“Every sale has 5 basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, or no trust.”
– Zig Ziglar
We spend so much time talking about growth-hacking and inbound marketing, I think it’s about time we covered one of the most crucial and time-tested elements to succeed in business, the art of the closing the sale.
Sales strategies come in all shapes and sizes and dissecting them will take you down many conflicting and confusing roads, however the one constant remains across generations, industries and cultures: getting your prospect to sign on the line which is dotted. Now, before you can close the sale, you have to walk your target through the sales cycle and arrive at the point where they’re most likely to sign the contract. The following brief comes with the understanding that you’ve done the leg work and your prospect is ready to buy.
The Free Trial Close
A longstanding favorite of the Software-as-a-Service breed of sales reps, the trial close uses the “free puppies sign” approach to closing the sale: take this adorable little golden retriever puppy home with you and if your family isn’t 100% in love with the little guy after a week, you can bring him back. If you’re confident with your product and willing to put your money where your marketing is, go ahead and stick that free trial subscription CTA on your landing page and encourage your sales reps to hand out free test drives to all of their prospects.
- “Perfect, tell you what – take it for a spin for 2 weeks and tell me what you think, no obligations.”
- Nothing – they do it online without a sales rep
The free trial approach is a great way to gauge the interest level of your prospect and get them using your product. At the same time remember that ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. By “giving” your product or service away for free you risk lowering the perceived value in the mind of your prospect and they may lose their confidence in your solution, moving on without ever starting the free trial. If you’re a highly-scalable SaaS company, this technique might be okay because you’re competing for market share on a volume basis, however it may not be aligned for higher-priced niche services competing on a quality.
The Consultative Close
The consultative close is all about timing. It takes diligent research and relentless focus on your prospect’s needs. This is also called “Solution-based selling” and it’s a core technique in selling consulting services (hence the name). The deep dive research and needs understanding must happen first and it’s important that, if at any point you realize that your prospect isn’t ready to continue, you don’t force it on them.
The consultative close shouldn’t feel like a close at all. The amount of time and intelligence you poured into this relationship should make the close a very natural transition and perceived as the next step in the process. Therefore, the closing technique should be more focused on the consequences of what may happen if the prospect gets cold feet before signing the contract:
- What would happen if you were unable to reach your objectives for this quarter?
- How would delaying this project affect the team that’s been assigned to hitting these targets?
Due to the longer sales cycle and energy put forth in the consultative close, it should be reserved for enterprise clients or actually selling consulting services, and your success ratio should be damn near perfect. If you find you’re closing less than 90% of your prospects using this technique, you have reassess whether they were ready for “the ask” in the first place.
The Direct Close
The direct close should only be used when you’re extremely confident you have met all of your prospects needs and overcome any objections. Your prospect should be on the edge of their seat itching to started using your product. Otherwise, you better have a good read (or strong personal relationship) on your target to be this direct with your request.
- So Marta, I’m quite confident we’re the right solution to help your team reach its goals. Are you ready to sign the contract this afternoon?
- Now that we fully understand your needs and covered any concerns, will you commit to doing business with us?
The direct close walks a fine line between the confident solution provider and the stereotypical pushy sales rep. You do NOT want to be confused with the latter. It takes a bit of finesse and experience to understand when to pull out the direct close, but if your prospect is a “no bullshit, results-oriented” professional, they’ll appreciate your candour and straight-to-the-point approach.
The Assumptive Close
This is my personal favorite because I happen to operate under the notion that people do business with people they like, and that goes both ways. If I don’t like you, I won’t sell to you, easy as that. Fortunately, I’m a fairly agreeable guy and get along with most business professionals I meet, therefore, if I’m pitching you it means I like you and I believe my product will add value to your oganization. With the assumptive close, I approach my prosepct as if the contract is already signed, but we need to work backwards a bit to make sure all the details are perfect.
Like the direct close, you need to make sure you’ve done the legwork and genuinely believe your solution is the best fit for the prospect. Examples:
- What will competitors think when they see you implemented our solution?
- Who’s going to be managing our software on your team?
- Do you want the agreement to contain the first or second package option we discussed?
This closing technique shifts the mindset of your prospect away from whether or not they will become your client towards the benefits and long-term advantages they will see once they implement your product. Careful though, if you’re not fully confident that your solution matches your prospect’s needs perfectly, the assumptive close can backfire making you appear cocky and misaligned to what your target is really seeking.
Hopefully, you’ve realized there’s one common thread that exists in every single successful closing technique: asking for the sale. A lot of groundwork goes into walking a prospect through your entire sales lifecycle but it’s not worth anything if you never ask for their business.
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