I'm working with a client at the moment that provides brilliant cloud solutions with a compelling business case. When I asked what their biggest challenges were within the sales team they said: "Many of them can't seem to close... they want better closing techniques."
Here's the thing I've learned from three decades in the trenches... the problem is rarely the problem. Inability to close is usually a symptom of a deeper problem. In complex B2B selling, or even with simple or transactional small to medium business (SMB) selling where there is one decision-maker, there is a universal truth that must be embraced if we are improve results: Opening is far more important than closing.
The way we open the relationship determines the likelihood of success. We need to set a vision to establish the right agenda and anchor three key areas to earn the right to close:
- Establish trust and rapport (by being authentic and transparent).
- Agree compelling business value (as defined by them).
- Understand their timing and priorities (and their process for evaluation, selection and procurement if in complex enterprise environments).
Once these three things are in place, the date for purchasing commitment becomes clear to both buyer and seller and contracting or finalizing the purchase becomes a 'next step' rather than a white knuckle adventure. For many in sales they feel like they need to lock their customer in a room or go sit in their lobby for days on end until the purchase order is secured... desperation is the worst way to attempt a close. I recently wrote a post about waterboarding your prospects for commitment... don't do it.
Symptoms are rarely causes. Difficulty in closing is almost always a symptom rather than a root cause. Closing must be earned. Objections usually evidence that the seller has made mistakes by pushing before trust and value has been established and without the necessary understanding of their timing, priorities and processes.
For managers; remember that you cannot manage by results; only by activities and actions. Ask the right questions of your sales people right at the beginning of the quarter and help them identify and execute the right actions that create progression throughout the quarter. Firing-up the blow torch with just days to go in the quarter after neglecting the inputs that create success is a sure-fire way to damage relationships and drive-down price and margin.
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Main image photo by Flickr: Washington State Dept of Transportation Contract Signing