Closing Sales – Classical Approaches Fail
During dinner, the phone rings and it’s a call from someone soliciting donations for the Fraternal Order of Police. The next day, a high school student, working on closing sales for a magazine contest, rings your doorbell. And then at work, a salesperson tries the “alternate choice” close on you (“would you like to order this using a company check or a credit card?”). Feeling pushed and annoyed, you bark, “I didn’t even say I’ll order that sir. I think our meeting is over!”
Yes, we live in a world of salesperson-initiated interruptions. When on top of an interruption we feel pushed by salespeople intent on closing sales, we naturally resist.
Since consumers and businesses typically have lots of vendors to choose from, they are becoming less tolerant of pushy salespeople. Increasingly, people are buying from polite, respectful sales professionals rather than the aggressive fast talkers intent on closing sales. As it is said, “people want to buy, but no one wants to be sold!”
Sales Closing Techniques Negatively Correlated to Results
In an exhaustive research study undertaken by a team of industrial psychologists, there was a negative correlation between salespeople who were focused on closing sales and the number of customers who were actually closed! Salespeople found to be highly concerned with “getting the sale” actually performed worse than those highly concerned with “solving customer problems.” In the study, the group of strong “closers” got more objections than the “soft” closers. This high number of objections was correlated to inferior sales closing rates.
In some industries, like auto and insurance sales, the focus on closing sales has historically been high. But even in these industries, different approaches and newer techniques are being used in closing sales. Without a doubt, prospects know when they’re being “closed” and may feel manipulated or resentful. Hence, a new breed of sales closing techniques, which we term as “soft closes,”is gaining traction and yielding superior results.
As a sales training organization, we often get requests for training on closing sales. However, many of the companies that want this type of training are under the impression that stronger closing behaviors will increase sales. While “asking for the order” is always important, assertive closing behaviors are simply a turn off for many. The use of well-known sales closing techniques, like the alternate-choice close, the assumed close and the 3-Yes close, are examples are assertive techniques that lowered overall success rates. It is for this very reason that salespeople need to learn newer, more effective techniques for closing sales and generating repeat business.
Clearly, customers want to buy, not be “sold.” The top 10% of all salespeople spend a disproportionate amount of sales time at the beginning of the sales process developing trust and determining needs, motivation and benefits. With this approach, they save time in the sales closing process and achieve great sales results.
American companies, who during the last decade spent about 1.5% of their total payroll on employee training, are implementing ambitious programs aimed at improving how their salespeople approach, present to and close new customers. And rather than hire the sales “closer,” many firms now seek a balance of sales and personal qualities that will enamor customers and boost profits.
Effective Strategies for Closing Sales
- Urgency Detection & Financial Justification: Understand, at the beginning of the sales cycle, how not making or delaying a decision to buy will ultimately cost the customer money. For example, a proposed computer system lease that would save a firm $35,000 per month in expenses yet cost only $20,000 per month would produce a $15,000 monthly benefit. So, the cost to the prospect of delaying a purchase decision is about $750 per business day. Remember, if there is no urgency present, you don’t have a qualified prospect. And if there are no compelling financial benefits, you won’t have a very motivated prospect. Without urgency and benefits, attempts at closing sales will often fail.
- Stakeholder Assessment and Contact: Find out who personally loses if a buying decision is delayed or canceled, and make sure you’re in contact with that person. For example, since a VP of Finance’s bonus may be based on net profit, he or she may personally lose bonus dollars when a buying decision is delayed. Motivated buyers with skin in the game make closing sales relatively easy!
- Objection Prevention: Objections, particularly when they occur late in the selling process, serve to delay the sale and lower sales closing rates. Successful salespeople have well-rehearsed responses to the top 20 objections they receive. Moreover, seasoned sales pros boost their sales closing rates by actively anticipating objections and then using specific techniques to prevent them from occurring.
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