I grew up watching his wonderfully hokey ads on late-night T.V.
How to Close a Sale
Here are some strategies to help create a win-win business relationship of customer satisfaction and longevity.By Inc. Staff | May 18, 2010
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The drive to close a sale is portrayed in Glengarry Glen Ross, the David Mamet play turned into an Oscar-winning 1992 film, as the ultimate end-all in a Chicago real estate office. “A-B-C,” says Blake, the ruthless businessman played by Alec Baldwin in the film, who is sent to shake up the sales staff by holding a sales contest in which the winner receives a Cadillac and the loser gets fired. “Always be closing.”
These days, many salespeople have come to think of “the close” a little differently. The goal is not so much to sell anything just for the sake of making a sale. The goal is to cbook sales that truly help satisfy a customer, and that create a mutually-beneficial, long-term relationship.
“The ‘close’ of the sale is usually described as the point where a prospect or customer agrees to buy. This thinking is very traditional, and should be an obsolete view of the selling process,” says Jeff Thull, president and CEO of Prime Resource Group, who has designed and implemented business transformation and professional development programs for companies like Shell Global Solutions, 3M, Microsoft, Siemens, and Citicorp, as well as many fast track, start-up companies. “If you believe the close is the ultimate event, you will no doubt be limited in your success. If you respect your customers and believe they are intelligent individuals with whom you wish to have long-term and mutually beneficial relationships, your goal should be to provide them with products and services that will make them successful.”
The article below will examine how successful businesses approach closing the sale, the stages in the process of closing the deal, and how to follow up after the close of the sale.
Closing a Sale: How Great Sales Teams Do It
A businessperson would be lying if they told you that they didn’t care about closing the sale. “It’s still the ultimate reason for the process,” says Peter Handal, CEO of Dale Carnegie Training (www.dalecarnegie.com), the international training and consulting services company that helps businesses of all sizes sharpen sales skills and improve performance. “If you do everything right and don’t close the sale, then you were still not successful.”
To complicate matters further, it may be harder for firms to close the sale today than it used to be. Between the tough economic environment and global competition, it may take longer to close sales today. “It depends on the industry, but the Internet makes the competition worldwide. It’s not just next door anymore,” Handal says. “The general economy makes the buyer much more cautious about buying. And prices in most industries become a much more important factor.”
For successful businesses, the sales process has become a communications process that evolves through a series of decisions both you and your customer will be making. At each decision point, you will be achieving mutual understanding and establishing clarity about what you are saying to each other and how you will proceed. Thull refers to it as “Multiple Decisions — Mutual Understandings.”
“It is important to understand the decisions a customer needs to make as they progress from not having your solution to acquiring and using your solution,” Thull says. The steps along the way represent decisions to change. Each step in the decision process is made in a particular sequence and is designed to support the succeeding decision. “If at any point the decision does not support going forward, the process should stop,” he says. “If you’ve managed the process correctly, this must be considered a satisfactory outcome. Like a doctor, you have begun your diagnosis, and may discover there are no symptoms of a disease, or the symptoms are not severe enough to write a prescription or recommend surgery.”
Closing a Sale: The 4 D’s of Making a Deal
There are four stages of the decision process involved in closing the sale, Thull says. These stages are Discovery, Diagnosis, Design, and Delivery. “They provide a navigable path from identifying potential customers to the customer’s decisions to continue to move forward,” he says. While you walk your customers through the process, there are some key objectives you need to accomplish at each stage along the way.
Discovery. In the initial Discovery stage, you must ensure that the customer matches the profile of individuals or businesses that typically find value in your product or services. This means progressing beyond the traditional boundaries of prospecting to learning unique characteristics and background information about your prospect. “Showing you’ve done your homework will make your solution that much more relevant and receptive by your customers,” Thull says.
Part of the learning process involves listening to your customer. “You have to listen very carefully to what the customer or potential customer is saying so that it gives you signals for how to create a win-win,” Handal says. “It doesn’t do any good to smooth talk yourself into a sale today and lose the customer tomorrow. It has to be in your interest and their interest.” In order to understand your customer’s interest, you need to understand what they want and then fulfill their needs. It’s not really relevant to the sales process what you want. “What’s relevant is what they want,” Handal says.
You may be selling to the general public or a highly specialized audience and it helps to know that audience. “In either case, there are characteristics or demographics that describe your best prospects,” Thull says. For example, your customer profile might be people between the ages of 35 to 55, or hospitals in rural communities with less than 100 beds. “For things to move forward, one of the first things to establish with the prospect is that there is a likelihood that this customer may be facing the same types of issues that your other customers have, and it will be helpful to investigate things further,” he says.
Diagnosis. In the Diagnosis stage, Thull says, you want to help your customers understand their inefficiencies and performance gaps. You may be able to help maximize the customer’s awareness of their dissatisfaction with their situation, and determine whether that dissatisfaction supports the need for your solution or not.
Thull says these are the two major reasons why people do not buy: