Recently, a number of people have asked me my thoughts on closing skills. I think they are asking me about the 8-12-15… techniques to close. I’ve never been much of a fan of these—do I use the assumptive close, the puppy dog close, …? I’ve always just asked for the order–seems to work.
However, as I’ve reflected on it, I think Alec Baldwin was right in Glen Garry Glen Ross–we have to always be closing—but it’s different than what he talks about.
What should we be doing, how can we, “Always Be Closing?”
Closing starts long before the first call we ever make on the customer. It starts with identifying our sweet spot—what problems are we the best in the world at solving, who has those problems. It’s virtually impossible to close, at least successfully, if we aren’t focused on the right customers–those we can really help.
It continues in preparing for the first call. Researching the company and people you will be calling–what are their strategies and priorities? What issues are they facing? What can we do about it? How will we make sure we are relevant, providing them insights they will find useful?
Then it’s preparing for and executing a call that creates value for the customer. Usually that has nothing to do with pitching our products/services, but more about engaging them in a discussion about them and their businesses–what they want to achieve, what stands in the way of them attaining their goals, how we might help them more effectively achieve those goals. It’s helping them recognize the need to change and getting them committed to it—“We can no longer do the same old thing, we have to do something different!” If we’ve gotten through this part of the process, creating value through the process, they will insist that we continue to work with them through their buying process.
It continues through their buying process–again, it’s less about educating them about the product, but helping them organize themselves to buy, align different interests in their own organization, define their process and move forward. Customers struggle with buying, we have a lot of experience in working with customers to buy–we can offer a lot of leadership and value in helping facilitate their buying process.
As the customer works to making a decision, it’s about presenting business justified solutions–articulating the value they should expect in terms relevant and meaningful to them. It’s making sure the solution is aligned with their own objectives, as well as the strategies and priorities of their organization. We have to help the customer recognize, if they want to get what they want, then they have to sell up the food chain, showing both the business case and how it reinforces the strategies and priorities with the customer.
Moving through the approval and order, we have to continue into implementation (this is one of the big closing mistakes sales people make). We have to make sure the customer is successful, achieving what they expected to achieve, that they are not only happy, but are willing to serve as a positive reference.
And it starts all over again, finding new opportunities for the customer, helping them continue to improve, growing our relationship with them.
Yes, we have to Always Be Closing. But it starts long before and continues after the PO.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.