3 Ways Generative AI Will Help Marketers Connect With Customers
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Ah — that sometimes elusive, but always thrilling moment when you close a deal. That’s why we’re all here. We love to help customers, chase new challenges, and in the process, hit those numbers. But sales is an art, and like art, its style changes over time. That’s why we’ll move past outdated and ineffective sales closing techniques in this article and talk to sales experts to get the nitty-gritty of what it means to close like a boss in today’s world.
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Sales closing, or getting a prospect to agree to a deal and sign a contract, is how reps make their quota and how businesses grow revenue.
It represents the culmination of all your efforts. You put in the time and made a strong case for why your solution can alleviate the prospect’s pain points. Now that you’ve popped the question with a (sales) proposal, it’s time to find out if this prospect is ready to commit.
Getting to that yes takes a lot of patience and persistence. Prospects will often say no before they get to a yes. The problem is, many salespeople give up before they reach that yes.
As we’ll explain further, sales closing isn’t the only stage of the pipeline that matters, but it is absolute. You either close or you don’t. The make-or-break nature of sales closing can make it one of the most stressful aspects of selling, but it doesn’t have to be.
“Fundamentally, closing a deal should be the easiest part of a sales cycle,” said Jay Camp, a strategic account director for large enterprises at Salesforce. “There are a series of key milestones you have to hit in order to be in a position to close a deal. If those key milestones are done well, closing is the easy part because the work’s already been done.”
There’s no one way to close a sale. Your approach will shift based on the prospect with whom you’re engaging and what their needs are. But this curated list of tried-and-true methods provides a template of what strategies to deploy and when.
This is a true power move that requires confidence in yourself and your product. In the assumptive sales close, you move forward under the assumption that the prospect wants to buy and that the deal is pretty much done. Instead of asking them if they’re ready to buy, you’ll ask how many products they would like or when the solution could be implemented. The key here is to be assertive without being aggressive, which can ruin the rapport and scare the prospect off. It’s also important to make sure the assumptive close happens right after you’ve driven home the benefits of your offer so it’s fresh in the prospect’s mind.
This sales closing technique comes from the idea that if a pet store offered to let you “test a puppy out” and take it home for a few days, you would fall in love with it and never return it. In a puppy dog close, offer a free trial of your product with no strings attached. The hope is that the prospect finds your product so indispensable that after their little test drive, they can’t bear to part with it.
This is also referred to as the gauge close. You take the prospect’s temperature by simply asking them point-blank how interested they are in your product. (Ex: “On a scale of one to 10, with one being ‘Let’s end this conversation now’ and 10 being ‘Let’s get this solution implemented on Monday,’ how likely are you to move forward with purchasing?”) The scale close does two things: It lets you know if you’ve been effectively communicating the value of your product and also gives you an opportunity to address any objections they might not have shared with you.
“I would say that curiosity is key. You need to always be asking questions,” said Francois Carle, a strategic account executive at Schneider Electric who has worked in sales for more than 20 years. “You need to be curious about what they’re trying to achieve and drill down into what their challenges are. The risk of a conversation going nowhere is strong if you aren’t listening.”
Also known as the now-or-never close, the scarcity sales close leverages good old-fashioned FOMO (fear of missing out) to get a prospect to buy. You sweeten the deal with a discount or an added benefit to the prospect, but only if they act now and make a purchase. This mainly works when the prospect is sincerely interested in buying, but needs a small nudge to get to yes.
This technique capitalizes on people’s desire for things that they can’t have, also known as reverse psychology. Note that your solution “might not be a good fit” for them or that their company “may not qualify for your solution like other companies have.” The takeaway close is effective because you’re doing the opposite of what a salesperson typically does, which is sell, so the prospect doesn’t expect it. Similar to the scarcity close, this tactic only works if the prospect has already established interest in your product but hasn’t pulled the trigger on buying.
Sales cycles can be long, especially for B2B selling. A prospect who’s juggling conversations with different vendors about different products might not remember all the great things your solution has to offer. In a summary sales close, you review the features of the product and how it will help meet their needs. It gives the prospect one more time to really envision what your product might accomplish for them before making a decision.
Okay, so you know a lot of the proven techniques. How do you build on this foundation and get better at sales closing? Here are a few pointers to keep top of mind when you’re trying to reel in the deal.
Selling shouldn’t feel like selling. It should feel like helping, because that’s ultimately what you’re doing. The consultative approach will always beat the transactional approach, especially in B2B selling. Use discovery calls and your own research to know the customer inside and out. What are their pain points? How does your solution address them? Are they an ideal fit for your solution? This personalized approach builds trust, and at the end of the day, successful selling is all about relationships.
Preparation is half the battle. Your prospect will naturally have objections about why this isn’t the right time for them to buy. A very common one is pricing. What’s the competitive advantage of your tool that offsets the cost? Be ready to go with solid answers to whatever pushback they might have. This makes you look more knowledgeable about the prospect and the product.
Are you talking to the right person? If not, how do you get to the right person? So much of sales closing requires getting the correct people in the room who have the power to call shots. You’ll want to suss this out earlier on in the sales process when you’re qualifying leads. Don’t spend too much time communicating the value of your tool to the marketing manager if the person holding the purse strings is the vice president of marketing.
Sales representatives don’t close every single opportunity in their pipeline. That means a lot of the prospects that come your way may not become customers. It’s also possible a small percentage of leads could bring in a lot of your revenue, which means you don’t have to pursue those unlikely to close. Knowing when to move on is critical. Don’t dwell on prospects that have shown no interest in closing. You’ll lose sight of more promising opportunities.
“Every deal, whether it’s a win or loss, has something you can learn from. It’s an opportunity to reflect on how you can evolve both in process and strategy,” said Kelly Myers, an account executive at Salesforce who specializes in enterprise-level deals.
Combined expertise will outweigh one person’s expertise every time. When you’re facing hurdles, lean on your collaborative tools like Slack to connect with your fellow reps or your sales managers in real-time so you can decide your next move as a team. We recommend even creating deal-specific channels in Slack that can act as a repository of knowledge and support for high-level opportunities.
“You’re going to win 10 times more as a team than you are as an individual,” said Myers. “There will be a lot of times when you don’t have the answers, and that’s okay. It’s important to know you have a team that will do everything in their power to help you deliver what the customer needs.”
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Experience can be the best teacher when it comes to knowing what not to do. Here are common pitfalls that the smartest salespeople have learned to overcome.
Pressure selling is out, empathy selling is in. When you come out early with an ask for the sale and then keep aggressively asking before you’ve even truly established your product’s value, it shows little consideration for the buyer. It makes it appear as though you’re speeding through the sale to meet your quota, and it’s off-putting. After all, selling isn’t about you, it’s about them.
“I don’t think the hard sale has any place in today’s market. I always tell people sales is not about ‘selling’ or convincing anybody of anything. It’s about helping people solve problems or achieve goals,” said John Barrows, the CEO of JB Sales, a sales training firm.
An important thing to remember when closing? Ask for the sale. Inertia can be a difficult thing to overcome when working with prospects. Many waffle when faced with multiple vendors and put off making a final purchase decision. If you tell them to “take some time to think about it and circle back,” you may never hear from that person again. After you’ve effectively communicated why your product is a fit and they’ve reciprocated interest, sometimes it’s powerful to simply ask if they’re ready to buy. If they balk, that’s your cue to ask more questions about their needs.
How do you know when it’s the right time to close? How do you avoid closing too early? Too late? This is a bit of a trick question. There is no singular moment when you go in for the close because, if you’re wise, sales closing is something that happens throughout the sales process. The prospect signing on the dotted line is more of a natural conclusion, not an event.
“Closing should happen at every stage of the sales process. You’re closing for the next steps, you’re closing for meetings. It’s ongoing,” said Barrows.
“Always be closing” used to be a common saying in sales. That’s shifted to “Always be connecting.” You should always be studying your prospects and adapting your approach to match their expectations and their needs. Similar to chess, your first moves often determine your final ones. When the rest of the sales process has been strategic and focused, sales closing becomes less of a conquest and more of a collaboration between you and the buyer.
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