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January 19, 2016 // 8:30 AM

The Sales Closing Technique That Gets Prospects to Overcome Their Own Objections

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I'm not a big fan of closing early and often. I prefer to close once I know a prospect is already sold.

As I mentioned in a previous post on phrases that make prospects hang up on salespeople, I try to avoid signaling that I'm there to sell something. Instead, I strive to portray myself as an expert who is graciously and generously making myself available to help them. And closing prematurely hinders the ability to maintain this objective expert, I-don't-need-your-business, you-probably-need-my-help stance.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t get commitment at every step of my sales process. And it certainly doesn’t mean I’m afraid to close at closing time. My go-to closing technique is Dave Kurlan's Inoffensive Close, but I use the 1 to 10 closing technique (taught to me by Rick Roberge) as well. Occasionally, when I'm halfway through the Inoffensive Close and I realize the prospect still has a few objections, I'll stop and transition into the 1 to 10 close.

Why do I transition? When the questions in the 1-10 closing technique are asked in the right order, you'll get the prospect to share why they want to buy and then weigh whether those benefits are worth the risk or downside of their concerns. As they weigh the pros and cons, many prospects will overcome their own objections.

I've read a few articles on the technique online, but none are complete. In this post, I’m going to try to cover all the different scenarios and how you should handle them when they inevitably happen. Let’s dig in.

The 1-10 Sales Closing Technique

The First Question

The first question to ask is:

"From 1 to 10, where 1 is 'I'm not interested in hiring you,' and 10 is 'Sign me up now,' what number are you?"

Sometimes, I like to make this a bit more fun. I might say:

"From 1 to 10, where 1 is, 'Pete, you suck. I can't believe you wasted all of my time. I would never hire you. I don't know why anyone would,' and 10 is, 'Pete, I can't believe I've gone through life not knowing about your service. I wish I could rewind the clock and hire you 10 years ago. I am confident this will be the best investment our business ever makes,' what number are you?"

(Put your own name in there, of course.)

The Second Question

The second question aims to uncover why they will buy.

No matter what number they say in response to the first question (unless it's a very low number -- I address this scenario below), you should act surprised or confused and say:

"Really. I'm surprised you picked a number so high. Based on our conversations, I figured you'd be much closer to a 7. Why did you pick 9?"

You can say 8 or 6, instead of 7. It doesn't matter what particular number you use as long as it’s a number lower than the one they threw out.

If the prospect is confused by this question, you might need to step out of the number scheme (this has happened to me a few times). The simpler version:

"If nothing else mattered, why would you even consider hiring us?"

The key to this question is to get the prospect to tell you why they want to buy. Spend some time here. Acknowledge what they say by repeating it back to them. Ask them to elaborate on things they say.

Also, it's key that you get more than one good answer. After they give you their initial reason(s), ask them why else they would move forward.  If you know some other reasons they want to buy that they haven't verbalized at this moment, don't be afraid to prompt them.

In addition, this is a good place to remind them of how you're different compared to competitive solutions -- just make sure you do it in question format. You might ask:

"What about reason X (where X is a differentiated part of your solution that you think they already value)? Is that a reason why you chose a higher number than I expected? How important is X benefit?"

After they’ve shared an exhaustive list of reasons, I find it's best to repeat what they’ve said back to them using some Active Listening skills. (Listening is the key to sales, by the way. It makes closing 100 times easier.)

"So, it seems like you chose 9 because of the following reasons: A, B, C, D, E, and most of all, F."

The Third Question

At some point, you need to transition from why they would move forward to why they might not. The third question uncovers their concerns. Ask:

"Okay. Wow. It seems like there are some really good reasons why you'd like to move forward. But, now I'm confused again. Based on all of those reasons, I'm wondering why it's not a 10?"

Now they should share their concerns. Ideally, it'll sound something like this:

"My only concern is X. If I didn't care about X, we'd be a 10."

Even if your buyer can only come up with one or two concerns, don’t get overconfident. Make sure you explore their objections. Say something like:

"I see. Does it make sense to talk about this a bit more? We may be able to work through this issue together."

or:

"Hmm. I bet we can avoid this concern altogether. Do you want to talk through how we avoid this issue with other clients?"

And to make absolutely sure they don’t have any other hidden concerns, ask:

"If you were convinced that this concern can be avoided altogether, would you be a 10?"

It's difficult to tell you how to handle their concerns exactly, because the specific concerns or objections could vary. But, in general, I'm a big fan of using the L.A.E.R approach: Listen, Acknowledge, Explore, Respond.

Even if you can't allay their concerns completely -- and assuming they gave you a number pretty close to 10 -- you may still be able to close the deal. In this case, skip to the fourth question.

However, in the case they give you a lower number (i.e. anything lower than 6) in response to your initial question, do not proceed. Instead, back up and re-qualify. Just like you were thorough when you were getting them to tell you why they want to buy, be thorough here too. If they aren't being forthcoming, don't be afraid to bring up small concerns they've shared with you previously to get the ball rolling. For example:

"On a previous call, you expressed a concern that your team might not be able to handle Z task on an ongoing basis. Given that completing that task on a regular basis is key to helping you achieve your goals, are you still concerned about that?"

Many times, prospects won't be comfortable sharing all of their concerns or objections. Here's a handful of open-ended questions I might use to help them share. (These questions adhere to our qualification framework.) 

  1. Goals: Are you confident we will be able to help you achieve the goals we discussed: X, Y, and Z?
  2. Plan: Do you have any concerns with implementing the plan we discussed?
  3. Challenges: Do you have concerns that our solution won't help you overcome challenges A, B, and C?
  4. Timeline: Are you concerned that you won't have the time or resources to dedicate right now?
  5. Budget: Is there some other investment you're considering that you think is a better solution?
  6. Authority: Is there someone else you've discussed this with who has concerns?
  7. Consequences: Are you thinking it might just be easier or safer to continue doing what you're doing?

If you have competitors that are also pursuing your prospect and you don't know where you stand against them, you should explore that:

"Do you have other solutions that you’re considering? Do they offer all of the benefits that our solution offers?"

Also ask whether the competitor has a leg up on some of their concerns:

"Do you have the same concerns about competitor X’s solution? Or different ones?"

You can also ask the first question again in regard to your competitor:

"On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is competitor X's solution is not a fit at all for you and 10 is you're confident that competitor X's solution is the one you're going to go with, where do you stand?"

These questions might prompt your prospect to share some new concerns. But at this point, you're better off knowing these concerns if they exist. If they don't exist, then you've checked them off of your list, and you're closer to closing confidently.

I don't recommend bringing up new objections, of course. Your qualification process should have determined whether or not they can be successful with your service and you shouldn't be closing if they can't.

The Fourth and Final Question

Now that you know all the reasons your prospect wants to move forward and all the reasons why they might not, you can ask the final closing question in this technique. It sounds something like this:

"It sounds like there are a lot of reasons to move forward: X, Y, Z, etc. It also sounds like you have two specific concerns: A and B. Now that we've discussed them, has your number changed at all? Are you still a 9?"

If they are now a 10, bring up the contract and have them sign. Volia! You just got them to overcome their own objections.  

If they aren't a 10 yet, prompt them to weigh the pros and cons that they've just shared with you: 

"So, you're still at a 9. I see. In that case, are you prepared to forfeit all of the benefits we discussed and walk away ... [pause] ... or do you think that the benefits outweigh the risks and you should move forward?"

At this point, you have a list of pros and cons. Even if they don't sign your contract right now, you have plenty of information. Ask them how and when they're going to make the decision, and suggest next steps accordingly.

Don’t Lose to No Decision

In sales, you must embrace both closed-won or closed-lost results -- after all, the only thing you control completely is who you spend your time with, not what decision they will ultimately make. By using the 1 to 10 closing technique, you’ll be able to make a very informed guess about whether and when a prospect will buy -- if at all.

Unfortunately, in my years coaching salespeople inside and outside of HubSpot, I’ve seen way too many deals lost to “no decision.” Just yesterday, I was teaching this technique to one of our salespeople. He said, “I don’t really ask closing questions -- I just send the paperwork. But I will definitely do this next time. I’m sick of chasing prospects down to get contracts signed.”

He’s not that different from most salespeople. Way too many salespeople fail to partner with their prospects to really determine whether there is a mutual fit. Then, they end up chasing.

With the 1 to 10 closing technique, you are fully uncovering all the reasons why a prospect wants to buy and why they might not. Before you ask for their business, you’re helping them weigh the benefits, risks, upside, and downside of making a decision to move forward -- or not. You’re uncovering the mental process that most prospects go through, and getting them to share it with you. This sets you up to either close the business or close the file with confidence.

As an expert at what you do, I believe it is your responsibility to avoid sales processes that end in no decision. It is better for you, of course. But it’s also better for the buyer too, since no one benefits from indecision.

If you need a bit of a reminder of why it’s okay to close -- one way or the other -- here’s a quote from my sales mentor, Rick Roberge:

“I believe in those professional salespeople who understand they are responsible for their prospect's comfort, needs, honesty, or lack thereof. It is the salesperson's job to discern if it's a fit. Not the other way around. It's the salesperson's duty to be the person that a buyer needs them to be, but not necessarily the person that the buyer wants them to be.”

Now, go get yes’s or no’s.

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