"My salespeople need to get better at closing," the Vice President of Sales said to me shortly after I arrived in his office.
If I've heard that line once, I've heard it a hundred times. Despite being on an important sales call, I couldn't help but cringe. You see, I will never, ever train people on closing techniques if they sell to the corporate marketplace.
Why not? When you analyze what happens when you teach sellers how to be great closers, you'll understand my perspective.
So right now, I want you to imagine yourself as a decision maker in a large organization. Perhaps you're a manager or even an executive.
You agree to meet with a seller who's been trying to set up a meeting with you for several months. When she mentioned the business results her firm was achieving with your competitor, you decided it was time to learn more.
But you're still a bit leery. You're absolutely swamped with a workload that's so big you can't seem to get out from under it.
After a 10-minute discussion with her, you start to notice that nearly every other sentence ends with a question: "Don't you agree?" or "I'm sure you've experienced that?" or "Is that true here?"
(Because she's been trained to "always be closing," she starts using the "Constant Close Technique" right away. This method is designed to get your head bobbing up and down. The more "yeses" you say, the easier it'll be for her to get your business.)
After sharing a bit more about her offering, she begins to implement the "Little-Decision Close" by asking:
- Do you usually start out with weekly or monthly orders?
- Can you get this through purchasing fairly easily?
- Do you agree that this methodology would be helpful?
(By getting you to agree to small things first, she's warming you up for the big close.)
Inside, your head is spinning and these thoughts are racing through your mind: "I'm not ready to get started on anything right now. I'm just learning. Besides, I don't know if it's even worth it to make a change. Shoot, it could be really disruptive right now with all the new initiatives going on in our company."
But the sales rep persists. She's really good at closing. She moves into the "Assume-the-Sale Close." With a winning smile on her face, she says to you, "We can get going on this by mid-month."
If you're normal, by now you're feeling a little pushed - or maybe even a lot pushed. You're not ready to make any kind of decision on the spot like this. Who does she think she is???
Trying to politely get out of this mess, you ask, "How much money are we talking about?" No matter what she says, it will always be too much!
When you tell her that, she chimes back in with the "Better-Act- Now Close".
Petulantly, she looks at you and says, "We're really busy right now. So many people are ordering. If you don't go ahead right now, I have no idea how long it will take or even if the pricing will stay the same. I've heard it's going up."
You tell her you'll have to take your chances, because it's out of the question for you to make decisions so quickly.
Not to be deterred, she comes right back at you with her best "Referral Close." Pulling a list of testimonials out of her briefcase, she lays them in front of you one-by-one.
"Look at all the great companies who we work with," she says. "They love us. We've done great things for them."
Glancing quickly at your watch, you say, "I'm sorry. I have to run to a meeting right now. Thank you so much for your time."
"If you act now, we've got this great promotional offer," she says using her best "Last Ditch Close". "We'll throw in 20 hours of free training and a new iPod."
Enough already! At this point, all you can think about is, "Get this woman out of my office."
That's what happens when you train someone on closing skills. They close and they close. At the same time, they tick off their prospective customers royally.
Whenever someone talks to me about their salespeople needing to be trained on closing skills, I have to redirect their thinking.
The inability to close is a direct result of poor needs development. It is the symptom of the problem, not the actual problem itself.
The very best salespeople don't employ any special closing techniques at all. They simply focus on understanding their customer's business and helping them achieve their desired outcomes.
Instead of talking about their product or service, they ask a ton of questions. They keep their focus on their prospect's business challenges and the gaps that need to be closed to achieve their objectives.
Then, knowing that corporate decisions take a while to make and often involve many people, they simply suggest the logical next step.
So please, don't talk to me about your salespeople needing to improve their closing skills. I can't help you with this.
If they're selling to big companies, the more they close, the less successful they'll be.
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