I believe that the best way to finish your sales process is to ask what I call “closing questions.” I don’t mean closing-the-order questions. Asking a closing question is not the same as asking for the order. In fact, you can pretty much guarantee yourself that asking for the order is neither a peak event in the sales process nor a positive memorable last interaction for a prospect.
Closing questions are the questions you ask to verify that there are no gaps in your understanding of the customer and the problem that needs to be solved, the customer’s understanding of your product or service and the value that it will deliver, as well as to ensure their understanding of your proposal and how it will meet the customer’s business and financial objectives. In addition, closing questions ensure that the customer has used the right assumptions in her internal analysis of your offer.
My experience of more than 30 years has shown me that customers are reluctant at the end of your selling process and their buying process to admit that they don’t fully understand the details of your proposed solution. Incomplete information can be problematic for your chances of winning.
Closing questions attempt to verify that the customer has enough information to make a decision. Examples include:
“At our first meeting you stated that you needed a cost-effective method to improve control over critical production processes. Do you understand how our solution will provide the needed process improvements, as well as the IRR (internal rate of return) on your investment, which exceed your stated requirements?”
“I have this spreadsheet that we have developed to help our customers project the financial returns from their investment in our solution. Have you performed this calculation yet? Let’s take a few minutes to enter some of your assumptions and verify that we can meet your internal financial hurdles.”
“Earlier I provided you with a detailed project plan and installation management guide. Do you understand how our solution will integrate and improve the performance of your current systems? With your permission, I’d like to take a few minutes to review some of the key implementation steps with you.”
Closing questions are like discovery questions; you have to be professional but direct. Customers rarely volunteer their lack of understanding. You must be sensitive to them and to their perception of the time you are using. But you don’t want any competitive advantage that you created through peak positive experiences to disappear if customers decide they can’t buy from you because they have incomplete information.
Your closing questions will leave the customer perceiving you as a detailed, customer-centric professional. By focusing on clearing up lingering questions or uncertainties, you will have created value by making it easier for the customer to reach a decision faster. Think about what the customer’s perception of you will be at that moment compared to that of a competitor who is just asking for the order without making sure that the customer has gotten all the necessary information.