When you think of a great salesperson, what characteristics come to mind?
Some of you probably thought of consultative reps who are able to guide prospects through a complicated buying process. For others, maybe being great at active listening is the sign of a top-notch rep.
But many of you probably thought, “Great salespeople can close.”
This isn’t surprising. All salespeople care about closing, and with good reason. Without a close, there’s no sale. Without a sale, you’re not bringing in money. And as a salesperson, if you’re consistently failing to bring in money … well, let’s not even go there.
Basically, it makes sense that closing is so top-of-mind for salespeople. Any sales rep who doesn’t care about closing probably shouldn’t be in the profession.
But in the era of “Always Be Helping” selling, closing is less of an event in and of itself and more of a foregone conclusion.
If you’ve done your job correctly, closing isn’t a separate step of the sales process. It flows organically out of goal-setting and plan creation.
Part of being a good rep is the ability to accurately forecast deals. Accurate forecasts are crucial to helping business leaders understand their company’s health, but they’re also the ultimate test of whether you truly understand your sales process and target customer.
Whenever you’re evaluating your pipeline, examine each deal and ask yourself, What are the top three reasons this prospect would buy, and what are the top three reasons they wouldn’t buy?
If you can’t answer these questions, you shouldn’t be forecasting the deal at all. It’s a sign that you don’t understand your prospect’s main priorities and challenges. As a result, you won’t be able to provide relevant value and you have no guarantee of winning the business.
Modern closes start in the discovery process. Reps should establish what their buyers’ purchasing process and decision criteria are, explore their pain points and top priorities, then design the rest of the sales process around providing value in the areas their prospects care about.
Throughout the rest of the process, reps should consistently take their prospects’ temperature on how they feel about the deal and whether there’s alignment between what the rep can offer and what the prospect needs.
Make sure that what you’re discussing is still valuable, and that you’re kept abreast of any changes in situation that could impact a sale -- for example, new hires or terminations at your prospect’s company, loss of or new rounds of funding, or competing internal initiatives.
If you’ve done this well, there shouldn’t be any surprises when it’s time to get a deal signed. You should know exactly what your prospect needs your product for, how they’ll implement it, and what kind of support they’ll need from your company and their internal team to make the implementation a success.
The only thing that remains is price negotiation. While the dollars and cents may shake out differently than you expected, you know the ballpark number your prospect can afford and have already walked them through your product’s pricing options so they’re not surprised either.
There is one caveat to all of this: Just because you shouldn’t think of closing as a distinct step separate from the rest of your sale process doesn’t mean you don’t have to ask for the business.
You absolutely should ask the prospect if they’re ready to buy, and let them know you won’t leave the deal on the table forever. After all, creating a sense of urgency is essential to making a sale. And you don’t want a deal to end with no decision -- getting a definitive yes or no allows both you and your buyer to move on.
The real distinction between a modern, inbound closing strategy and a traditional one is how the sales rep treats the buyer.
Old-school reps -- the ones who talk instead of listen and push their product instead of trying to do what’s best for their buyers -- need to use slimy sales tactics to close their deals, because they weren’t able to demonstrate value during the sales process in a way that led to a natural close.
But inbound salespeople know that, barring an unavoidable interruption to the sales process, if they run a thorough sales process, satisfy the buyer’s requirements, and properly qualify or make alternate recommendations when it’s not a good fit, a closed deal will never be a surprise.
Originally published Mar 18, 2016 12:00:00 PM, updated July 28 2017