For more than 30 years, I’ve trained and coached salespeople from companies of all sizes and from a wide range of industries. And in all of those thousands of coaching sessions, I’ve found that there are two steps in the sales process that generate the most anxiety, fear, and stress in salespeople.
The other fear-inducing sales activity? Closing. The anxiety, of course, is wrapped up in our natural fear of hearing one simple, powerful word – NO. It’s the same reason why we got nervous asking our parents for a toy as children. Or why it can be so difficult to ask someone out on a date.
No one likes to be rejected. Even in a professional setting, the rejection can sting on a personal level.
However, there’s a big difference between salespeople who have taken the leap to superstar status and those who are still struggling to get by with average or even mediocre results. Those salespeople who are consistently successful have learned how to manage the sting of rejection.
In fact, they embrace hearing the word “no” because they understand that the first rejection is the beginning of the process. The more times they hear “no,” the closer they are to getting a “yes.”
If you’re not confident in your closing skills, it’s time to make a change. Aside from prospecting, there may be no more important sales skill than the ability to close. Fortunately, much like any other skill, all it takes is diligent practice and work to improve.
I can help you become a better closer with one-on-one coaching. We can role play your closing technique, make adjustments, and even practice for specific, upcoming closing situations. Below are five of my most effective tips for how you can be a more confident and successful closer:
Get your timing right.
If you feel anxious about closing the sale, it may be that deep down you know the client isn’t ready to commit. Maybe there are lingering questions that you haven’t fully answered. Perhaps there’s a competitor bid that you know is hanging out there. Maybe you just haven’t gotten a great vibe from the prospect.
The best sales people lead their prospects down a predefined path, so they always know when it’s time to close. They’re never guessing about whether or not the prospect is ready. They know it’s time to ask for the business because they’ve hit every step in their process and they’ve addressed all of the client’s questions and concerns.
If you don’t have a process, then you’re just guessing about when to close. That’s where the anxiety comes from – your uncertainty. Define and implement a process and the close should be significantly easier.
Your secret weapon – trial close questions.
How do superstar salespeople know the timing is right? They test their close throughout their entire process. They understand the power of trial close questions and they use those questions to gauge their prospect’s temperature.
Some examples of trial close questions include:
- How do you feel at this point?
- How is this all sounding?
- What do you think about what I’m proposing?
You’re not asking them to commit so they likely won’t hesitate to give you an honest answer. And you can use their answer to determine whether you’re on track to close the deal or whether you still have work to do.
Master your script.
You’ve led them through your defined process. You’ve used trial close questions to determine that they’re ready to commit. Now it’s time to close. You have a closing script that you use at this point, right?
If you don’t, you’re not alone. I’ve worked with many salespeople who are too experienced to know better who still wing it every time they’re ready to close a deal. Do you wing your presentations? Your cold calls? Then why would you wing it when it’s time to close?
There are two parts to the close that you should script and then rehearse to the point that they roll off your tongue naturally. One is the initial question that signals to your prospect that you’re ready to finalize the deal. For example, you could ask:
- Are you ready to move forward with this today?
- Is this something you would like me to help you with?
- If we move forward today, we can get started on implementation by [next week, next month, etc.].
Basically, you’re saying, “I’m ready to move forward. Are you?”
They’ll answer you in one of three ways. The first is that they’ll say yes, in which case you have a new customer. Or they’ll tell you no and they’ll give you a specific reason why. Or there’s the third scenario, in which they ask to think about it or they give a vague and ambiguous rejection.
Great salespeople know that rejections are just the starting point for the closing conversation. This leads us into the second part of your closing script – how you respond to the rejection.
If they give you a specific reason for the rejection, then you have a great starting point for your response. Simply ask them if, assuming that you take care of that point of contention, they would be willing to move forward. For example:
- If I can get you that introductory price for the first three months, are you prepared to move forward?
- Assuming we can bump up the delivery date, can we finalize this today?
Then, of course, you have to deliver on whatever promises you have made. However, if they give you a specific reason for their rejection, it shouldn’t be hard for you to address the issue and keep the momentum going.
What can be more difficult is if they don’t give you a specific reason. They want to think about it. Or they’re just not prepared to sign a deal today. The goal here is to find the underlying reason. Why won’t they sign today? What exactly do they need to think about? You could ask:
- What do I need to change in this proposal for you to move forward today?
- What issues do you need to think about before we can finalize this?
- What concerns are keeping you from moving forward?
Don’t give up until they give you specifics. When they do, simply address those issues in the best way you can.
The key is to rehearse these lines and this type of conversation. Find wording that you’re comfortable with and then use it in every single meeting. The closing appointment is not the time to search for words. Prepare your script and then rehearse until it’s natural.
Finally, remember that as good as your service or product may be, people buy from other people. They buy from people they like and respect. They buy from people they enjoy being around. There’s no reason why the closing meeting has to be a serious and somber affair.
It’s amazing how a smile can alter the tone of a conversation. When you ask closing questions, do it with a smile. Keep a light and positive attitude. Don’t be afraid to joke around with your prospect.
And if they reject you, let it roll off your shoulders. It might be killing you inside, but your prospect doesn’t need to see that. You may think they’re totally wrong in their line of thought and you may even tell them what you think, but do it with a smile and a friendly attitude. The more you appear to be enjoying yourself, the more likely it is that they’ll want to work with you.
If you have closing anxiety or simply don’t feel you’re as effective as you should be, let’s talk about it. I offer no-cost, no-commitment initial coaching sessions. We’ll discuss your sales challenges and then develop an action plan to help you get better results.
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