Nothing matches the anticipation of, and satisfaction after, closing a sales deal. The hundreds of sales teams around the world that use gongs, bells, or rounds of applause to celebrate a new customer are a testament to that.
But while other salespeople’s closed deals may be news to you, your own deals should never be. You should be able to be able to spot an opportunity ready to close a mile away. Look for the following five indicators -- all signs that it’s time to ask your prospect if they’re ready to buy.
1) There is a plan in place for implementation.
An implementation plan takes a sale out of the realm of the hypothetical and into reality. A well-designed plan arms your prospect with strategies for getting a fast start with your product and is directly tied to achieving specific goals. Getting buy-in from your prospect on a plan also confirms that you fully understand their need and business.
Prospects who are uncertain about purchasing your product will be careful not to commit to anything. In fact, they’ll actively try to get off your radar, asking you to call them back “in a few months” or telling you “it’s just not a good time right now.” Even prospects who have a real need will do this, either due to inertia or because they have too much on their plates.
The magic duo of prospect traits is a sense of urgency combined with a willingness to make a change. A prospect who takes the time to walk you through existing projects and goals so you can identify how your product fits in possesses both of these characteristics, and is ready to buy.
2) Your prospect starts saying “when,” not “if.”
A semantics-based variation of the point above, a prospect who starts saying things like, “So when we implement X, we’ll have to do Y to make Z happen, right?” has already made the mental leap from prospect to customer. Though it’s a small detail, it represents an important psychological shift -- he’s now planning for what happens after the purchase, an indication that you should ask to move forward.
A psychological trick that can bring prospects to the finish line more quickly is to avoid speaking in hypothetical terms yourself. This primes prospects for a world in which they’ve already made the decision to buy your product, and makes your discussion as concrete as possible.
One caveat: This hack should only be used for good, not evil. You should never attempt to “trick” a prospect into buying something they don’t need -- only offerings that will actually benefit them.
3) A deadline for a major goal is approaching.
During qualification, there’s one very important thing you should have discussed: their pain. The prospect is having trouble reaching a goal or fixing a problem, which is why they’re talking to you in the first place.
But sometimes, prospects become distracted in the middle of the sales process and lose their urgency. It’s your job to get them back on track. When qualifying on need and timeline, establish what goals aren’t being met, what will happen if the company continues to fall short, and when the situation becomes untenable.
So keep a close watch on those deadlines. Use them to drive a sense of urgency throughout your sales process, and if the prospect starts to stall or lose steam, remind them that if this goal is still a priority, they need to get started as soon as possible.
Prospects often get sidetracked because it’s easy for them to imagine that the point of purchase is the end of the process for them, when in fact it’s just the beginning. Any product that will have a significant impact on a prospect’s business will take some time to implement and realize return. Remind your prospect of this and ask for a decision as the deadline inches closer.
4) You’ve met all the decision criteria.
During one of your initial discovery calls, you should have asked your prospect about their criteria for selecting a vendor. It’s wise to tailor your sales process to each company’s process, and if you’ve done so, you will reach a point where all of your deliverables and obligations have been fulfilled.
At this point, ask your prospect what they’re missing from you. It’s possible they need a deeper dive on a specific feature, want a comparison between you and a competitor, or are still unclear on how they will realize or measure the return on your product.
You should review the sales process on your end too. Did the process address the criteria your prospect defined, or were you spending inordinate time on the wrong things? If all your ducks are in a row, go for the close -- your prospect will either give you their decision or update the criteria, in which case you have another opportunity to prove your product is the right choice.
5) Your prospect starts calling you.
What did sales look like 25 years ago?
Salespeople called, and called, and called, until they got through to prospects who didn’t want to hear from them. However, buyers didn’t have many options for independent research, so they were forced to (begrudgingly) pick up the phone if they hoped to make a purchase.
Fast forward to 2015 and buyers have changed -- so salespeople have changed too. Instead of cold calling and cold emailing, salespeople should be providing value to their prospects long before they even meet.
Thanks to the resources and insight provided by inbound salespeople, a prospect may have made up their mind to buy your product before you even realize it. Now, reps empower their buyers to make the best decisions, which means you’ll be taking their calls. And there’s no better sign that a prospect wants to buy than one who makes the effort to call you.
It’s easy to tell when to ask for a close if you know what to look for. Learn to spot these five indicators that your prospect is ready to become a buyer, and you’ll never be caught by surprise again -- or worse, miss an opportunity to get the deal done.
Originally published Oct 30, 2015 8:30:00 AM, updated February 01 2017