I asked a question on Twitter the other day about challenges facing sales agents this year.
In your #sales goals for 2018, what’s the area you want to improve most?
— Dave Wakeman (@davidwakeman) February 8, 2018
Not surprisingly, near the top was closing skills.
As I thought over the question I had asked my followers on Twitter and LinkedIn, that brought to mind a pretty important question: Is our challenge closing business really a challenge of closing or is it a challenge of the sales process leading up to the closing?
In most respects, I feel like the problem with closing comes down directly at the feet of everything up to that point.
In other words, I think that most of our closing challenges are directly related to the marketing and sales process that lead up to trying to close a sale.
Let’s look at this further.
How have you differentiated your offering?
Closing, in any real respect, is about making a commitment to change together.
That commitment to change is directly related to how much value the person you are asking for the sale is going to feel like they are going to gain by working with you.
One of the problems I see over and over in sales, especially in professional services is, a failure to differentiate the product or service from the competition.
Think about how often you see service providers get into competitions for business based on price?
All else fails, drop the price!
This race to the bottom based on pricing has everything to do with how well the product or service is differentiated.
Which leads to the obvious conclusion that if you are getting to closing and price comes up or any of the other common objections, you haven’t managed the sales cycle effectively, but likely you haven’t differentiated yourself well enough either.
Are you managing the sales cycle effectively?
I’ve heard a story somewhere about the salesperson that had some ungodly number of sales calls with a prospect.
Each one, left with the promise of the next meeting being the one where a decision is made.
You know the punch line, right?
The sale was never made.
I think that this happens far more often than we even realize because we all hold out hope that these deals are going to close.
While hope is great and all good salespeople need it. Having blind hope is actually a terrible thing because it causes you to waste time on deals that will never close.
I was at lunch with the Chairman of a large local bank a few months back when he said to me, “I prefer a fast no.”
My question to all of you is whether or not that some of your closing problems are actually problems of identifying real opportunities and managing the sales cycle effectively so that you can make a go or no go on pursuing the issue more quickly.
Is part of your closing challenge directly related to the number of opportunities you are creating?
The final point about closing challenges has to do with the number of opportunities you are creating.
I know that I keep track of the number of buyers I talk with each year.
I shoot for at least 100.
I know that if I talk to 100 that half of them are going to be become real prospects. Of the 50 real prospects, another 25 are likely to progress to a deeper conversation or proposal. And, if I close half of them, I have approximately 1 new client a month.
That’s an easy formula that I can follow.
I know pretty clearly if I am doing a good job or not.
I can tell what’s off or what’s working.
I have a realistic expectation of my ability to close business.
When I get frustrated about the amount of business I’m closing, I can look at my opportunity creation.
Is it where it needs to be?
If I only have one deal in the pipeline, it can become pretty frustrating if I don’t close it.
If I have 4 and I know that 1 in 4 close, I am in a much better position.
So the final point about closing is are you really creating the number of opportunities you need to be successful?
I don’t want to discount the words you shouldn’t use in sales or the “tie-downs” and things like that, even though I don’t know that they work.
But I do think as sellers, you have to spend a little more time looking at the entire sales process to identify the real challenges to your closing challenges or your sales challenges.