I show other similar problems to solve. By then the sales closing should be completed. And I do it again.
23. The Flip Technique
John Lyon (CEO & Founder) Logistics Scotland
Do all you can to talk the customer out of the sale. Work out the customer's objections in advance and then hit these objections in a logical order as you talk through your solution. This not only deals with buyer-led objections early on in the sales process, but also offers reassurance that you are “on their side”. This “flip” technique is excellent for accentuating the customer's implied and explicit needs, but without the sterile feel of a formulaic closing technique.
24. Start Closing from the Beginning
Brent Thomson (Sales Leader and Mentor) Peak Sales Recruiting
Ask hard questions early on in the sales cycle. That way you don't have to wait for the prospect to say yes because he's been saying yes all along.
If you ask hard questions early on you can then make appropriate decisions based on the prospect's answers. Time is money, and the best sales people can optimize their sales cycles by making decisions based off hard questions right off the bat.
25. Listen & Question
Dale Carnegie (Writer, lecturer and developer of famous courses in salesmanship) Dale Carnegie
Actively listening and watching body language will help you develop good questions. Questions will help you focus your message to the buyer. When you ask a question, try to make it open‐ended. The more you get the client talking, the better chance you have to uncover needs and establish a relationship.
Listening and questioning are very effective strategies during the early process of lead follow‐up and prospecting; they can’t be overlooked. However, building listening and questioning skills will only get you halfway to the deal. To turn prospects into customers, you need to develop a relationship that provides value to the customer.
Dale Carnegie said, “Thousands of salespeople are pounding
the pavements today, tired, discouraged, and underpaid." Why?
Because they are always thinking only of what they want. They don't realize that neither you nor I want to buy anything. If we did, we would go out and buy it. But both of us are eternally interested in solving our problems. And if salespeople can show us how their services or merchandise will help us solve our problems, they won't need to sell us. We'll buy. And customers like to feel that they are buying—not being sold.
26. Uncover Objections Before They Surface
Joe Girard (Sales performance, psychology and mindset coach) Joe Girard
Sales has changed from the old ways of probing, objection handling, and closing. To be successful in selling, you can’t wait for your customer to voice his concerns (objections) after your pitch.
By then it’s already too late. Instead, make sure you have done your pre-call research and understand your customer's concerns well ahead of time. Ask great questions that uncover objections before they surface. The more your conversation with your customer eliminates his concerns, the less likely you will need to deal with objections. Remember that once someone says “no” it's much harder to get him to change his mind.
27. Stay Quiet - Allow Your Prospect to Think
Gretchen Hydo (Business Coach) Any Lengths Life Coaching
After stating the price I stay quiet and wait for the question. People need time to process their thoughts. Sometimes they reason it with themselves out loud and other times they stay silent and take time to think.
Either way, let the potential client formulate his thoughts and questions without jumping in. Once he speaks, you can address his specific concerns. Waiting for the question and sitting in silence puts you in the power position and gives you the ability to hold the space. It also shows that you aren’t afraid of the client having feelings about the price because you know your worth. When you know your worth, the client feels it. Interrupting or offering discounts can derail a sale.
28. Assume the Sale and Work Back
Dan Smith (Commercial Director) Linkedin profile
I use the assumptive close and discuss implementation and project delivery in the closing meeting. Then I work back and let the client know that he needs to get the agreement signed if he's stressed for time.
29. Don't Concentrate on the Sale
Martin Byrne (Sales Director) Envirosafe Ireland
As a technical sales engineer in the safety arena, my advice about closing the sale is to not concentrate on the sale. Instead, concentrate on providing the correct solution for your customer - a solution she will be happy with for a long time.
I have heard a lot of advice about “closing” and, frankly, it smacks of desperation. If you are focused on appropriate solutions for your customers instead of sales figures for yourself, your credibility and reputation will receive a massive boost, customers (existing and new) will seek you out, repeat business will follow, and your sales targets will be achieved and surpassed.
I have attended many sales training courses and have rarely heard a trainer talk about what the customer needs. In my opinion, customer focus is the key to a long and successful career in sales.
30. Fact-Find and Sell to Meet Needs
Ronnie Golding (Sales Professional and Trainer)
The only way to close a sale is to meet your prospect's needs. You need to do a full fact-find to figure out what he wants. You need to ask a lot of closing questions along the way.
A closing question is one where the answer tells you if your're on the right track. An example would be, "If I can do this for you, can I assume we can go ahead?" You need to be able to answer all objections with a closing question. This will lead you to the final objection, but if the objection is a condition that can't be met, you will get no further. Anybody can close a sale. The real art is knowing when to close. You'll learn when to close by closing too often to quickly.
A sale is closed on the opening, right from the moment the salesperson opens his or her mouth.
31. The Six Steps to Closing the Sale
Paul Harper (Managing Director) Zedcomms
There are only six steps towards making a purchase. These steps apply to any type of sale being made, from a pack of gum to a new home. It is helpful that your sales team know these steps so they can guide a prospective client through the process.
The six steps to selling, used by all major sales organizations:
- Prospect: Identify your prospective client.
- Contact: Say hello, meet and greet, and break the ice.
- Question: Qualify. Ask questions about the client, the company, and what she hopes to achieve. (This is the most important part)
- Presentation: Explain your product and service and how it relates to your findings in step #3.
- Concerns: Ask if there are any concerns and revert back to step #3.
- Close: Ask for an order. Most customers will not order unless asked.
32. Show Value in Monetary Terms
Jon Barteaux (Senior Business Development Professional) Barteaux and Associates
Helping a client make the buying decision starts and ends with understanding your client's true business problem, how it affects her business, and what value your solution brings. Close the deal by by showing the value in dollars (revenue, cost savings, efficiencies) and the client's decision to buy from a true partner will be an easy one.
33. Help Your Prospects Mentally Commit to the Sale
Justin McGill (CEO / Founder) - LeadFuze
Don't be afraid to ask a question such as, "Can you think of any reason why you would not sign up?" This allows your prospect to voice any true underlying objections he has while also giving him the idea that he's mentally committed to the sale.
And one for luck...
34. Senior Leaders Are Not Interested in Features and Benefits
Kimberly Rath (Chairman & Founder) - Talent Plus
Start building a relationship based on trust and learn what business problems your potential client is trying to solve. Senior leaders are not interested in features and benefits. They are interested in building long-term partnerships with sales consultants and organizations that solve problems and accelerate growth.