By Cliff Kiel, Purchasing Power’s VP of Channel Management. Connect:  

If you asked a hundred sales professionals for their best tips on closing a sale, you would get a hundred different responses. You would hear the old school crowd preaching the benefits of the assumptive and Colombo closes. The newer breed would claim that a sale is simply the result of the relationship and rapport that you have built with the customer.

While closing techniques are as varied as the sales professionals employing them, there are some tried and true tips to effectively close a sale.  And it’s always good to review them, even though we’re all familiar with them.  The following list is from sales trainer Thomas Phelps, PWS Consulting.

1. Earn the Right.  Before you can expect to close a sale, you must first earn the right to ask for the sale. You earn the right by delivering on your promises and by following up on customer questions. You earn the right by showing up for appointments on time, prepared and eager to serve the customer. Focus each call on how you can help the customer instead of what you can get from the customer, and you will eventually earn the right to ask for the sale.

 2. Ask for Next Steps.  After any customer call or completed action item, ask the customer what he or she thinks should be the next steps. If they are unsure, make suggestions of next steps that move you closer to a close.  Remember that the next step could be to close the sale.

3. Begin With the End in Mind. Each step you take in a sales cycle should be leading you towards partnering with your customer. With each customer interaction, remind yourself of where you want to go and focus your efforts on moving in that direction. Without knowing where you are going, you may find yourself taking steps that lead you away from closing the sale. Keep focused on your purpose during each step in the sales process.

4. Sell More Value. In a price-sensitive market, the winner is the one who is able to show more value than the asked for price. Value is determined not by the market but by your customer. Show them that your product or service has more intrinsic value than the price, and the sale is yours.

5. Under Promise. A mistake that some sales professionals make is to promise something that they cannot deliver. For example, if you are selling a product that requires the item be shipped, tell the customer when to expect the item and never suggest that you can get it to them sooner than what is realistic. It is better to tell them that delivery will take longer than what it probably will.

 6. Over Deliver. If you followed the tip to under promise, you will have ample opportunity to over deliver. Delivering an item earlier than expected will be seen by most customers as you going above and beyond for them. However, if you’ve over promised, you’ve probably set yourself up to under deliver. This creates a diminished sense of value in the customer’s mind, making it more challenging for you to close the sale.

7. Be Nice To Your Enemies. You will have some kind of  competition in every sale. Competition can come in the form of another company or from the potential of your customer making no decision. If you put down your competition, you immediately put the customer on the defensive. Doing so may cost you the sale. Instead, praise the competition where they are strong and point out where your company outshines everyone else.

8. Prepare and Plan. If you’ve done your work and have built more perceived value than the price you are asking, it’s time for you to prepare and to plan for the close. Preparing includes gathering all the information and paperwork that the customer will need to move forward. Planning means to anticipate any last minute objections and how you will respond to them.

9. Close Your Mouth. The golden rule in sales is simple: “After a closing question is asked, the first person who talks, loses.” In other words, if you’ve earned the right to ask for a sale, ask for the sale then say nothing. Some sales professionals often talk themselves into and out of a sale. Their excitement and nervousness put their mouths on auto-drive and they often end up either missing a buying signal or, worse yet, keep talking and end up bringing up something that the customer hadn’t thought about yet. New thoughts in a closing situation usually result in sales delays.  The temptation to talk is great but once you learn how to resist the temptation and how to close your mouth, your sales closing percentages will increase.

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