Have you ever heard this one? “My salespeople can’t close.”
I cringe when sales executives ask for a training program about closing the sale. Save your money. It’s never about closing. Never. That’s just the symptom.
The problem almost always stems from the activities salespeople neglect or overlook during earlier parts of the sales process. Training them to close is like treating chronic back pain by stretching or applying heat. You may get some temporary relief from the symptom, but unless you treat the problem—the pulled muscle or degenerating disc—your pain won’t really go away.
Investigate Your Lead Sources
Traditionally, executives have not considered the source of leads to be an important factor in closing new business. Any lead is a good lead, right? Wrong!
Close rates vary dramatically based on how we’re introduced to clients. So whether you are an individual business owner or part of a larger organization, the first step to increase close rates is to examine how you and your team are sourcing leads.
How did you meet your prospect? Were you introduced by a trusted source and, therefore, pre-sold? Or did you meet the prospect at a trade show, through cold calling, or through a Web or direct-mail inquiry?
When salespeople receive referral introductions, they close business more than 50 percent of the time (typically 70 percent or higher). Leads from other, less-direct sources have only a 1- to 3-percent close rate.
Once the lead has been sourced, enhance your close rate by understanding what your client really needs. What clients think they need and what will truly solve their problems can be very different things. Like us, our clients are often too close to their business issues to step back and evaluate the real cause of their problem. Rather, they focus on what’s most visible—the symptom.
Many salespeople ask one or two questions and assume they have zeroed in on the client’s need and appropriate solution. This is rarely the case. These salespeople don’t take the time to evaluate the situation, gain true understanding, and define the significant problem or need.
Thoughtful, provocative, and probing questioning increases not just your close rate but also the scope of the sale. When you do a great job of questioning and understanding the real problem, the scale of the project often increases—meaning you earn more money and the client gets a solution that creates demonstrable business results. Your client looks good, the company is successful, and you are poised to receive additional business and referrals.
The Prospect Needs a Task
Never leave a meeting with a list of things for you to do and no action items for your prospect. Without an “assignment,” your client isn’t invested in the solution. You may ask him to provide you with materials, conduct research, survey his internal team, or connect you with important internal resources—whatever you decide is appropriate. Just make sure your prospect has a task.
And, always, always leave your meeting with another meeting scheduled. If your prospect is noncommittal, you may have been too quick to jump to a proposed solution. You haven’t closed. Go back. It’s never about closing.