As a sales training company we receive many phone calls from frustrated sales managers asking us to please teach their salespeople how to close more deals. Their requests focus on the poor closing rate of their staff and they honestly believe that we can help by imparting assertive closing techniques. And there are endless techniques that we can teach – because this is what the market demands – but sadly the reality is that in the real world these closes do not actually work.
Become a master questioner
If you’re not happy with your sales team’s results, chances are high that the real problem is their questioning skills. And, your money will be better spent in training that helps them develop this skill and how to put it to best use during the discovery meeting. Yes, presenting and closing are important, but the discovery meeting is more important. A salesperson can’t even get to presentation and closing stage if he trips up in the discovery meeting.
So where does the close happen in the sales process?
Ask any top sales pro and they will tell you that the close starts at the beginning. But the question you should really be asking is: When does the “buy-in” start? The answer is that it starts during the Discovery Phase, where salespeople are working with the prospect to establish their pain points. If “buy-in” occurs at this stage, the close is easier to achieve. It’s really just a matter of summarising the points of agreement.
We play a game with delegates on our training programs to help them establish the prospect’s “buy-in”. One delegate is nominated to conjure up the profile of an ideal prospect and include at least three problem areas. The other delegates have to then try to find out what these As a sales training company we receive many phone calls from frustrated sales managers asking us to please teach their salespeople how to close more deals. Their requests focus on the poor closing rate of their staff and they honestly believe that we can help by imparting assertive closing techniques. And there are endless techniques that we can teach – because this is what the market demands – but sadly the reality is that in the real world these closes do not actually work. Finding the pain = closing.
1. No closed questions allowed. Closed questions are those that result in a “yes” or “no” answer. For example: “Do you want to go ahead?” Why are these types of questions best avoided? Because most people lean naturally towards a “no” because this seems the safest option. And, once you’ve received a “no”, that’s it, the discussion is over.
2. Find at least three points of “pain”. Other descriptions for this “pain” include; new opportunities, problem areas, gaps, unforeseen problems, and negative consequences of maintaining the status quo.
3. Get the prospect’s agreement to these points of “pain”. You could ask something like: Just to double-check that we are on the same page here, you agreed XYZ. Then repeat the points discussed and where you and the prospect have agreed.
4. You are not allowed to pitch or present your product or service before identifying three points of “pain”.
Which of these ground rules do you think is broken, time and time again? You’d be right if you said no. 4. This occurs 95% of the time and we know this to be a fact after 20 years’ experience in eight countries with over 140 000 delegates from around the world. With almost 100% certainty, we can safely predict that salespeople will jump at the first chance to tell a prospect how they can solve their problems. This is not selling, it is telling, and we know this doesn’t work. People like to buy, but dislike being sold to.
Why do salespeople jump so quickly into a telling mode? Because it’s a comfortable place for them. Salespeople can’t wait to tell prospects about the benefits of their products or services. Companies spend hours teaching their staff about a product. This conditioning process paves the way for salespeople to fall into the biggest trap in the sales process; the Presentation Trap. This is pitching the benefits of your product/service far too early, without having three points of “pain” clearly on the table. This mistake is as nonsensical as going to a doctor and expecting him to immediately prescribe medication without asking any questions about the reasons for your visit.
So how do you avoid this fatal temptation? You ask your salespeople to follow the following rules to the letter:
1. If you find yourself telling your prospects about the product; stop and ask yourself: Have I identified three points of “pain” and, more importantly, does my prospect concur?
2. Stop focusing on your product and listen to the prospect. Don’t fall in love with your product – fall in love with the customer. In fact, do yourself a favour and “divorce” your company, and only fall back in love with it when you present your benefits to the client.
3. Follow the 30/70 Rule. This means spending 30% of the time talking, and 70% of the time listening to your prospect talk. Recent research by Diana Tamir shows that talking about ourselves – whether in a personal conversation or through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter – triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as food or money. Participants in the study chose to speak about themselves, even when tempted with financial rewards. If you can get your prospects to talk about themselves; you’ve made huge progress. If you can demonstrate that you are actively listening to them, the chances of them liking you are high. Salespeople need to find the triggers that will get prospects talking; it usually doesn’t require too much inducement.
In the game described above, we mirrored examples of real-life events. Follow the rules of the game in your business and keep practicing them. The game is all about gradually encouraging “buy-in” from your prospects and ultimately getting to the point where you close the deal. As you uncover issues pertinent to your prospect, not your product, you will gain their “buy-in”. You can then close the deal by summarising the pain points and getting the prospect’s agreement. Now, make this “game” your reality and watch your sales soar.