There always has been a debate in professional selling circles about the importance of closing skills. One thing is certain. No sale can be made unless someone asks for the order. The skill of closing is one of the most important elements of effective selling.
Over the years, we have spent a great deal of time talking with printing salespeople and sales managers about how to get appointments, make sales calls, and build value propositions. These are all very important, but if salespeople cannot move the sale forward and gain commitments from customers, then most printing companies will be left with weak sales pipelines, high cost of sales, and low sales growth.
Salespeople should never underestimate the value of effective closing skills. The selling process does not move forward until someone closes. Most customers expect it.
Closing marks the logical break from one step in the selling process to the next, including the final close for the order.
Why Printing Salespeople Do Not Close
We have found in our training workshops that weak closing skills can be linked to both skill and behavior. For instance, some avoid closing by becoming overly technical or concentrating on trivial matters that will only delay the obvious “yes” or “no” decision.
Our research has indicated that salespeople who lack confidence and business acumen have the most problems. Some salespeople are simply fearful of getting a “no.” Others are awkward and inappropriately aggressive.
Getting a firm “yes” or “no” is crucial to effective time management for the salesperson, as well as to uncover objections so that that they can be resolved. If objections cannot be resolved, it is time to move on to another prospect.
Seven things to know about closing:
1. Make sure you have the right customer
Closing the customer before they are “qualified” can result in the loss of a sale. Knowing that the customer has the budget, and what their decision process is, must be known before the close. Simple questions, such as “Who will make the decision on this order?” or “How will this project be funded within your organization?” will give the salesperson vital information.
Trying to close an order with a person who can’t make a decision is a bad idea.
2. Qualify your customer as a good fit for your offering before you close
If your product or service can’t solve their problem, help them capture a business opportunity, or save them money, then it is likely that the customer will not be ready for your close. If the customer is pleased with what they currently have, and can see no value in what you are providing, you have no right to close.
Your job is to demonstrate the value of your offering and to get the agreement of the customer before you proceed.
3. Every close starts with a question.
There are many types of closing questions. Avoid tired and annoying techniques such as, “If you buy today, we can give a special discount.” Most customers are much more educated today and have little tolerance for manipulative closes.
There are hundreds of closing question techniques. Here are a few common examples:
- Directly ask for the order – “Now that we have reviewed all your requirements for this project, can you authorize the order now?” In transactions, where there are many sales steps, directly asking for the order is natural and logical. Many customers appreciate a direct and non-manipulative close.
- Assumptive close – “I am very excited that you like this proof. If you sign the order today, we can deliver next Thursday.” Many customers like to feel comfortable that they are making the right decision; this approach reinforces the customer’s wise choice.
- Alternative close – “Do you want the job delivered this week or next week?” This technique offers more than one clearly defined alternative to the customer.
- Minor point close – “Would you prefer this to be printed on the same stock or would you want the heavier weight?” By getting the customer to agree on a minor point, it helps to get them comfortable with saying “yes” and closer to saying “yes” to an order.
4. The first person who speaks loses
Once you have asked a closing question, keep quiet. This is human nature and will be a signal to your customer that it is now time to make a decision. We have observed scenarios where the customer did not speak for 10 seconds and then agreed to move forward on the printing project.
Closing questions such as, “When do you want delivery of the order?” or “Can you arrange for me to meet with your financial controller to review the order?” must be followed by silence.The customer is now forced to respond to your question or give you a reason not to move forward.
1. Be ready for objections
One of the best reasons for closing throughout the sales process is that the salesperson can flush out customer objections, concerns, and questions.
For instance, the salesperson could ask a closing question in a large account, “Now that we have reviewed our capabilities, can I contact the director of marketing to understand their product launch schedule and production requirements?” The customer responds by questioning the cost of the job. If the salesperson had not closed, they potentially would not receive an important objection and, consequently, the order would be stalled.
2. Trial closes let you know how you are doing
Experienced salespeople will use a series of “trial closes” to determine their customer’s general interest and to get a thermometer reading on how the salesperson is doing. “Would using a heavier substrate on this marketing piece add more credibility to the message?” is an example of a relatively minor question to gain an understanding of how the sales process is proceeding.
3. Avoid “let me give you a quote” close
A common close for printing salespeople—and one of the least effective ones—is “let me give you a quote.” Print buyers have been conditioned by printers to use this as a way of not making a decision and stalling a sale.
Unless the salesperson has achieved all the steps of the sales process and has a firm commitment from the customer, they should avoid this as a closing technique.
Getting more deals can simply come down to knowing how and when to close. The best way is to simply practice and ask closing questions on each and every call. Salespeople often ask, “When is the right moment to close for the order?” Great salespeople close from the first customer contact to the end of the sales cycle.
Every sales contact, meeting, email, and phone call requires a closing question that will move the customer closer to the ultimate goal: an order. PN