As the final installment in my series regarding the most common complaints I hear about the sales team, I have saved my personal favorite for last. “My salespeople can’t close.” I hear this a LOT. Many times this statement is followed by some other comment such as “Can’t you teach them some closing tips? They just don’t seem to know what to say.”
It really isn’t that easy, although there are others out there that will tell you that it is. It isn’t, because frequently the fact that they can’t or don’t close is merely a symptom of some other lurking problem, not the problem itself. Salespeople can absolutely be taught “closing techniques” or silly catch phrases or tricks. There are trainers out there that will lead you to believe that if you get the prospect agreeing with you and saying yes to other things they will say yes when one asks for the business. Not true. It’s a ruse.
So I mentioned that the ability or willingness to close is a symptom of something else. Here are some common causes of this symptom and their solutions:
- They have a heightened need to be liked so are uncomfortable asking the prospect for a decision. If you are witnessing them spending a significant amount of time with prospects that don’t buy, or if they are unable to address prospects in a potentially uncomfortable situation then they may have this problem. It is common among 47% of the salespeople out there. They need to be pre-briefed and scripted as to how they will approach the prospect when it is time to get a decision. If they can learn certain softening language, such as “I don’t want to come across as pushy, but it seems like maybe it is time to make a decision,” or some other such phrase that will enable them to say the words that are uncomfortable they will have better success. Remember that they probably need this type of language to ask the prospect potentially uncomfortable questions as well. I call them pre-cursors.
- They do not follow a process so they have no idea if the prospect is ready to buy or not. I see this problem commonly. There is no standardized sales process to uncover all the elements of the buying process so they flounder around and don’t really know what to do. I would suggest you dissect what process works and make it a repeatable process. For instance, first start to understand their gap – what they have now versus what they want and what is the economic impact of NOT having what they want (this creates your value) and then all the elements of the decision making process including the who, what, when, where, why and how. The salesperson has to understand how the prospect will decide and what is important to them before they propose a solution and try to close. Structure a repeatable process that is logical for your situation and rehearse it with your salespeople. Get very good at asking them if they followed the process for all opportunities and you will see an improvement in closing and an improvement in the time they spend with prospects that will not buy.
- They don’t understand the real needs of the prospect so they aren’t able to present the appropriate solution. This is really the foundation of all highly effective salespeople. They actually do understand the emotion behind the buying process for the prospect. It has to do with really understanding what would cause them to act and how compelling that reason is. If the salesperson can start with this then their sales will either occur much more quickly or they will disqualify the wrong prospects more quickly, enabling them to spend more time finding the right ones. The key is that they need to find out the emotion behind the prospect’s decision. Is it pain, fear or their desire to seek gain? Once the salesperson can learn to zero in on this emotion, their sales conversations and their closings will become effortless.
The fact of the matter is that the ability to close is merely the natural conclusion of being a good qualifier. Click here for a list of the all the competencies that make up a superior salesperson.
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