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The art of closing – feature


This feature was contributed by Gavin Ingham of Performance Coaching International.

One of the questions I often get asked as a sales coach by sales people, brokers and customer account/relationship managers alike is, “How do I close sales better? What closing techniques would you recommend?”

In my experience, closing is one of the three most feared areas of the sales process. The other two are fear of canvassing and fear of objections. But the real question is, what is it about these three that creates such a fear? Especially, when even some of the most successful sales professionals face challenges in one or more of these three areas. The answer is simple: fear of rejection. Humans are social animals and the fear of rejection is one of the primary human drivers so it takes a different line of thought to face this issue. Mere techniques will not suffice.

There are books about closing, with hundreds of different types of closes in. Some are great examples, some are awful but all of them have one thing in common. They are just examples. They are often not usable as “off-the-shelf” solutions for your sales scenarios because they each represent a model and that model only works if the person you are dealing with is “running” a similar model in their personality and if your situation is nearly the same too!

Now, I am not saying don’t study about sales. In fact, quite the opposite. I do recommend that you read everything you can about sales and human communications, because you will learn more about sales and communications in that way than from virtually any other. What you learn however may not always be what the author intended as you should be a student of human behaviour and influence, not beholden to any one particular book! When Bruce Lee studied kung fu he took the best of each style of kung fu and designed a new art which had no set forms and changed to be the most effective for each and every situation. A good sales professional will be aiming to achieve the same.

The first tactic for achieving a better close ration is to change the words that you use. Why not “ask for the business” or “take the order” or “provide a solution” instead? These words don’t create the same fear. I have tested this on dozens of sales people, and removing the word that the fear is associated with removes the fear too. If anyone has read Anthony Robbins’s material he describes how you can only experience feelings that you have words for and that words only have the meaning that you ascribe to them. He describes how, because the quality of snow is important to their survival, eskimos have dozens of different words for snow but we just have sleet and snow. Their experience of snow is different than ours and we cannot comprehend that because we have no words to describe it.

Secondly, it is important that you start with the end in mind. Whenever you go to a meeting or make a call think through it in your head first. Think about what outcome you want from the meeting or call and think through the possible ways this might occur. Think also of what the minimum outcome is that you are prepared to accept from the meeting or call. When you have built rapport, asked questions, uncovered your clients’ needs and provided a solution, it's only natural to ask for the business. After all, you have provided a solution so asking for the business is the next step! Why would you accept less than your minimum acceptable behaviour from the client?

I once worked with a talented sales professional. He made fantastic cold calls, built elegant and effective rapport and uncovered client needs effortlessly but he did little business. In a short coaching session I discovered that he disassociated the sales process from “closing” hence he would “do the meeting” and then think, “Oh dear! Now I need to close!”. Cue panic. His customers could see it and the sale was lost, every time. He was in “sales” mode and they were resisting and he was a nice guy so it was easier to walk away than risk rejection or upsetting the client! Simply by viewing the sale as one seemless process with a natural conclusion he was able to see the “timeline” and “path” of the sale. If the client deviated from this he was able to maintain control and bring them back on track. He achieved a sales breakthrough literally overnight.

At this point, I might add that you must remain flexible. There will be times when you cannot make the sale for unexpected reasons. On these occasions, it is important that you assess your performance objectively. Ask yourself whether next time you could ask better questions to uncover the unexpected situation earlier. If the answer is “no” then reset your objective for the meeting. If the answer is “yes” then take on board what you have to learn and reset the objective for your next meeting. But, and this is very important, always remember to set a new objective for the meeting.

When was the last time you heard this conversation:

“How was the sales meeting?”
“How did you get on?”.
“Oh, great I think he / she will use us!”.

My next question for you is, ”So what’s the next step?”

This should have been agreed, with time-scales with the client. If it hasn’t then you haven’t reached your objective. Maybe this was because you didn’t set one or you didn’t achieve it but this sales meeting was not “great”!

Lets face it, you work hard to find clients and get that all important meeting with them and you listen hard to understand their true needs not your perceived ones. When you provide a solution that matches their needs they are expecting you to “ask for the business”. When this becomes a relaxed, natural part of the meeting you will achieve more and effortless sales.

Gavin Ingham
[email protected]
+44(0)1708 510345


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