Closing the Sale: It’s Up To The Customer

I am a big fan of Jill Konrath and her Selling to Big Companies book. She has good advice on closing the sale: it’s up tot the customer. If you are selling a product that requires consideration or a complex evaluation by one or more employees of your prospect’s organization the following advice is particularly appropriate.

Closing The Sale: Focus On Impact Not Transaction

In “How To Close a Sale” Konrath advises:

The more I wanted to close a sale (or should I say – needed to close a sale) the less likely I was to get it.

Why? Because my focus was on me, not my prospect. And, whenever you need something that much, you push too hard for it. You short-circuit the process and go for the close before the time is right and your prospect is ready.

I’ve learned that the only cure is to detach from the outcome. To be willing to say to yourself, “I know I need this sale, but I’m going to put that aside and focus on helping my prospect make a good decision.” Sometimes, you have to say it over and over to yourself.

When you stop focusing on closing a sale, everything changes because your prospect’s needs become your driving force.  And, paradoxically, that’s the best way to get what you want.

Her audience are professional sales people, not entrepreneurs. But even though they are motivated to meet quota, instead of meeting payroll–or keeping the lights on–as entrepreneurs are, her advice is still on target. If you accept Dan Sullivan’s perspective on the entrepreneurial mindset, that entrepreneurs decide that they can only  expect opportunity by creating value for others, then your aim point cannot be the transaction but having a positive impact on the customer’s business.

It’s not about detaching from having an impact, it’s about taking a longer view of  the sale  as a natural consequence of creating value.

Four Additional Strategies For Closing Sales

Konrath offers 4 additional ideas to help close sales in “Help I Can’t Close Sales.” If your proposals are not getting accepted this is an extremely expensive way to fail: you have borne all of the costs the sale including developing a proposal. Paradoxically it’s worse if it’s a “no decision” where they decide to live with the status quo: your solution was interesting but not compelling

1. Know Your Impact

1. Know your impact. Make sure you’re clearly able to articulate the business value of your offering. You should ensure that you’re talking about key business drivers such as reduced operating costs, increase sales conversation rates or improved efficient. Adding metrics makes your message even more impactful.

The challenge is to put numbers on your impact: time saved, headcount saved, errors reduced or eliminated, money saved.

2. Be A Storyteller

2. Be a storyteller. Share examples of how you’ve helped other customer improve. Be able to explain how they were doing things before, the challenges they faced, and the results they’ve achieved since working with you.

The best stories come from customers and are in their words, not run through your positioning. Real stories talk about things that they wish they knew when they decided to start implementing your solution. To be able to tell stories you have to collect them systematically, both formal and informal success stories.

3. Slow Down

3. Slow down. Based on what you said, you may be moving things along much too fast. You’re showing your stuff, sending collateral and giving pricing. It’s highly likely that they don’t feel like you’re focused on their success. Take time to build the relationship so that they truly feel that you’re a credible resource.

The customer sets the pace. You need to pursue a pipeline of opportunities in parallel so that you can keep the lights on. The answer to having to wait is to generate additional leads that may yield new opportunities,

4. Connect The Dots

4. Connect the dots. It’s imperative to engage your prospect in a discussion. This helps you/them determine if your offering makes sense for them. Plan your questions ahead of time. They are your greatest tools in getting to a yes. Here are some good ones to start with:

  • How are you currently handling your needs in this area?
  • What are your objectives relevant to the business drivers this product/service addresses?
  • What initiatives do you already have in place to get there?
  • If you achieved results similar to our other customers, what would this mean for your organization?

Questions sell. The better understanding you have of the prospect’s business and challenges the more likely you are going to be able to create value for them.

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