Begin with the close in mind! The journey of successful closing when selling starts with the first engagement. Plan your process carefully to ensure the highest possible conversion rate of your sales pipeline. Xceeda Group offers an overview of 10 key steps to close the sale and build a powerful and long lasting client relationship.
- Do your research
Research, study, learn – not just core facts and figures but look for quirky information associated with or related to the international, national and local market, the sector, the competition, the company, performance, forthcoming challenges and opportunities, trends, news, anything which gives you golden nuggets to use to prove you have done more homework than anyone else. If you conduct a quick scan of the company web site on the way to the meeting – shame on you!
- Give yourself time for thorough preparation
Support you sales process with the materials you should have to hand to give you confidence that you can make an outstanding first impression, build rapport, create empathy, ask great questions, summarise what you have learned, present a solution based on a wide knowledge platform, answer any objections based on knowledge of the full landscape, and close the deal based on relevance and added value.
- Execute a disciplined approach to selling
Use the same approach in every sale and tweak it as you learn from success and failure. Always know where you are in your process, never let your prospect know and ALWAYS remain at the current stage until you have completed it fully and with 100% certainty – NEVER move on until you are sure you have achieved the primary goal for that phase. An excellent example of a disciplined approach is R.E.S.P.E.C.T… rapport, explore, summarise, present, expand, confirm, transact. Many similar versions exist. the important thing is to work with yours and make it your learning and improvement platform. Conduct a thorough critique of your performance after every engagement and commit to taking real action from the lessons you learn. Every sales engagement is practice and practice should never be squandered.
- Listen and plan how you react to take you closer to the deal
So many great selling opportunities are squandered because we don’t actively and proactively listen to what is really being said. The fact is, if we listened better, we would ask so many more of the right questions but too many haggard sales people think they’ve heard all the answers before – they haven’t and they should learn how to listen. listening also facilitates good conversation and in sales, when good conversation happens, sales are often made. Many sales people fall into the trap of thinking they should understand an answer they are given and will look silly if they challenge it – wrong! so much valuable intelligence will come from asking silly questions and making sure real understanding is achieved. How can you summarise understanding and complete the search for relevant solutions if you don’t understand the answers you have been given?
- Invest in a study of emotional intelligence
The power of the application of emotional intelligence in all its forms cannot be underestimated. self awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy, social skills, self efficacy. A huge part of selling is about what happens in the early stages of any sales process… creating an outstanding first impression, building on this by building rapport and learning how to stay in rapport, building on this to create empathy and understanding rather than sympathy and acceptance, moving from rigid structure into adult to adult conversation. Gaining licence to ask challenging questions, to challenge assumptions, to question data, to position difficult messages, to answer robust objections, to close the deal and finally to negotiate – all these areas require a high level of emotional intelligence. Find it, read it, study it and learn how to apply it. The benefits are huge!
- Learn the psychology stuff
Find a book on Neuro-Linguistic Programming and study ‘meta-programmes’, ‘convincer patterns and information filters such as VAKOG. Again, these will pay you back a thousand times for the small investment in time. Not enough sales people make the effort to go around the other side of the desk and sit in the protective buyers seat. Who are they? what are their concerns, needs, wants, issues? what are they thinking? how are they reacting? how should I tweak my approach to suit their preferred style? Understand how to communicate with people, learn conversation skills, learn the psychology of purchasing. Successful sales people do not rest on their laurels, they learn every day and practice and then learn some more.
- Present solutions using NFAB and relevance
NFAB – need, feature, advantage, benefit…. simple but very effective if used properly! “John, you said you NEED a solution which will ?????, a key FEATURE of ours is that it will ?????, the immediate ADVANTAGE of this for you (relevance) is that it will provide ????? and the longer term BENEFIT will be evidenced by ?????…. does that make sense?”
A note for anyone thinking of shortcutting to this model – it can’t work unless the previous phases have been completed fully and properly so that the prospects needs, wants, desires, concerns and challenges have been fully explored and established. Equally, the style with which this is used depends absolutely on correct reaction to an understanding of this prospects meta-programmes, convincer patterns and VAKOG preferences.
- Answer objections using APAC
Forget anything you’ve ever heard on trashy sales course about roller coasting, ignoring, playing back the objection, side stepping, using found, felt, feel etc. the only way to handle objections is professionally, carefully and with absolute respect and integrity – any other approach will kill the sale right here! So… APPAC… acknowledge, position, probe, answer, confirm. A very simple model but one which is rarely applied fully or properly. Skipping bits of it will not work…. “You raise a fair point there John and it’s one we need to deal with fully (acknowledgement), before we go any further, I’de like to make sure i fully understand your concern by asking a couple of questions (position), you say the solution is too expensive, can you give me more on this, for example, expensive in comparison to what? (probe) (note their might well be a series of questions in the probing phase), ok John, I think I’m clear now, and if I may, I can answer that by saying ??????, are you comfortable with my answer? does it deal with your concern? are you happy to move on? (confirm) (anything less than a 100% positive reaction at this stage will require you to cycle back to probe and go round again to make sure you get to the root cause. Moving on without 100% positivity at this stage is sales suicide).
- Summarise all the way through the process
A simple but crucial skill which is often missed or overdone. We need to check regularly for understanding, to consolidate what we think we’ve learned, to stack up golden nuggets for our NFAB and to make absolutely sure we’re on the right track and keeping the prospect with us. A sales process or journey without regular summary is like a car journey from Plymouth to inverness without any road signs and with no-one checking or asking along the way if we are on the right road or even headed in the right direction. how silly to get all the way to Norwich from Plymouth before anyone asks “are we on track here, are we headed in the right direction, is this making sense, have I captured the main roadways and read the signs correctly?”
- If you have to work hard to close or if you feel tension at the close, it means you skipped some of the previous 9 steps!
It is a truth that if the sales process or journey has gone well, the sale will pretty much close itself. A solid test of how well things have gone is therefore the amount of stress and tension in the room when it comes to asking for the business. My suggestion is, if the tension is building to a pitch, it is probably a good plan to work back through the process to establish where the weak parts were – ask yourself, which phases should, could I have done better, more thoroughly and with a better alignment to the prospective buyer. At which point did we lose our way, waiver from the pathway or part company completely. A critical review, even at this late stage can win the deal…. why?… because if you are stressed and tense, it’s likely your prospect is too and they will breathe a huge sight of relief when you say “you know, I’m not sure I’ve done a great job here, I’m not sure I’ve understood you completely, there might be some questions I should have asked and some sign posts I should have read better…… can we just go back to……….”