The right time to close the sale is anytime – if it’s the right time.
There have been many books and articles dedicated to closing the sale. Many of them make the promise that if you do this or that you will instantly be able to close the sale. That’s like putting the cart before the horse or closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.
Before you even think about closing the sale, you need to understand where closing fits into the sales process.
There is more to selling than making a slick presentation or sales pitch then hoping your presentation was good enough that the buyer will say yes to your offering or having a fancy closing technique that will instantly turn them into a customer.
You cannot learn to close a sale without understanding the various phases of the sales process. Closing is only one small element.
Selling begins with prospecting for business and finding prospective buyers in your target market who are ready to buy now.
1. Lead generation phase
The first phase of the sales process is the lead generation phase. You usually can’t close a sale in this phase of the sales process. Why? Because you need to have someone to sell to first. People don’t buy from an advertisement; the advertisement is meant to create interest or desire to get you to the next phase of the sales process. The exception to this are on-line stores where buyers click on a product and it goes through to the check-out phase which of course is a closed sale.
However, if you are selling a service, you need to generate leads in the first phase of the sales process so that you can have a conversation with a potential buyer. There are a number of ways to generate leads for example:
The objective for generating leads is not to sell anything at this stage. It’s to start a conversation with a prospect or get an appointment either in person, over the phone or on-line. It is certainly not the time to even think about closing the sale. If you do, you are likely to push people away.
Because people don’t buy from people they don’t trust, your primary objective in this phase is to generate interest and to build trust and rapport with the prospect without which, you will not be able to close the sale later during the conversation.
2. The sales meeting phase
The second phase of the sales process is where you get down to the nitty gritty and find out what you can about the buyer’s needs, problems and opportunities. This can happen several ways, either on-line, over the phone, in an email conversation or face-to-face for example.
A face-to-face conversation is always the best because only 7% of your communication skills come down to the words you use, 38% your tone and a whopping 55% comes down to your body language. When you are face-to-face with a client, you can gauge whether you are in rapport or not from their body language. When you are on-line or in an email the words you choose become critically important because of that lack of body language in the conversation.
If you are in a retail environment, a customer will order a product on-line or bring their product to the counter ready to purchase. In effect what you are doing is being an order taker and processing the sale. The sales is closed for you.
There are times when you meet with a customer, talk to them over the phone or even receive an email and they want to buy now. They have already done their research and know what they want. Then of course you would close the sales by taking the order.
In more complex selling environments it’s not that simple, you do need to find out the buyer’s needs before you pitch your products and services and look to close the sale. You do this by following a sales process like the Bi-Sell-Cycle™.
Before pitching to a prospect, you need to establish trust and rapport first. Once the buyer is at ease, then you uncover the buyers needs through careful questioning and actively listening to the answers. Once you find out the buyer’s needs, you can then tailor your solution to meet their needs. This is the time in the buying and selling process when you go for the close, particularly if you know your products or services will satisfy the customer’s needs.
Don’t try to close too early
Where many people go wrong in the selling process is trying to close the sale too early. You often see this on social media where people push push and push their products or services. Social media is called social for a reason and like face-to-face selling, you have to build trust and rapport before you pitch your offering then clsoe the sale. Your objective here is to form a relationship and once in the buying and selling cycle you can look to close the sale.
Closing comes towards the end of the sales process after you find the buyer’s needs. Unless the buyer has already identified what their needs are, they are not ready to buy and you have nothing to sell. The close comes after the buyer understands your solution will satisfy their needs that they are ready to buy. This is when you ask for the order or expect a buyer to make a buying decision.
Be aware, if you try to close the sales too early in this phase, it could backfire on you particularly if you haven’t built trust and rapport or uncovered their needs as opposed to their wants. If you do, you are likely to get a sales objection where the sales process stalls or the prospect is not interested in moving forward.
3. Establish the difference between want and need
In a more sophisticated sales environment, a buyer may have done their research and know exactly what they want. There are a percentage of people who are good at research, for instance, buying a car, a television or even a house. They may troll on-line and compare products with each other, know what they want and as a result they are ready to buy now. This is when they often shop around for the best deal.
If you find yourself in front of a buyer who has done their research, it’s time to close the sale. Keep in mind, they won’t necessarily buy on price, the buyer will take into account if they can trust you are the right person to buy from which is why trust and rapport is so important. People don’t buy from people they do not like.
Don’t get sucked into believing buyers always know what they want in spite of their research. What they want may be different than what they really need. If you are a skilled salesperson and good at closing, you can take a buyer who is shopping around and quickly close the sale based on what they tell you they need. If you do this, be absolutely certain what they wanted was in fact what they needed.
If you sell a buyer on what they want and it’s not what they need, the sale could backfire on you for they will blame you when things go wrong and not their decision making process. To avoid this scenario, always check what their needs are with a few questions to make sure what they want is what they need.
4. Overcoming an objection
If they are not interested, it means you either haven’t establish trust and rapport or you failed to find out the buyers real why, their dominant buying motive which essentially are their needs not wants.
You may not be able to close a sale because the buyer is trying it on – in other words, trying to get you to lower your price. It’s a mistake to immediately give in and offer a discount as it’s an attack on your bottom line. Laugh it off and say, “other than price is there any other reason we can’t do business today?” That question will identify if they are trying it on. If they are laugh it off and go for the close.
You might not be able to close the sale because the buyer has misunderstood something. For example, they may be confused about what your product or service can do for them. If this is the case, then you will need to clear up the misunderstanding then go for the close.
Another reason you might find it hard to close a sale is that the buyer has a genuine objection. Your product or service genuinely doesn’t match their needs. If this is the case, you need to rely on your value proposition to help the buyer come to an understanding that buying from you is a good option based on your strength of service or the positive features and benefits of your products or services. Simply ask for the sale in this case for you have nothing to lose.
5. Closing lines
If you have worked your way through the buying and selling process well, handled any objections or even presented a proposal, you come to the time where you are in a position to close the sale. One of biggest reasons salespeople fail to close a sale after doing everything else right, they simply don’t ask for the sale.
Buyers have a preference as to how they like to communicate. Visual buyers are interested in the way things look. They use phrases with visual words like “that looks good to me.” If you were going to pitch to a visual buyer you would say, “If I could SHOW you an ATTRACTIVE way in which you could benefit from (your product or service) you would want to LOOK at it wouldn’t you?”
Auditory buyers are interested in the way things sound. They will use auditory phrases like “that sounds great to me.” To pitch to an auditory buyer, you would say “If I could TELL you a way in which you could benefit from (your product or service) you would want to HEAR about it wouldn’t you?”
Kinaesthetic buyers are interested in the way things work and use touchy feeling words like “that feels good to me.” To pitch to a Kinaesthetic buyer, you would say “If I could help you GET A HOLD of a CONCRETE way in which you could benefit from (your product or service) you would want to GET A FEEL FOR IT wouldn’t you?”
Once you are aware of a buyer’s visual, auditory or kinaesthetic preferences, you can use their preferred language to close the sale. For instance:
If this LOOKS GOOD to you, we can FOCUS on signing off on the paperwork.
If this SOUNDS GOOD to you, we can DISCUSS how to get you started.
If this FEELS GOOD to you, we will go ahead and get you started by HANDLING THE PAPERWORK.
Remember, to successfully close the sale, timing is everything!
On a final note
When you understand how the entire sales process works, you will be in a better position to know when to go for the close.
In a Nutshell
You cannot close a sale successfully if you don’t understand the various phases of the sales process.
The lead generation phase only creates leads. You then have to qualify those leads to see if they are in the market to buy now.
The sales meeting phase is where you establish what the buyers needs are. You do this through careful questioning and active listening.
If you get an objection, you have to overcome this before trying to close.
You close when you get to the final stages of the sales process.
If you use a buyers visual, auditory or kinaesthetic preferences you are more likely to close the sale.
Don’t forget to ask for the sale regardless.