Whether you agree or disagree with him politically, Donald Trump offers some interesting advice about closing a sale in his book The Art of the Deal.
One quote, in particular, stands out sharply.
“My style of deal-making is quite simple and straightforward. I aim very high, and then I just keep pushing and pushing and pushing to get what I’m after.”
That is the basic foundation of all sales practices. You find a goal, aim for it, then do your best to achieve it.
If you set the bar low for yourself, then your chances of experiencing great success are reduced. You must set your sights higher, but in a way that is also realistic.
Closing is the part of the sales process that is usually the most visible. Every person has closed a deal before, whether it’s a discounted airline ticket or a box of Girl Scout cookies sold by the local troop.
The reality of closing, however, is that it requires patience, strategy, and individual skill.
Here are some best practices to keep in mind when closing the sale.
1. Focus On Outcomes
Julianne Gsell served as the Director of Enterprise Sales at Box. For her, she says that focusing on outcomes is what allows her team to close more deals.
“For my team and me, it’s very important to focus on the business process and relate our value back to how it impacts their business,” she said. “IT and security today are under a lot of pressure to drive business outcomes, so in order to partner with them, we must deeply understand their business process.”
Your business must invest in a lead-qualification process to make this happen. These are the steps you can take to create this process locally.
- Build profiles of your ideal customers, so you can reduce the amount of time that you spend on prospects that may cost you time.
- Understand the needs of your ideal customers. This understanding allows you to identify pain points that can be relieved with what you’re able to offer.
- Know the decision-making process for each customer. Even B2C transactions may involve a specific decision-maker, and you might not be talking to the right person.
- Identify the competition to understand if what you have resonates better with your ideal customers.
When you can qualify your leads consistently, your sales team will be able to focus their energy on the prospects which will become your best future customers.
Without lead qualification, you will find that your sales process has a 50/50 chance of ending up at a dead end.
2. Follow the Commandments
Grant Cardone, who was named the #1 marketing influencer to watch in 2017 by Forbes, offers several commandments which help him to be more effective at closing the deal.
“Like any game, there are rules to selling, especially when it comes to closing a sale,” he writes.
Cardone’s first rule is always to remain seated. Even if your prospect stands up, you should keep your seat. Something as simple as moving from a seated position to one that is standing suggests that an element of the sales process has changed. This action gives the prospect a chance to leave.
Then offer your proposals in writing. People believe what they see today more than words without evidence.
A contract should always be available. Any points of value, or anything offered, should be written down to ensure the prospect knows they’ll receive promised outcomes as you progress through the closing process.
Communication is critical. If you do not communicate with precision and confidence, then you will not be trusted.
Humor is an essential part of the closing process as well.
When people feel hopeful or inspired, they are more likely to finalize an agreement. A laugh can go a long way toward establishing that hope or inspiration, though a lousy joke can just as quickly cause some prospects to walk away.
Then be persistent. Persistence is not an equivalent to rudeness. It is how you increase the chances that you will find success. Circle back to reposition your negotiation, even if you have been given a “no.” Some people take this as a sign that you weren’t listening.
In reality, circling back means you have more faith in your view than that of the prospect.
3. Use Current Customers as Brand References
This referral process acts as a testimonial of sorts. The prospect gets to see what you offer in a real-world setting. Then the value of what they see with your current customer can be translated into additional value for your sales proposition.
There are four basic rules to follow when you use customer references as a way to close more deals.
- Make sure that you’re staying in contact with the customers you wish to call on for references.
- Keep the relationship in good standing with frequent nurturing, so asking for the reference feels natural instead of being out of place.
- Never provide your customer’s name, email, or phone number without receiving their permission to share this information first.
- Ensure that the customer you wish to use as a reference is still using your products or services.
That last rule might seem like common sense, but it is often forgotten. People (and business customers) move on to new ideas, products, and services over time. Assuming that they’re still your customers can get you into a lot of trouble.
Then make sure you’re not creating customer burnout by sending them several prospects for a reference. Try to match specific leads to customer references which hold the most value.
When your prospect can see your goods or services working in positive ways in a familiar environment, then you have a better opportunity to close the deal.
4. Segment the Closing Process
Being able to segment your process into three definitive steps will help you create the groundwork for an effective close.
“Whether the close is a client call, meeting, contract renewal or extension, or a new partnership or business agreement, each is an important transition point from the end of something to the start of something else,” executive sales coach Michael Dalis writes. “Done well, closing positions you for success, reinforces client confidence, and sets you up to execute on client expectations.”
To achieve results, Dalis suggests creating a preparation segment, a mindset segment, and a feedback segment.
In the preparation segment, you must define your goals.
Be as specific as possible. Put a timeframe on it, making sure the expectations are public instead of private. Then assign someone to take responsibility for the process, ensuring that honest feedback is provided from the rest of the team to accomplish the overall mission.
During the mindset segment, it is important to realize that your prospects are expecting the execution of your closing process to meet their expectations.
Never assume that the close has happened. Get a firm agreement. Do not settle on the idea that you can put some paperwork together that your prospect “might” sign.
For the feedback segment, ask your prospects to discuss the experience they’ve had with your business. This process will help you make sure that your values and methods stay aligned. That alignment offers more confidence to the prospect that they are valued, and what you offer eliminates their pain points.
5. Take a Logical Approach
“The tactic I use most often when trying to close a big deal is logic,” writes Neil Patel. “If a company is spending $100,000 with someone else and you can do the same thing for $50,000 while still maintaining a healthy profit margin for yourself, why not talk about how you can save the company $50,000 every year?”
In the world of business purchasing, one rule applies: try to make more money, or trying to save more of it. Outlining a logical approach which shows how you help a prospect make or save money creates a unique value proposition.
You’re asking them an important question: do you want to stay comfortable? Or do you want to take a risk on me to earn a potentially fantastic reward?
Then you follow the logical approach with an emotional pitch. Some people abandon logic because they prefer loyalty. Others stick with certain habits because it makes them “feel” good, even though it may hurt their business.
Once you present the logical side of the argument, start trying to change their mood.
Even in a B2B relationship, you’re working with a person. By understanding what they value, it becomes possible to know how their moods work.
Most people feel like they are missing something on a personal level. If your approach only takes the professional level into account, you may miss an opportunity to close the deal.
This approach may require some creative thinking. Just remember this: you’re trying to meet the current needs of this prospect to help your goods or services meet their future requirements. One should work well with the other.
6. Be Genuine
In his book Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, Guy Kawasaki notes that the genuine appearance of a physical smile is one of the essential tools in your toolbox for closing a deal.
“Smiling sends a very clear message about your state of mind. Not smiling creates an opening for many interpretations, including grumpiness, aloofness, and anger.”
The goal of using a smile goes beyond the idea of trying to manipulate a prospect into an agreement with you. It is to accurately communicate what you’re trying to convey to the lead without allowing your non-verbal communication to get in the way of things.
The way you look, listen, move, and react tell your prospect specific truths, whether you intend to communicate in certain ways or not. When your non-verbal communications match with what your words say, then you create clarity and trust.
When they do not, then you create confusion and tension.
There are five different roles that non-verbal communication can play for you when trying to close a deal. Some of the roles encourage adverse outcomes, which is why it is essential to understand how you are communicating.
- Repetition makes it possible to strengthen your message.
- Contradiction communicates to the prospect that you might not be telling the truth.
- Substitution creates an opportunity to enhance the message, just as a smile offered when talking about potential positive outcomes.
- Compliments may impact the message, such as a firm handshake or a pat on the back.
- Accenting underlines the words you’ve spoken to ensure the prospect understands its actual importance.
Smiling, and other facial expressions, are only one type of non-verbal communication that will be seen or heard by your prospects, even if you’re not in the same physical space.
Your tone of voice, eye contact, body posture, and the amount of space you give someone all communicate specific things to a prospect too.
You might follow Kawasaki’s advice and offer a genuine smile, but then be too close to the prospect physically. Your smile in that situation would transform from positive energy to negative energy.
We do not always have full control over non-verbal communication. If you don’t like something that is said, your body may communicate this to the prospect without realizing it. That is why it is essential to focus on your emotions, taking a genuine approach to each situation, rather than try to “fake it to make it.”
7. Use the Clock to Your Advantage
When you’re trying to close a deal, you’ll find that the negotiations you have will expand into whatever time you have that is available.
No one wants to make decisions under tense or pressure-filled circumstances. That’s why you’ll find advice that encourages you to take these elements out of the closing process.
There are times, however, when you must use the clock to your advantage. A deadline provides your prospect with an incentive. The prospect has nothing to lose and everything to gain until they reach the final deadline.
As you draw closer to that deadline, the prospect has more to lose and less to gain.
Deadlines do an excellent job of removing the status quo. That’s why one of the best practices for closing a sale is to set a deadline at the beginning of the sales process.
Some prospects will walk away from a deal because they recognize what you are doing by setting a deadline. You’re creating artificial pressure that works to your advantage.
If someone walks away from a deal with you because of a deadline, then they were never really invested in the negotiation process in the first place.
When using this technique, it is essential that you set realistic deadlines that you’ll stick to during the closing process.
Kayla Matthews, who writes on self-improvement through her blog called Productivity Theory, suggests that deadlines should be meaningful.
“If there’s no accountability, there’s no reason to actually stick to them,” she writes. “Having an outside motivator prevents you from simply pushing off the task and justifying it inside your own head.”
If misused, the practice of setting deadlines can lead to fewer opportunities. Missing a deadline makes people feel bad. They regret missing a chance, which creates the emotions of guilt and shame.
Go into the working relationship with the prospect that there is an expectation of a deadline for a decision. If protests occur, then hear them out. Change the deadline at that time if needed.
Then stick to your guns. People who are interested will work hard to close a deal with you if they know you’re going to walk away and what you offer is valuable.
8. Take It One Step At A Time
One of the best practices for closing is to get your prospects to buy-in with each step before you move to the next one. Risking your time and value by making assumptions can lead to disastrous results.
Great closers rarely risk a deal with an assumption.
Getting that buy-in from a prospect is also easier said than done. You can spend an eternity on the first critical points of the process, then feel rushed when working through the last few steps of the sales funnel.
John Swanciger, who serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Manta, offers three suggestions which can help move your prospects closer to finalizing a deal.
His first suggestion involves email marketing.
“Email marketing is the Energizer Bunny of digital marketing tactics,” he writes. “Yes, it’s been around for a long time, but it’s still going. And for good reason – it works.”
Prospects stay engaged when you have an active email marketing campaign which regularly contacts them. It could be a newsletter or some other content – what matters is that you’re keeping them a warm lead until they are ready to get off the fence.
Good emails will educate your prospects, create some curiosity, and offer social evidence of your value proposition.
His second suggestion is to incorporate testimonials into the closing process.
“Paint a vivid picture backed with facts so your leads can see themselves as the stars of your next success story,” writes Swanciger.
His final suggestion is to create urgency. If you feel like a deadline isn’t the right way to do this, several other methods which don’t offer the same levels of tension provide for the potential of a positive outcome.
“One way to do this is with short-term discounts or deals,” he writes. “Offer the fence-sitters savings if they make a purchase decision this week or this month.”
Then the element of instant gratification becomes an asset.
If your product or service can solve a pain point immediately, then communicate this fact. You’ll get a strong buy-in, even if the response during the previous steps was tepid.
9. Show All Your Cards
There are three potential outcomes that the closing process will create for you.
- The prospect decides that what you’ve got is fantastic and makes the deal.
- The prospect decides that what you’re offering isn’t for them and walks away.
- The prospect decides that they aren’t going to make a decision.
Far too often, salespeople think of closing as a siloed component of the overall sales process. It isn’t.
Although you must find ways to be proactive about handling the close, you must also be willing to go all-in and show all your cards if you’ve met all your prospect’s requests.
“It is important to reassure the client that they will be in safe hands and to go over the benefits they will experience once they sign up,” advises Info Entrepreneurs, which is part of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal.
The best way to close the deal is to ask. Be assertive while also being polite about it.
Of course, it’s not always that simple. Some buying signals are distinct, like seeing your prospect nodding in agreement to everything you’re telling them.
Other buying signals can be subtler. They might even hide in offered objections to what you’re providing as part of the deal.
That is why you must be willing to show all your cards and be prepared to take the order right then. You must be prepared for this action at all times, even if someone else told you that it was unlikely you’d close the deal during an appointment.
If the prospect is ready to become a customer, then this best practice for closing a deal will push you closer to the end of your sales funnel.
If they are not ready, or they are not interested, you’ll continue to receive objections. At that stage, you’ll know that it is time to walk away.
10. Understand the bottom line of the prospect.
Salespeople go into a negotiation trying to make as much money as possible. Prospects enter into a negotiation trying to save as much money as possible.
For most deals, that means finding a place of compromise to reach a close.
To reach that common ground, you must be able to understand the bottom line of the prospect. There is a figure that will cause your prospect to walk away from the deal.
When you can understand where this bottom line happens to be, it gives you an opportunity to find a place that maximizes your value.
This process must happen even if you’re trying to close the deal over the phone.
“I spend at least an hour doing research on the client and preparing for the call,” writes Brandon Gaille, founder of a nationally recognized internet marketing agency and podcaster. “I review their website and make a list of ways I can contribute value on the phone call, which is specific to their business. I then research the individual via LinkedIn and Facebook.”
Even then, if you’re trying to close a deal to meet your quota, it can feel like you should be able to close every sale.
That is not always the case. Even if you make a fair offer, some people will still change their minds.
You must be willing to walk away if the demands placed upon the negotiation process are too unreasonable for the outcomes you want to achieve.
Some prospects start with a low figure because they want to get to a middle number. Others start small and stay there.
If your prospect isn’t budging, then it is time to leave.
11. Find Your Technique, But Remain Adaptable
A quick internet search will provide you with several different sales closing techniques that you could use.
Many of them have fun names that describe the process you would use.
The “Now or Never Close” involves an offer made to your prospect that they can’t refuse. You create so much urgency and value that the prospect cannot counter the momentum you’ve built with the offer.
There’s also the “Summary Close,” which has you repeating your value offer multiple times. By summarizing the points you’ve previously agreed upon, the thought is that the prospect will be more willing to finalize the overall deal.
Or there’s the “Question Close,” which puts the ball into the court of the prospect. If you ask the prospect of their opinion about the quality of your product or service to solve their problems, you will discover how close you are to closing the deal.
Although these sales techniques are useful. What you won’t find on the internet is this best practice for closing a sale: developing your own approach.
Brian Tracy says that there are 14 proven strategies to increase the sales of your product.
It is his final tip that is the most relevant.
“Pick out one or two benefits of your products and state those clearly in the sales headline,” Tracy writes. “Make it clear to your customers exactly what your product is going to do for them. Be specific. If your product has multiple benefits, create sales messages for different customers that they can relate to.”
No single strategy will help you close every deal. You must always be authentic in your approach to the prospect.
Know the benefits of what you sell. Identify key areas where you can help your prospect. Then provide that information in a way that is meaningful.
How Good Are You at Closing a Sale?
Being skilled at closing a sale is only one step in a journey of many when converting a prospect into a customer.
Your approach must be robust. The value proposition offered must be relevant. You must be flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances while being firm enough to know when to walk away.
Then remember to follow up after the sale. Always thank your customers for their business before you consolidate the order.
Make sure a schedule is provided to the customer if it is needed. Give them your personal contact information to make sure they can troubleshoot issues if something happens.
Then stay in contact to make sure your customer has taken delivery. Answer their questions. Solve any problems that might come up, even if it happens months later.
When you follow these steps, you’ll find that the best practices for closing a sale are never really finished. They keep going until the customer decides to repeat their purchase, which means your sales process starts over once again.