As I mentioned in my previous post, I wanted to channel the energy I saw in a customer’s sales force away from annoying the customer by closing at inappropriate time to adding value to the process. All of the sales people had been taught to close all the time, but when selling more complex products and solutions this isn’t the best approach.
The first thing I did was redefine the definition of closing that we used. The entire sales process is part of the “close,” and if you have followed the process and focused on the customer’s needs, closing will be a natural part of the process, and expected by the customer.
Closing is a process of:
• Clarifying and suggesting customer commitment to next steps
• Ensuring that the customer feels comfortable about his or her decision
• Supporting the customer’s acceptance (once the customer agrees to a solution)
• Gaining or requesting a commitment
Depending on the size and complexity of the sale, the next step could be to ask for the business, or it could be the next step in the customer’s buying cycle. So the sales person should be driving to the highest level of commitment they can achieve in that specific call/meeting e.g. agreeing that the proposal fully meets the customer’s needs, speaking to reference who have already implemented the solution, agreeing T&Cs, etc. In this way, we kept that great closing energy while respecting the customer’s buying cycle (more of this in the next post).
But hold-on, what about the 24 ways I learned to close – surely hard closing has its place? Yes, at a transactional sales level this is true, but I personally believe that buyers have become much more sophisticated and savvy, and so many of the well tried and tested closing techniques taught in the past seem too obvious now. But, as always, I would be interested in how you are finding the best ways to close business and whether you see the commitment staircase as a good way of thinking about the closing process.