Last Updated Oct 28, 2011 5:56 PM EDT
It's a myth that every sale has a single, all-important point where the deal closes Instead, while it's true that some extremely simple sales processes have a defined close point, but complex sales processes (i.e. almost all B2B sales) have a series of points where the prospect makes a decision, even if it's just the decision to let you pitch, rather than pitch you out.
Whenever you call on a customer, you should have an objective in mind that is specific, measurable, and appropriately aggressive.
Specific objectives aren't feel-good goals like "I will get closer to the customer"; they're goals that can be easily assessed and measured, such as "I will get a list of the key decision makers" or "I will ask for the business."
Objectives should be aggressive, but appropriate to the stage of the sales cycle. For example, on a first sales call for a complex multimillion-dollar deal with multiple decision makers, it would be overly aggressive to set an objective like "I will close the deal today."
Setting objectives doesn't mean you can't be flexible and adjust the goal while you're in the meeting. But a great closer always has a direction and understands where the meeting needs to go in order to maintain momentum and win the deal.
Here's a list of some of the "closes" that make up a closing strategy and are appropriate at each stage of the buying cycle:
Closes at Stage 1: Problem recognition.
- The initial contact agrees that there's a problem.
- The initial contact agrees to sponsor you to her manager.
- The initial contact agrees to another meeting to estimate financial impact.
- The initial contact agrees on an estimated financial impact of the problem.
- The initial contact provides a list of decision makers who would be interested.
- The initial contact agrees to sponsor you to present the problem to a working group.
- The initial contact supports your request to meet with the economic decision maker and other key influencers.
- You seek verification from the economic decision maker, i.e., the executive sponsor.
- The decision makers reach consensus that money will be spent on this problem.
- The decision makers ask you to create or edit an RFP.
- You test your solution for validation and seek comparisons with competitors.
- A key decision maker allows you to present your solution to a larger group of stakeholders, who must be brought on board in order to move the deal forward.
- You ask for the business at the conclusion of the presentation.
- The decision makers select your offering (the actual close).
- You continue to close through the negotiation to contract.
- You make a post-final presentation phone call to your contact for feedback.
Your closing objective should be aggressive, but appropriate to the stage of the sales cycle. For example, setting a goal to "ask for the business" on the first sales call for a million-dollar deal is probably setting yourself up to fail.
This isn't to say that you can't be flexible and ask for the business on those rare opportunities where a deal gets fast-tracked. But you should always have a "stretch" objective for every sales meeting and make your best effort to close on that objective.