Even though it’s impossible to replicate what makes a top salesperson perform at such a high level, there are traits many superstars share that other salespeople can use to close more sales.
Here are seven qualities successful closers have in common that other sales professionals can benefit from developing:
- A desire to build relationships. Because today’s salesperson is viewed as a partner, A-players are always looking for new ways to build customer relationships. Following up with an email containing industry info or periodically sharing a tip that benefits the buyer’s company helps solidify the partnership. As the relationship evolves, salespeople want to be viewed as more of a resource or consultant. If the customer comes to trust your judgment, maintaining the relationship can be much easier.
- A focus on customer needs. The difference between convincing a prospect to buy and convincing him or her to buy now can come down to a strong understanding of buyer needs. Benefit statements are a great way to create belief in your product. But the majority of prospects are more interested in how the product is going to improve their businesses. Probing at the beginning of a presentation can uncover the reasons a prospect buys, and areas where a current supplier is coming up short.
- A mindset to speak in terms of value. The salesperson with the highest quality product rarely has the lowest price. That’s why successful salespeople always try to think in terms of value for the prospect. What are buyers receiving in return for their investment, and how does your offer communicate that? Top salespeople help prospects see not only the ROI they’re likely to receive, but how much the absence of your product is costing them (e.g., excess shipping, electricity, labor, etc.).
- An ability to listen first, sell second. Rather than work on assumptions, great salespeople ask questions first to uncover why prospects buy and how their buying process works. They also take notes during the opening stages to ensure everything is understood.
- A thirst for industry knowledge. Industry hot buttons are constantly changing, and prospects expect salespeople to keep up with those trends. Strong closers make it a priority to stay in the know by subscribing to trade publications, attending conferences and seminars, listening to CDs and reading books. Existing customers are a great resource, too. A 10-minute phone call can shed light on buying patterns, up-and-coming trends and innovations buyers are interested in seeing in the months ahead.
- An ability to create a closing process. A lot of things can happen when you’re trying to close a sale. There are objections, last-minute changes and competitive bids. Rather than being caught by surprise, top sales pros write out a process for closing. This way they know exactly how to react when the prospect calls an audible. That quick reaction might save the sale. What possible objections or requests could a prospect bring up at the last minute, and what’s the best way to counter?
- Effective time management. Effective scheduling is a great way to work smarter, not harder. Consider where prospects are located prior to making calls. That way sales presentations can be coordinated so that you can spend an entire day canvassing one region, speaking to as many prospects as possible. In addition, blocking out additional times each day for prospecting, cold calling, research, etc., allows a salesperson to maintain focus, as opposed to rushing from one activity to the next, or risking interruptions. That can help boost overall closing rates considerably.
When the prospect hesitates
“Hesitation is natural. Hesitation can be helpful. Hesitation may uncover needs that may help you close more sales.” Most salespeople have heard these words time and time again. And yet, they still get that sinking feeling as soon as a prospect says, “We’d like to think it over.”
Why shouldn’t they? They may feel like their grip on the sale is slipping, so they scramble to tighten their grasp. Much too often, that tightening causes the sale to slip through their fingers like grains of sand.
So how do you hedge the hesitation while moving the sale forward? It’s a delicate balance, but there are several ways to do it. Consider any major buying decision you’ve ever made: a car, a house, maybe even a boat. You asked questions. You needed time. This was a natural part of the selling process.
It’s no different for your prospects. They’re making a buying decision on behalf of their company. If it turns out to be a poor one, they’ll have to answer for it. So the first step in dealing with prospects who stall is to acknowledge they have reasons to do so. They’re interested. And they want to know more.
Here are some strategies for effectively dealing with buyer hesitation:
- Try to anticipate objections your prospect may raise. That way you can be prepared to deal with them early on and impress the prospect in the process.
- When objections arise, use probing questions to help the prospect discover the answer for themselves. For example, “If you knew the product you were purchasing could cut labor costs by 10% over the next two years, would that be worth the investment?”
- Track the objections you hear and at what point in the presentation they occur. You may find prospects are reacting to something you’re saying (or not saying).
- Prepare a list of common objections and responses in advance. Practice the responses, so when objections arise, the conversation will continue to flow naturally.
- Keep your sales pipeline full of new prospects, so the idea of not closing one won’t cause you to overreact.
Be ready to put prospects at ease
Once you’ve developed the ability to recognize the reasons a prospect is stalling, you want to know how you can counter them.
- Stay in control by asking questions.
- Acknowledge the prospect’s objections and put them at ease by telling him or her it’s something you hear a lot.
- Ask your prospect for suggestions on how you can move the sale forward.
State that you understand the prospect’s position, even if you don’t agree. Center your thinking on solutions to their problems, as opposed to stewing over your presentation being thrown off course.
Remember what’s important
The most important thing to remember when dealing with a prospect who stalls is that you’re working for them. You need to put yourself in their shoes and try to understand what they want and what you need to do in order to satisfy those needs.
You’ve asked questions and taken good notes. Now you can go back to them to get to the heart of what’s missing, and — more importantly — what you can do to fix it. The bottom line is something’s impeding your progress. In most cases, you’ll need to do some legwork to overcome the obstacle.
Offering a concession
If you’re offering a concession to end the stall, it’s absolutely essential that the concession fits the stall. In other words, make sure your solution solves the problem.
- Why is the prospect stalling?
- What concessions am I allowed to offer, if any?
- Will my concession solve the problem and close the sale?
Now you’re ready to stop the hesitation and move forward with the sale.
Use closing questions
Some salespeople are uncomfortable asking closing questions at the end of a presentation. They don’t want to appear too pushy or aggressive. One of the keys to quality closing is making sure you’re comfortable asking the closing questions.
If you’re uncomfortable, your behavior will make the customer uneasy. Your commitment questions should seem like a reasonable request from the customer’s perspective and not just your perspective. There shouldn’t be any anxiety, just comfortable questions that lead from one step to the next.
Make commitment questions easy
One of the easiest ways to be comfortable with your closing questions is to use the sensory trial close. It’s a technique for creating closing questions that uses the words “who,” “what,” “where,” “why,” “how much” and “when” in combination with sensory words like “look,” “think,” “touch,” “sound,” “feel” and “view.”
When you ask questions in these formats, prospects are usually comfortable answering:
- How does that sound?
- Does this logic seem sound?
- Does that seem like a reasonable way to look at it?
- I feel like we have accomplished everything we agreed to, so how would you suggest we move forward?
- How do you feel about what we’ve discussed today?