9 [CRITICAL] Keys on How to Close the Sale

Salespeople are always asking, “How do I close the sale? And what do I have to do to close more sales? I need to close more!”

That’s the perennial question in sales, isn’t it? How do we close more sales?

There’s a lot going on in that question, of course. But in many ways, the answer is simpler than many salespeople think…

In almost every case, there are several critical steps that remain the same when it comes to closing the sale.

So in this video, I’m going to show you 9 critical keys on how to close the sale. Check it out:

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1. Stop focusing on the close.

1. Stop focusing on the close.

This was one of the biggest aha moments I’ve ever had in sales. Like many salespeople, when I first began selling, I was focused on what tactics to use in order to close the deal. What should I say at the end of the sales interaction? Should I slide the contract across the desk? Should I straight-up ask for the sale?

What I had yet to realize was that my actions at the close of the sale were relatively unimportant. What actually mattered was what I was doing leading up to the close.

One of my sales mentors used to say, “Start strong, finish strong.” If you’re starting off the sales interaction strong, you’re going to be providing lots of value up front, and demonstrating that you understand the prospect’s challenges better than anyone else. As a result, the prospect is naturally inclined to think, “This is someone I want to buy from.”

So, regardless of what you’re doing at the time of the close, all that really matters is what you did at the start of the interaction. If you had all those key pieces in place up front to get the prospect interested in buying from you, then the close won’t require any fancy tactics from you.

If you really want to learn how to close the sale consistently, stop focusing on the close. Instead, put your energy and strategy into what happens before the close to set yourself up for success.

2. No sales breath.

2. No sales breath.

“Sales breath” is my term for any words or actions that immediately give away that you’re desperate to close the sale. Have you ever been in a buying situation where you just got the sense that the salesperson sorely needed to close the deal in order to pay their rent, or just make it by? Ouch. There’s not much worse for a buyer than catching a whiff of “sales breath” that makes them shrink away and want nothing to do with that desperate salesperson.

Of course, you may very well be desperate to close a sale. But you can never let your prospects know it.

Showing desperation is just as toxic for selling as it is for dating. Think about it: If you’re on a first date with someone and you instantly get the sense that they’re really into you, don’t you naturally pull back a bit? You might think to yourself, “Eh, I think I’m good…” That’s exactly what our prospects feel like when we make it obvious that we need to close the sale to make ends meet.

In short, mastering how to close the sale requires that you present as confident, financially independent, and not desperate to close the deal at hand. Practice making this your mindset so you can demonstrate strength, not weakness, when trying to close the sale.

3. Disqualify.

3. Disqualify.

Disqualification is one of my biggest passions around closing the sale.

Most salespeople have been taught to persuade and convince prospects to do business with them. But in reality, you don’t have to convince anyone to do anything. What you need is to determine whether the prospect in front of you is, in fact, a fit for what you offer. That’s all.

The key to doing this is a process called disqualification, which consists of asking questions to determine whether there’s a real fit. When disqualification is done correctly, prospects can see the inherent value in what you’re offering.

Prospects today have already read your marketing material. They have access to enough information to tell whether or not they’re interested in what you have to offer. So it’s not your job to persuade them, but rather to determine if they’re a truly qualified fit for you—so you don’t waste your time on tire-kickers.

4. Drop the pitch.

4. Drop the pitch.

I still hear the word pitch all the time from sales managers and CEOs. They say things such as, “My people need to have a better pitch in order to close more sales.” And my response is always the same: No, they don’t. Their job is not to tap-dance around and convince people to buy, like something from an episode of Mad Men.

Pitching basically assumes that your ideal prospects are stupid…and I’m willing to bet that they’re not. In fact, they’re likely smart and well-informed, meaning that they don’t need a sales pitch at all. What they need is to be led in a conversation to determine whether there’s a strong fit. That’s where disqualification comes in. Drop the old-school pitch; it’s hurting, not helping you to close the deal.

5. Answer questions with questions.

5. Answer questions with questions.

Prospects ask a lot of questions. Traditional, old-school salespeople respond to those inevitable questions with some version of a pitch: “Well, that’s a great question! Now let me tell you why we’re the best in the industry at….”

But today’s modern professional salesperson seeks to understand why the prospect is asking that question in the first place. This is not about evasion. It’s simply about determining what’s most important to the prospect. Instead of rushing to answer your prospect’s questions, slow it down and find out why it’s important to them in the first place.

For example, if a prospect asks something like, “Can you guys offer more service with this?” most salespeople will say, “Oh, of course! We can offer even better service than our competitors! Let me tell you how…” But why did the prospect ask that question in the first place?

Consider responding with something like, “That’s a really good question. Can you help me understand what prompted you to ask that in the first place?” Now the prospect is going to tell you why they care about more service. Maybe the last time they went through this process, the service was disastrous—or maybe there wasn’t enough service, or maybe they’re actually worried about a particular part of the service that they don’t fully understand.

Getting into those specifics is so much more important than answering their question with a misguided monologue about how great your service is. Most of the time, a prospect’s question is like an iceberg, and salespeople never see what’s beneath the surface of the water. The key to closing the sale is what’s underneath.

6. Sell to your IPP.

6. Sell to your IPP.

IPP stands for your Ideal Prospect Profile. The idea of only selling to your IPP means focusing exclusively on selling to a smaller group of people who are truly your ideal prospects—people that actually have the budget, the money, the need, and the challenges that you solve. These are the types of prospects who can become good clients. That’s your IPP.

The key to selling to your IPP is to tightly define your ideal customer. If you could get in front of this person, you would be psyched to have a conversation with them. Next, clarify who you do not want to sell to. Selling only to your IPP is critical to mastering how to close the sale.

Even the greatest salesperson can’t consistently close the deal with people who aren’t a good fit for what they sell. It’s a waste of time.

7. NSO.

7. NSO.

NSO stands for Next Step Obsessed. We must be obsessed with scheduling next steps if we really want to learn how to close the sale.

Salespeople often say things like, “My sales cycle is really long. It just goes on and on, and prospects take weeks or months (or in some cases, years!) to close.” Whenever I hear something like this, I ask, “Well, how strong are you at establishing next steps every time you’re talking to a prospect?”

The reality is that most salespeople put themselves in the position to have to follow up with prospects later on. This is the kiss of death when it comes to closing deals. At the Sales Insights Lab, our rule of thumb is that you should always schedule your next step with a prospect while you’re still in front of them, right then and there.

This means that whether you’re face to face, on the phone, or on a Zoom call with a prospect, you should schedule the next step in that meeting before you end the conversation. If you do this one simple thing, you’ll never have to follow up on a prospect again.

If a prospect is unwilling to schedule a next step with you during your current meeting, it’s probably a strong indicator that the sale is in trouble. Scheduling next steps not only serves as an excellent barometer of where you stand with the prospect, but it also holds the sale together.

8. Solve.

8. Solve.

Instead of presenting or pitching, the focus must be on solving. The goal of any sales interaction is simply to demonstrate that you can solve the prospect’s challenges. The first step, as we’ve already covered, is disqualification. When you’re disqualifying prospects, you’re seeking to understand what’s going on in their world; you’re learning about their challenges; you’re discovering what they really need; and finally, you’re showing them how you can solve the challenges they’ve mentioned.

I like to think of this part of the sales interaction as helping the prospect across a wide canyon. The middle of the canyon is no-man’s land—you want to avoid it at all costs. But your prospect is on one side of the canyon, and they want to get to the other. They need a bridge to get them across, and your offering is that bridge. They can’t get there on their own. Demonstrate that you can provide them the bridge to get them successfully from one side to the other.

9. SW3N.

9. SW3N.

This stands for: Some Will. Some Won’t. So What? Next. When it comes to closing the sale, one of the biggest hurdles salespeople face is actually mental. They’re so hard on themselves when they don’t close the deal. They beat themselves up when a deal goes south and then they take that mental and emotional baggage with them into the next sales conversation.

If you really want to learn how to close the sale, you need to learn to let it go. When a sale doesn’t happen, take a deep breath and say to yourself, “Some Will. Some Won’t. So What? Next.”

Of course, you should try to learn from every sales interaction, especially the ones that don’t go the way you want them to. Any sale you don’t close, you must learn from. But at the end of the day, if it’s over, it’s over. Take a moment to think through what you can do better next time, and then mentally move on—forgive yourself, learn from it, and take the best lessons you can into the next situation. But leave the baggage behind.

More Tips on How to Close the Sale…

Of all the sales opportunities you’ve had in the past couple of months, how many of those deals have just slipped away?

And how many have gone into a really long sales cycle—so long, you don’t even remember exactly where they are in the process?

You’ve probably been told that “sales is all about closing the deal.”

But in reality, this view of sales isn’t very helpful. In fact, it’s likely to be what’s causing your opportunities to slip away, and your sales cycles to drag on forever.

Prospects are very sensitive to closing techniques. When you just go for the hard close, they get turned off immediately. 

In this video, I’m going to show you 6 critical tips on how to close the sale. Check it out:

10. No more PEP.

10. No more PEP.PEP stands for pitching, enthusiasm, and persuasion. If you were to take all the key elements of old-school sales closing techniques and bundle it all into one concept, it would be PEP. And we’ve got to throw that out the window.

Prospects today are very, very sensitive to the PEP approach. They’re used to being pitched; they’re used to overly enthusiastic salespeople who are bubbling over with excitement about their offerings. They’re also used to persuasion techniques. 

The first step to learning how to close the close is to drop the PEP—and instead, use an approach that makes you completely distinct from what your prospect expects.

11. Demonstrate authority.

11. Demonstrate authority.If you introduce yourself to a prospect and say, “Tell me about your business. I’d love to learn more about what you do,” the prospect is going to say, “Why the hell should I do that? Who are you? Why should I be talking to you about my business, or about my life, or about what I do?” This reaction is actually quite reasonable. If you use this approach, then you fail to demonstrate any authority up front. Can you blame the prospect for not wanting to waste time talking to you?

Think of the ultimate example of this. Say you walk into a doctor’s office and the doctor says, “So, what brings you in today? Tell me about what’s going on.” This is a totally acceptable opening, because the doctor has built-in authority. Just by being a doctor, they already have authority—we don’t need them to tell us all about their degrees or every surgery they’ve ever done. But salespeople don’t have that. Not one bit. We need to demonstrate authority up front, because we don’t walk in the door with instant authority—far from it.

When it comes to being able to close the deal, it’s imperative that you’re able to demonstrate insight at the beginning of the conversation that gets the prospect to say, “Oh, okay, yeah, I’m willing to talk to this person. I see value here. I’m willing to open up.” That’s how you demonstrate authority up front, close the deal, and make prospects more likely to sign the contract.

12. Dig super deep.

12. Dig super deep.Now that you’ve demonstrated some authority, it’s time to flip that switch and dig deep. Get the prospect talking, and riff off of every single thing they say to try to get them to go even deeper. You always want to think of your prospect’s challenges as an iceberg. What most prospects are happy to talk about is only what’s at the tip of the iceberg. But what you really need is to understand what’s going on at a much deeper level.

The key to being able to close a sale is to use spontaneous questions to go deeper and deeper with the prospect. These questions are what will help you to eventually understand (even better than they do!) exactly what’s going on in their world. Once you have this information, you can ultimately determine whether the prospect wants to do business with you—or with someone else. If you understand their challenges and their situation better than anyone else, they will go with you. So dig super deep.

13. No pitch.

13. No pitch.Most salespeople today are still pitching to their prospects. I know I mentioned this before when I said to stop the PEP—but it’s so important that I need to say it again. Pitching doesn’t work anymore.

When you begin conversations with your prospects, do you start talking about yourself, your organization, what you offer, your products, your services? Are you basically just trying to ask for the sale? Do you have a PowerPoint slide deck where you present an About Us page? If you’re doing any of that stuff, it means you’re pitching. And you’ve got to stop, if you want to learn how to close the sale.

The goal of a selling interaction is to engage the prospect in a conversation—not to pitch or persuade them, but simply to engage them in a two-way dialogue. Throw out that early pitch, which is focused on you and your offering, and instead focus on demonstrating insight. At no point in the sale should you ever be doing a fancy pitch. Instead, just show that you can solve their challenges.

14. Solve their Challenges.

14. Solve their Challenges.The key to closing the deal isn’t some fancy presentation or pitch, but rather, the “solve” phase of the sale. This phase comes after we’ve demonstrated some insight, and asked questions to understand exactly what’s going on in their world through disqualification. Now it’s time to demonstrate that we can solve their challenges. This doesn’t require a 50-slide presentation. Instead, you simply need to demonstrate that you can solve their challenges.

The shorter your presentation is, the shorter your solve phase is, the more likely you are to close the deal. (Of course, within reason, right? It can’t be one minute.) Most salespeople spend so much time on the presentation—and on the features and benefits of what they sell—when, in fact, all they need to do is demonstrate that they understand the prospect’s challenges and that they can solve them through whatever their offering happens to be.

15. Always be N.S.O.

15. Always Be N.S.O.N.S.O stands for next step obsessed. Next steps are the big distinction between traditional selling and modern selling. Traditional selling focuses on the close at the end of the sales interaction. But most sales today are pretty complex, so if you’re going for that hardcore close at the end of the sale, you’re going to be getting a lot of think-it-overs. And that is the death of a sale.

Don’t focus on the close; focus on next steps. Chances are there will be other decision-makers, particularly in a large B2B sale, you’re going to have a number of steps in the sales process. Just focus on holding those steps together with very clear scheduled next steps that involve some type of calendar invite where the prospect accepts putting a next step on the books.

And this is true even for consumer sales. Always have next steps. Be N.S.O…next step obsessed.

Even More Critical Tips for Closing Sales…

There’s no better feeling in sales than hearing your prospect say these magical words: “Yes, I’d like to move forward.”

It’s the beautiful sound you only hear when you close a sales deal.

Yet so many salespeople miss great opportunities to hear those magical words simply because they don’t follow a consistent sales process.

In fact, most salespeople don’t even know what key steps to take to close a sales deal.

It’s time for you to find out, so you can start hearing the sound of success a lot more often. In this video, I’m going to show you three absolutely critical steps to close a sales deal.

Bonus Step #1: Insight.

Bonus Step #1: Insight.If you want to close a sales deal, insight is the first step. You must earn the discussion you have with prospects. You’re not just entitled to a great conversation. Insight is the key.

In today’s world of selling, many salespeople are focused on qualifying prospects and asking lots of questions. They think they can just start a conversation with a prospect by saying, “Hey, I’d like to learn more about your challenges” or “I want to understand more about your business.”

But if you’re a prospect who receives an email from a salesperson saying, “I’d like to learn more about your business,” what are you likely to think? Hell no. I don’t want to get on the phone with some stranger so I can teach them about my business. Go take a hike.

Instead, salespeople need to earn that discussion by demonstrating expertise. This is where insight comes in early on. You must demonstrate to the prospect that you are a true expert who can actually help them grow their business—so that way they want to tell you about their business. They understand that you’re going to help them improve it in some way.

The best way to accomplish this is to give the prospect real value up front. Demonstrate expertise by sharing actual valuable insight that makes the prospect think, “OK, you know what? I want to have a conversation with this person. This person has shared great information with me that makes sense.”

This is an important shift in effective selling nowadays. You need to be giving away something of value early on—and that comes in the form of real information. It could be data. It could be what we call a “whiteboard pitch.” It could be sharing key challenges you see in the prospect’s industry. You can share some case studies. You can share insight on the prospect’s particular business. You can even do some kind of complimentary audit of their business. Whatever it is, you want to share real information early on in the sales conversation to truly engage the prospect. 

The whole purpose of sharing this insight is simply to engage the prospect in a conversation. But you must earn that conversation—particularly with high-level prospects. That’s the only way to consistently close a sales deal.

If you’re selling to low-level prospects (which you probably shouldn’t be, by the way) then it’s going to be easier to engage prospects in conversations just by asking them questions. But if you’re dealing with a high-level prospect such as a CEO, a CIO, or a VP, they need to see value first. So use insight as your first step to close a sales deal.

Bonus Step #2: Disqualify Even More.

Bonus Step #2: Disqualify Even More.

Salespeople have been hearing for years that they should be qualifying prospects. While qualification isn’t bad, it sort of misses the point when it comes to how to close a sales deal. After all, the goal shouldn’t be to try to get someone to be a fit. Instead, the goal is to disqualify those who are not a fit.

Top-performing reps spend more of their time with truly qualified prospects than they do on anything else. And that’s only possible because they’re willing to disqualify prospects. They move on. This requires a shift in mindset—a subtle but important shift where we focus more on understanding the prospect’s challenges by asking questions.

Again, the goal is not to get everyone to be qualified. Rather, you want to disqualify a bunch of people immediately and then focus on those who are truly a fit.

Disqualifying is a powerful tool to close a sales deal that will help you understand the prospect. Come at it from a place of thinking like a doctor. Start by understanding their challenges and then clarify their top priorities before assuming you are the one who can help them.

One of the key pieces here is understanding the cost of their challenges. This goes back to understanding top priorities. When you know the cost of a specific challenge, you understand whether there’s enough value in solving that challenge to justify the cost of your service. Ask prospects questions around the costs of their specific challenges—simple questions like, “What would you say that challenge is costing you right now?” If they say a small number, chances are they’re not qualified. If it’s a big number, they’re much more likely to be qualified.

Disqualifying in this way will help you avoid tons of objections down the road, and will enable you to weed out “think-it-overs” and time-wasters—so you can focus on actually closing sales deals.

Bonus Step #3: Continue to Drop the Pitch.

Bonus Step #3: Continue to Drop the Pitch.

There’s a reason why solve is the final piece of the puzzle when it comes to closing a sales deal. If you want to close a sales deal, you should focus on solving rather than presenting in the old-school selling sense. This is because you’re not just trying to pitch prospects or present to everyone with a pulse. Instead, you’re in the business of solving real challenges.

Whatever challenges the prospect mentioned in that disqualification conversation are exactly the challenges you want to be presenting to. In fact, you only want to present to those key challenges that you can solve. Don’t present other stuff, such as features or benefits that your offering has. Only focus on the challenges they have mentioned.

You’ve probably been in a selling situation before where the sale was on a good track and then you said something like, “Oh, and let me show you one other thing that we can do for you…” And then the sale suddenly started to fall apart, because the prospect wasn’t interested in that bell or whistle. They probably said something like, “Um, I don’t really need that. This isn’t relevant to me at all.” Then you had to backtrack and scramble to get things moving in the right direction again…

You can avoid situations like this by only presenting to the prospect’s challenges.

One of the most powerful ways to present to prospects is to use case studies. You can kick off presentations with quick examples that are similar to the prospect’s situation. It might sound something like this: “You know, we were recently working with a client who was dealing with these exact same types of challenges, A, B, and C—and here’s what we did.” Tell the story of when you fixed another client’s situation to demonstrate how you’re going to help them. The prospect can’t argue with a true story, because it’s a true story.

Use case studies as a way to springboard into the actual offering and what you’re going to do for them. This is an effective way to connect their challenges to the solution you’re presenting.

If you’re looking to close a sales deal, you should also be getting consistent feedback during the solve phase. This should be a two-way dialogue that helps to ensure the prospect is fully engaged. When you’re sharing information about a particular part of your offering, use “feedback loops” to make sure the prospect is on the same page with you. It might sound something like this: “What we’re planning to do here is A, B, and C. Does that make sense in your particular situation?” And then they’re going to just nod their head and say yes. Or you might say, “What we’re going to do here is X, Y, Z. Can you see how that would be useful for you?” They’re going to nod and say yes. That’s what getting feedback is all about.

And by the way, if they say, “No, that doesn’t make sense,” that’s a good response, too. You need to know if you’re not on the same page so you can course-correct. So much of the solve phase is making sure it’s not a one-way monologue where you just drone on about your offering. Instead, make it a two-way dialogue that truly engages the prospect and you’ll be on your way to closing a sales deal.

So there you have it. Now you’ve learned the most critical keys on how to close the sale. Which of these tips for closing the deal are you going to implement right now? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below to join the conversation.

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About the Author Marc Wayshak

Marc is is the best-selling author of three books on sales and leadership, including the highly acclaimed titles Game Plan Selling, The High-Velocity Sales Organization and his forthcoming book, Sales Conversations, Mastered.

Marc is a contributor to Inc, HubSpot, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Huffington Post Business. He also hosts a popular YouTube channel on sales strategy with over 103,000 subscribers.

Marc helps thousands of people his data-driven, science-based approach to selling that utilizes all the best tools available to sales organizations today.

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