Every once in a while a sales manager calls me, “I have a sales person who can’t close, can you help him?” Sometimes I get a call, “I need to improve my team’s closing skills?”
I’m always suspicious of these calls. Closing is never the real problem. The managers are reacting to a sales person’s inability to win deals and get business, but it’s never really about closing. Deals really aren’t won or lost based on our slick closing skills or great technique, they are won and lost much earlier.
Deals are won and lost in qualifying. Too often, sales people qualify deals poorly or don’t qualify at all. They chase any customer that show some level of interest. They chase bad deals, deals they would have no chance of winning. Qualification–or rather vicious disqualification is one of the most important closing skills. Sales people must focus on deals in their “sweet spot.” They shouldn’t waste their time on marginal deals. Sales people must focus on customers that have a need to change, a great sense of urgency in solving a problem.
Qualified deals are won and lost in the discovery phase of the sales process. Too often, however, sales people rush through the discovery process, asking only enough questions to provide a context for their product pitch. It’s in the discovery process that the customer lays out the road map for winning the deal. Through great questions, listening, and probing, the sales person uncovers the needs, priorities, decision making process, the alternatives the customer is considering. It’s through discovery that sales people understand what customers value.
Deals are won through creating, developing, and delivering differentiated value–not only in the solution presented, but through the customer’s buying process. Winning sales people know the ultimate differentiation is that created in facilitating the customer buying process. The know their solutions must create business value, so every solution is justified in terms meaningful to the customer.
Deals are won through sharp and consistent execution of a sales process that is closely aligned to the customer buying process. Great sales people know the key to maximizing their win rate, deal value, deal profitability, and reducing their sales cycle is based on a great sales process. They know anything else is just a random walk, with the outcome completely up for grabs.
Effective closing is a natural outcome of all of these things. It has nothing to do with the latest, greatest techniques. Effective closing starts with the very first call and is earned in each subsequent call.
Are you and your people masters of these critical closing skills?
(No puppy dogs were harmed in writing this post.)