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January 30, 2017

How to Close a Sales Deal on the Phone: 9 Steps

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Closing calls are a big deal.

And because they’re so important, they’ve acquired a certain mystique. Just saying the phrase “closing call” evokes all kinds of emotions for sales reps.

You never want to fumble a sales call, but running a bad closing call might be one of the most painful mistakes a rep can make. But you’re in luck -- below is the nine-step closing call sequence that’s served me well for years.

How to Close a Sales Deal on the Phone

1) Set an agenda.

Establish at the very beginning of the call that this will be a closing call. You should have already set the expectation in your previous conversation, but reiterate it right away for anybody who wasn’t in attendance.

I usually say, “So the goal of our call today is to get you started with HubSpot.”

It’s a bold move. A lot of salespeople are scared to be this direct, but it’s important to be upfront. At the end of the day, you’re conducting a business transaction, so it ’s important to be transparent.

Extra credit if you can set and sent an agenda (preferably in writing) before the call. Spell out in your previous meeting what you ’ll talk about in the next -- you ’ ll review what your prospect has learned and determine how to get them started.

2) Introduce everyone on the call.

Have everybody from both your prospect’s company and your company introduce themselves. There shouldn’t be any surprise additions at this point, but make sure you know whom you’re talking to. I like to have everyone state their name, title, and any specific goals they want to achieve during the call. If you need to inject some levity into the situation, you can ask them what their favorite cheese is.

3) Limit commonalities to two minutes.

Spend no more than two minutes building rapport. Of course, be human, but the point of a closing call is business. Chat a bit with anyone who’s new to establish basic trust and a relationship and catch up with the people you already know, then move on. Getting too involved in non-business matters can negatively impact your ability to close the deal if you have busy executives on the line.

4) Open the discussion with a question.

Ask your prospect a question to get the conversation started. This can be as simple as, “So what’s the status?” or “Where do we stand?” Then sit back and let them talk.

The direction of your entire call hinges on your prospect’s answer. Either they’ll respond, “We’re good to move forward, but we just have some last-minute questions,” or they’ll say, “There are a few things we still have to figure out.”

Get right to the point so you know whether you’ll have to spend more time bringing your prospect home or whether your call will be a short conversation. But remember: Your prospect’s questions always come first.

You should be able to tell whether your prospect is ready to buy or not based on the decision maker’s voice. The decision maker is usually the leader of the group, and their voice tone will reveal if they’re ready to pull the trigger.

5) Establish an onboarding timeline.

If your prospect is ready to go, talk through the specifics of getting started -- how to buy and implement your product. In addition to one last high-level overview, explain the onboarding and training process, as well as ongoing customer support and payment.

Establish a start date for implementation as well. If your prospect isn’t ready to buy this week or this month, you’re wasting your time. Put the deal back in the pipeline.

6) Answer objections.

Closing calls are when all sorts of last-minute objections rear their ugly heads.

  • “Your product costs too much.”
  • “Now just isn’t a good time to buy.”
  • “I’m not sure if you’re a better option for us than [Competitor X].”

Luckily, you can prepare. Part of your job is to know your competitors’ products and your company’s competitive advantages inside and out, but you can also sync up with your marketing team for ready-to-go objection-defusing collateral.

7) Negotiate price.

Going into the closing call, you should have already established your maximum possible discount. You don’t have to offer it, but you need to know how low you can go. Obviously, you should never start by giving away the store -- you’ll have nowhere to go but down.

Many prospects won’t require a discount to get started, so don’t offer if you don’t need to. Let them name a number, and go from there.

Make sure you’re negotiating with the financial buyer -- the person with the power to approve a given price. You should already have established who this is, but just in case you don’t know, confirm you’re speaking with the right person before you start making concessions.

8) Review the purchasing process.

This step might not apply to you -- not all prospects have an extensive procurement or legal review process. But if Procurement and Legal are getting involved, understand exactly what, if anything, your prospect needs from you and establish a timeline by which the process should be completed.

9) Get started.

At the end of the call, if everything’s gone well, you and your prospect should be all set to sign a contract and start the onboarding process.

Be crystal clear that everyone’s on the same page. Reiterate what you discussed in the call, and literally say the words, “Okay, so we’re in agreement here. I’ll send you a contract and expect to have it back by [agreed-upon date].”

At this point, if you don’t have it already, get the decision maker’s cell phone number and give them yours.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard about salespeople waiting around at the office until 11 p.m. sitting vigil, waiting for a contract to come in. On the last day of the month or quarter, a prospect who’s dragging their feet can be disastrous for your quota. Always make sure you have a way to get in touch in case the decision maker is sitting on your contract and simply needs a nudge.

How do you run your closing calls? Let us know in the comments below.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in August 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.

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Topics: Sales Closing

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