Is Closing the Sale a Lost Art?
The number one weakness in the skill set of many salespeople is the ability to effectively and efficiently close a sale. This is especially true in B2B settings, where multiple factors can make closing a very difficult and complex task. That reality dictates that salespeople "raise their game" if they plan to maximize the results of every single deal.
By definition, every sale gets closed--by either the buyer or the seller! Buyers are often trained to become effective closers because their employers rightly perceive the strategic value of controlling the outcome of a transaction. Buyers, regardless of their level of sophistication, understand the value of time--they realize that their respective seller is probably up against a deadline, a budget, a goal, etc. And let's not forget that almost always, there's at least one if not more competing sellers that the buyer can play against each other. Sound familiar?
Effective closing begins at the initial presentation of a value proposition. It may sound simplistic, but a compelling value proposition almost "sells itself." While that rarely happens, but it still makes good sense to craft a proposition that will lead to an obvious conclusion (the sale) as opposed to numerous rounds of often contentious negotiations. Weaving the value proposition as the key thread through every phase of the deal is absolutely essential. Let's never forget the power of repetition!
The most commonly used close is the "conditional close". What that means if that if the seller can satisfy certain specific terms and conditions, the buyer will reciprocate by agreeing to the deal. It doesn't necessarily mean that the seller is making concessions, but is simply making adjustments and/or revisions that satisfy the buyer's list of objectives to making a deal. Buyers tend to like this close because it gives them a sense of empowerment--that they are "getting what they want." The downside of the conditional close is obvious--the buyer can continue to either add or amend the conditions to get to a deal.
This close can easily put more pressure on the seller than the buyer--use it with extreme caution.
The "assumptive close" is the result of building a win-win situation. This close is far less adversarial and is based on both the buyer and seller having fundamental agreement on all the key points of the deal. To get to an assumptive close, the seller has to work diligently to make sure that every potential buyer's objection has been addressed thoroughly. The assumptive close kicks in when both the buyer and seller realize that they are in overwhelming agreement about what the deal looks like. Neither party feels as if they have "lost" anything--to the contrary, they both feel like "winners."
Sellers need to be masters of both the "conditional" and the "assumptive" close. Why? The nature of buyers and deals vary widely. The seller's pre-existing relationship with a given buyer, the complexities of a given deal, and the competitive environment are just a few of the factors that weigh on which close is more appropriate. "One size fits all" is a dangerous approach to take when it's time to close the deal. Assess your buyer and the situation very carefully before making your choice.
Like every other sales skill, closing demands serious practice to improve performance! Sales managers should arrange for both group and individual training sessions to help salespeople with their closing techniques. Role playing closing scenarios can be both fun and educational! Managers and their staffs should embrace this activity quite proactively! And don't expect to become a better closer without continuous practice.
Closing will only become a "lost art" if we allow it to be. We simply can't let that happen!
About the Author
Buff Parham is a widely recognized thought leader and outstanding coach in the media sales and sales management field. With 35 years of sales experience, Buff has worked at Univision, FOX, Belo, ABC and CBS. He started in the mailroom at CBS, but quickly moved on to selling locally at KABC/Los Angeles and nationally for ABC Spot Sales in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. Buff then continued on to spend almost 12 years with Univision, first as General Sales Manager at KUVN/KSTR in Dallas, and then 5 years in New York as SVP/Sales.
Buff believes that hard work matters and that raising the bar and having greater expectations tend to generate greater results. In his spare time, Buff finds cooking and playing golf to be two of the best therapies for a somewhat hectic existence!
Check out Buff’s Blog www.BuffParham.com
About Steve Bookbinder
Steve Bookbinder is the CEO and sales expert at DMTraining. He has delivered more than 5,000 workshops and speeches to clients all over the world and has trained, coached, and managed more than 50,000 salespeople and managers. Steve continuously refreshes his training content to reflect his latest first-hand observations of salespeople across industries and regions. Through him, participants in his workshops and coaching sessions learn the best practices of today’s most successful sellers and managers across industries. Steve understands that sales is a competitive game. To outperform competitors and our own personal best results, we need to out-prospect, out-qualify, out-present and out-negotiate everyone else, not merely know how to sell. Through his specialty programs in Pipeline Management, Personal Marketing, Great First Meetings, 2nd-level Questioning, Sales Negotiating, and Sales Coaching, Steve trains sales teams to master the skills they need to overcome the challenges they face in today’s world… and keep improving results year over year.