When I started my own business, I soon found that my professional expertise was not enough.
I had to learn how to sell my business, and the hardest part for me was learning to close the deal.
With some expert coaching and a mixture of practical results along the way—ranging from embarrassingly bad to comfortingly successful—I found key strategies that worked for me.
Enjoy the game
Although obvious enough to seasoned sales people, it was a revelation to me when I discovered that a good sales conversation is really just a game.
So like any sportsperson keen to win, one of the first things I do going into a sales meeting is to ensure I am in the right frame of mind for the game. I definitely want to win but know that if I don’t, it’s not going to be the end of the world.
Then I remind myself that it’s a game the other party is willing to play. Otherwise, they would not have agreed to the meeting.
Seeing the process as a game also allows me to establish some rules. I don’t call them “rules” but something like “things we agree on”. For example, early in the conversation I’ll usually ask some questions, such as:
“Can I ask, are you talking to other people about this/ interviewing other providers?”
“Do you have a budget for this, or hasn’t it got into the budget process yet?”
I don’t always expect a straightforward answer to these types of question. It’s a game, remember. And I’m never surprised when people fudge their answers to those questions. But by asking them I am actually setting out some rules of engagement.
Link your solution to their pain
Your prospect is only talking to you because they have a problem that your product or service might be able to fix.
They may be “window shopping” and actually have someone else in mind, but we are in front of them and have the opportunity to present our solution as the appropriate one.
If we are handling the sales process well, we would have discovered why the prospect is open to a sales presentation early in the conversation. It could be a myriad of issues depending on your business and theirs.
At the deal-closing stage, remind them of why they agreed to have the conversation and how our solution can take away their pain. We need to be explicit.
“So do you see how our service can take away your worries about…?”
“From what we’ve discussed, do you feel confident now that we have the skills and resources to help you get this staff churn problem under control?”
Ask for the sale
The necessity of asking for the sale might seem obvious to you. But doing it, and doing it effectively and in a timely fashion, takes discipline and even courage.
Asking for the sale doesn’t have to be crass, nor should it be vague.
We might ask:
“So when would you like us to start on this project, next Monday or do you want a week to get organised?”
“Which of our services would you like to take, the monthly payment one or the full year subscription with that lovely discount when you pay now?”
That reminds the prospect that, you are here to sell. As one of my selling coaches used to say, “no more wishy-washy”. In other words, at the right time, cut to the chase and ask for the sale.
Find out what it takes to get to 10
As soon as I feel that there is interest but some hesitation, I ask a question along these lines:
“So now that we’ve covered all that, can I ask you on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being basically uninterested to 10 being ready to buy, where do you see yourself right now?”
In all these years I’ve never had anyone refuse to play this part of the game and the answers have always been, as far as I could tell, pretty honest. But I can only ever recall one or two saying “10” without further prompting.
Which is why I usually follow up immediately with another question, like:
“So with all you now know about our services, what is stopping you from getting to 10?”
“So what needs to happen for you to get to 10?”
The answer may open up an issue you had thought was covered, but it moves the game closer to resolution: deal or no deal.
So, what challenges have you faced in closing deals? What strategies have you found that worked for you?