"The Navigator" News Blog

How to Close a Sale – When Timing is (Almost) Everything

I’m constantly asked, “Troy, can you teach my salespeople how to close a sale?”  My answer is, “Sure.  It can take either 10 minutes or two days, depending on what you’re looking for.”  What I mean by that is this:  While closing is a vital part of selling, it’s the culmination of the Buyer’s Journey, which is a longer process – and teaching that process is part of my two-day training class.  The “closing” unit is about 10-15 minutes of that.  More important than knowing HOW to close a sale is WHEN to close the sale.

When should you close?  One old philosophy says that you badger the customer with closing questions from the time they enter your showroom.  This old A/B/C (Always Be Closing) philosophy has done more to kill sales and irritate customers than anything else salespeople do – and yet, I still hear people who should know better pushing this approach. Today’s empowered buyers won’t stand for A/B/C and they’ll run from you.  There’s a right way, though, and let’s find it, shall we?

A/B/C is very much a 1970’s sales approach.  Today’s customers are more savvy, more educated, have more information available to them, and ultimately have been trained by years of salespeople using heavy-handed sales tactics, and are more capable than ever to resist.  This means that today’s customer responds to an approach that is more customer-friendly and respectful.

First, let’s look at what it takes for a customer to buy:

  • The customer must be motivated; e. the customer feels dissatisfaction with the status quo and is envisioning a desired future state where dissatisfaction is removed and their situation is improved.
  • The customer must have investigated that need (with or without you); the customer and the salesperson must both understand the need, and your product must solve it (and the customer must agree that your product solves it).
  • The customer must trust you.
  • The customer must believe what you say because it’s you saying it (i.e. you have credibility in the customer’s eyes).
  • The customer must respect you.
  • The customer must not dislike you (I know that conventional wisdom says the customer must like you, and certainly that’s a huge help – but I’ve found it’s better to seek respect and trust that is genuine than to seek a like and friendship that is phony).
  • You must have presented a proposal that represents good value to the customer.

The trouble with the A/B/C approach is that it interferes with several of these parts of the Buyer’s Journey.  Closing (the Decision phase) is the part of the journey where customers are most likely to put up defenses; if you are always in some phase of a close, your customers will be defending themselves too much to be able to give you the candid answers you need to be able to match your products to their needs.  We see this all the time when salespeople focus on asking leading questions designed to maneuver their customers into a corner, rather than genuine open-ended questions designed to discover information.

Closing before your customer is ready will interfere with trust and credibility, as well; the customer will perceive you as reaching for their wallet.  (Answer to the old question: Why do customers perceive salespeople as pushy?  Because too many are.)

Instead, today’s salesperson must have patience as part of navigating the customer through their Buyer’s Journey.  To assess Motivation, accurately Investigate needs, present your Solution, check customer agreement, build trust, etc. takes time.  It’s very important that you are patient enough to allow the customer to move through their Buyer’s Journey properly and get to the closing arena at the same time you do.

Once you are at this point, the close becomes a natural part of the Buyer’s Journey, and how you ask for the business matters less than simply having the willingness to ask the customer to buy.  What’s better is that, by handling this in a customer-friendly manner, you are more likely to get invited back for repeat sales opportunities!  Isn’t that better than a one-shot quick close?  Just because it worked for someone in 1976 doesn’t mean it will work for you today.  Success in today’s selling arena requires a different approach based on respect for the customer.