By Erick Simpson
This is part five of a five-part series. Click here for part one, here for part two, here for part three, and here for part four.
Step 6: Closing The Sale
Closing is the sixth step of the Seven-Step Sales Process. This step usually occurs after step five — Overcoming Objections — and can be easily defined as the sales professional asking for a commitment from the prospect. Sales professionals sometimes make the mistake of re-explaining the features and benefits of their solution after the prospect is ready to be closed and potentially talking them out of the sale. Most successful sales professionals utilize a variety of closing techniques depending upon the situation at hand that simply removes the tension from the close, then ask for the business.
Many sales professionals make the mistake of placing too much importance on the actual close of the sale itself. Closing should be a natural and logical progression after properly qualifying the prospect (step three of the Seven-Step Sales Process) and covering the different alternatives the prospect must weigh in making their buying decision.
The sales professional should also continue to progress confidently through the close and simply ask for permission to move forward. Another common mistake made by new sales professionals is to hesitate throughout the sale and cause unnecessary objections. This hesitation typically creates doubt in the mind of the prospect, which in turn increases their perceived risk of commitment. The sales professional should move assuredly throughout the sale and use one of the following closing techniques immediately after executing the process for overcoming objections:
- The “Alternate Advance” Close: “Mrs. Prospect, would you like to get started immediately or next Tuesday?” This close provides the prospect two options that both work for the sales professional.
- The “Uncomfortable Silence” Close: “Mr. Prospect, does it make sense to move forward and get started?” (remain silent and wait for a response). This close is one of the oldest and most effective closing techniques utilized in the sales process. It should be used with every prospect as it allows an opportunity for the prospect to come up with any final potential objections. The sales professional should remember one important rule: The first one to speak loses.
- The “Sharp Angle” Close: “Mr. Prospect, if I can get you the exact address and location of where your remote data will be replicated to once it is backed up, are we okay to move forward?” This should be used on any prospect that is caught up on insignificant details that cause them lose sight of the big picture.
- The “I Want to Think About It” Close: “What is it about the service that you want to think about? Is it the remote monitoring? Okay, would it happen to be the vendor management aspect of our service? Is it the online back‐up solution? Be candid with me, is it the investment amount associated with getting this service started?” This close uses the process of elimination to see which aspect of the service the prospect is objecting to. Most of the time the prospects are objecting to the investment amount, and this will allow the sales professional to reinforce the benefits of the solution and address the misunderstanding in the numbers associated with the ROI/Cost Savings Analysis.
- The “Cheaper Somewhere Else” Close: “Mr. Prospect, I understand how you feel about the investment. In fact, you’re right; you can get these services for less somewhere else. You know, in my experience I’ve found companies typically approve new services based on three merits: lowest price, best service, and highest quality. Unfortunately, in most cases there aren’t many companies that are able to deliver all three of those merits at the same time, wouldn’t you agree? (wait for response). Most people are usually only able to take advantage of services with two out of those three merits and compromise on one. Just out of curiosity, which of the three would you be most willing to compromise on: the best service, the highest quality, or price?” This close is designed to reset proper expectations in the mind of the prospect. Typically, when they object to price, a prospect’s real question is related to how the proposed solution compares to available alternatives. Sometimes not agreeing with the sales professional’s recommendations could be more expensive than selecting a cheaper alternative.
The closing techniques illustrated above are just a sample of what is possible, as there are a vast number of closing tactics and styles that can be employed. The sales professional should practice a variety of different closes in varying scenarios. This will make them feel confident and assured they are ready to close an opportunity. The closes presented above are meant to be a simple reference point and should not be used verbatim in most cases. The sales professional should practice using their own vernacular and make the closes truly their own.
The sales professional should always keep in mind that closing is not manipulation. The prospect must have an actual need for the proposed recommendations, and it is the duty of the sales professional to articulate that need to their potential client. A closing technique should not be attempted if the prospect does not have a clear understanding of the specific benefits produced by the offering.
If there is a true benefit to working with the sales professional’s recommendations, utilizing rehearsed and logical closing techniques can spark the motivation necessary to increase the velocity of the sale. The most important thing to remember is prospects make buying decisions based on emotion and use logic to justify those decisions.
Step 7: Follow-Up
Follow-up is the final step of the Seven-Step Sales Process. Whether they are selling IT, cloud or security solutions, proper follow-up is a simple activity that many sales professionals overlook and, as a result, fail to realize the benefits of this important step.
While the concept of following up on sales opportunities should be a standard and automatic function for the sales professional, from the perspective of the Seven-Step Sales Process, the follow-up occurs after the prospect has signed an agreement or purchased a solution. While this is the easiest step of the sales process, many sales professionals miss cross-selling and referral opportunities with existing clients due to a lack of proper follow-up.
The first and most important step to a powerful follow-up is to track and keep all client information updated and current in the organization’s sales CRM (Customer Relationship Management) or PSA (Professional Services Automation) solution. Using these tools to manage sales opportunities allows the sales professional to schedule and execute on specific time-sensitive tasks governed by their specific sales processes.
Some specific dates all sales professionals should keep in mind and act on to recognize for the client include:
- The anniversary date of the client’s Go-Live
- Other event dates specifically significant to the client such as business anniversaries, births, weddings and newsworthy business events
Activities the sales professional can conduct to recognize these types of events for their clients include sending out a handwritten congratulatory card, an email, flowers, balloons, cookies, or undertaking any other occasion-appropriate activities to remind their clients of the close relationship between their respective organizations, as evidenced by their celebration and congratulations of their clients’ successes.
But celebratory and congratulatory activities are not the only activities included in proper and correct follow-up. A good example of this type of strategic follow-up includes the sales professional’s regular business reviews with their clients. Depending upon the relationship, these may occur on a monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, bi-annual, or annual basis.
The intent of a standardized, consistent follow-up procedure is to continue to earn and maintain client mindshare longer while strengthening your brand promise.
Tools and services can be used to automate this process and provide calendaring, alerting, and scheduling of follow-up activities. This allows the sales professional to focus on the more labor and time-consuming aspects of executing the sales process and ensures that consistent mindshare is garnered among their client base.
In fact, it is a good idea for the sales professional to gather the dates of these significant events during the client on-boarding process and configure their tools to alert on and/or execute specific follow-up activities as appropriate, ensuring consistency in basic follow-up execution. The sales professional should keep in mind that executing a consistent follow-up process correctly with their clients can lead to opportunities to receive targeted referrals from these satisfied clients.
Genuine appreciation for clients and their business is the foundation for the entire relationship moving forward. The demonstration of the sales professional’s appreciation for their clients is typically reciprocated via consistent referrals.
If the sales professional is doing a good job of consistently reaching out to their clients on a regular basis, the foundation that was built on professionalism and consultative business advice during the sales process will be solidified. This greatly reduces the client’s desire and/or need to seek out a different relationship. Sales professionals should work hard at not letting the easiest and most overlooked part of the sales process get in the way of diminishing the hard work and credibility that they have developed during the execution of the Seven-Step Sales Process.
About The Author
Co-founder of one of the first Pure Play MSPs in the industry and creator of the MSP Mastered™ Methodology for Managed Services business performance improvement, Erick Simpson is a strategic technology business growth and transformation specialist and one of the most prolific, recognized, and sought-after business improvement and transformation experts, authors, and speakers in the industry. Learn more at www.ericksimpson.com.
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