Coffee Is For Closers
February 20, 2007 7:11 AM   Subscribe

I'm currently doing some consulting in the business development area and could use some tips on closing deals.

My pitch is good and my potential clients continue to tell me they are interested but I'm struggling to get clients who seem content to sit on the fence forever to actually commit and sign on the dotted line.

I know that closing deals is a skill set and I'd like to learn how to get better at it. I've given deadlines to a few and that has helped move things along but would like to know if any seasoned deal makers out there have some advice on what works and what doesn't. How do you walk that fine line between pressuring (and ultimately turning off) a client and not letting it drag on too long?
posted by gfrobe to Work & Money (5 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
There is an old saying that says, after you ask the closing question, the first one that talks, loses. If you've been doing a lot of talking, explaining your services, responding to questions/objections, etc., it can seem thunderously silent to have asked a closing question, and then wait for the response. But you really have to be able to do so.

Anything you say after "So, when can start our project together?" let's the other party off the hook. Period.

If the other party declines to give you the go ahead, 95% of the time they'll do so with their major objection/undecided, so you get valuable information, and can manuever (you never accept the first "No." right? Close, handle objection, re-verify, re-close, right?) If they need a little time to think, give it to them. I've sat, stone silent, across a desk, looking expectantly, for 7 minutes one time, waiting on a response.

It was "Yes, let's get started." Finally.

Whatever you do, don't try to answer your own closing question, because you can't.
posted by paulsc at 7:25 AM on February 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

Sandler Sales Training has helped me tremendously. Check out the book, you cant teach a kid to ride a bike at a seminar, by david h. sandler. There are a lot of good techniques. My closing rate is near 93% because of this sales process.
posted by iphog at 7:34 AM on February 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I was never a top salesman, but I went from being useless to being able to close some big deals. I found the single most useful sales tool to be the Scotsman qualifying checklist:
Solution: Do we have the right solution for the customer?
Competition: Do we know who the competition is, and can we beat them?
Originality: Do we have a unique solution?
Timetable: What is the timetable for a purchase decision?
Size: How large is the opportunity?
Money: Does the client have the money and budget approval?
Authority: Who has the decision and purchase authority?
Need: What is the specific need, or business problem?

I worked from my own checklist with each of these areas fleshed out with a few more detailed questions. The whole thing fit on one page of paper that I could look at during a meeting with the customer to make sure I hadn't forgot anything.

What I discovered was that I inevitably failed to close if I didn't have every one of these areas checked off based on the customer's own words. If I was guessing but hadn't explicitly asked the customer, the close would stretch out and I'd never understand why. Once I had everything qualified, asking for the close was a lot simpler.
posted by fuzz at 8:55 AM on February 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

I'm the head of sales for a marketing firm and you're asking a great question - and one that many sales people sometimes struggle with (myself included). For what its worth, I think about it this way - no one can sell anything to someone who doesn't want it. Great sales people are problem solvers. Through good prospecting you identify a company/person who has a problem that your company has a solution to. Then you do what any good salesperson does - you have a honest and real conversation with someone. If you can help them, you do, and if you can't you move on.

It sounds like you're doing all of that. As for closing, definitely ask the closing question and wait for an honest answer. I would also suggest making leading statements once someone says they want to move foward... like "great, I'll work up the contract today and have it for you to review by tomorrow morning." After that, the art comes in. You have to balance persistence and your relationship with your contact with the need to close. But I'm a huge believer in that you can't force it to happen. If they're hesitating then either they don't understand the full offering or the offering isn't a good a fit for them as you might thing.

Remember, all sales people provide solutions at a reasonable cost. As long as you stay focused on that, are friendly and use your basic sales skills (which is sounds like you have) then you'll be fine. Just focus on the fundamentals.
posted by tundro at 9:48 AM on February 20, 2007

Response by poster: All great suggestions. Thanks.
posted by gfrobe at 6:17 AM on February 21, 2007

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