Closing the Sale: The Forgotten Art

There are strategies to follow in closing a sale successfully. Yet some sales-training professionals and salespeople say that to learn specific closing techniques is to revert to an obsolete era of the sales profession. It has even been suggested that closing techniques are nothing more than customer manipulation.

This simply is not true. There are many components to closing a sale and not all of them occur at the time of the sale. For example, if you create a fabulous presentation with a good script designed only to close the sale, you are not seeking a relationship with the customer but merely a one-night stand because you are neglecting the importance of follow up. Then, you might manipulate the customer into making the decision that you want rather than the one that would best satisfy his or her needs. You may get them once, but will they give you referrals or call you again?

Some sale’s trainers believe that success in selling is a number’s game. If you make enough calls, a percentage of sales will almost occur by themselves. And they will. But think of all those sales you didn’t make that you could have IF you had closed strategically to a process.

Granted, we are closing sales differently today than in the seventies, eighties and nineties, but there are fundamentals that have always worked and will continue to work, culminating in great success in a salesperson’s career.

Relationship selling, partnering and consultive selling are valid, modern-day selling strategies. However, they certainly are not meant to supplant the time-honored skill of closing but rather to supplement it.

Some buying situations call for salespeople to operate on the premise of the one-time call and close. Others may require spending months or even years working with prospects to determine needs and build trust and credibility before closing the transaction. Regardless, it still comes down to gaining commitment and reaching the final agreement, which is closing the sale.

There are, in my estimation, these six basic critical steps to a sale:

  1. Meet and greet
  2. Discovery/qualification
  3. Presentation/demonstration
  4. Handling objections
  5. Closing the sale
  6. Following up and following through

If you carefully analyze the six steps, you will notice that every one requires specific closing techniques and skills. As each step is completed, the sale moves toward the end result.

When Vince Lombardi assumed the position of head coach for the Green Bay Packers, he was asked his strategy to turn around and lead the struggling team to its eventual number-one position. Mr. Lombardi replied, "I plan to lead by becoming brilliant at the basics."

The basics for him were passing, running and kicking the ball. Regardless of criticism from skeptics, Lombardi never lost his focus. He coached Green Bay to five NFL titles, won two Super Bowls and died as NFL’s all-time winningest coach with a .740 percentage.

The basics for you as a professional salesperson are the six critical steps to selling. Like Lombardi, if you become brilliant at the basics — including closing — you, too, can reach the top.

You may spend a lot of time with a prospect, but in the end, if you do not close, you do not get paid. Closing is not an event that will occur on its own. Even if you have a phenomenal relationship with a prospect and you deliver an excellent presentation, you must be prepared to ask for the order.

You cannot delude yourself into believing that the presentation, numerous sales calls and a solid relationship are all that’s necessary to entice a prospect to buy. There must be that one final step that only you can initiate and complete. In any sale’s transaction, there must be closure before there’s a check.

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