Do you ever get disappointing results from your sales conversations?
Do you find that while prospects might engage with you up front, as things progress, they often just start to disappear?
Or maybe it’s hard to even start those sales conversations in the first place…
Sales conversations are something you absolutely must master, regardless of where you are in sales right now—and no matter how you’re currently struggling with sales conversations.
Making sure that you can consistently have sales conversations that close the deal is crucial to maximizing your growth and success.
In this video, I’m going to show you 5 critical steps to sales conversations that close the deal.
Sales Conversations That Close the Deal Step #1: Demonstrate quick insight up front.
The start of every sales conversation is critical—you can’t get those first moments of a call or meeting back again once they’ve happened. That’s why what you say early on can make all the difference between sales conversations that close the deal, and those that don’t.
This is an area where I find that salespeople consistently go in one of two directions.
The first direction is that they try to pitch or over-educate the prospect up front, bombarding them with information at the start of the sales conversation.
The challenge with this approach is that the prospect doesn’t really know you yet—so they certainly don’t want to listen to you throw a ton of information at them. You always want to avoid over-educating the prospect or giving a big pitch at the beginning of the sales conversation.
The second direction salespeople take is that they start sales conversations with “brain-picking” questions such as, “What’s keeping you up at night?” or “What’s your biggest challenge right now?”
This is just as problematic because these questions are weak and demonstrate absolutely no value up front. The prospect is just going to think, “Why in the world would I just openly share my biggest challenge with this person right now? I don’t even know them…”
Instead of falling into one of these two common traps, if you want to start having sales conversations that close the deal, then you need to demonstrate quick insight up front to engage your prospects in a real conversation.
The best way to do this is to start your sales conversation with a 30–90 second “Opening Play”—think of this as a fast “pitch” that demonstrates some quick insight. The insight you share in your Opening Play should be hard-hitting, such as relevant data, real-life challenges you’re seeing in the marketplace, or some other piece of valuable information that will engage the prospect and resonate with their world.
Once you share that insight, the prospect is far more likely to think, “Okay, this person seems to really know what they’re talking about. I’ll have a conversation with them.”
Demonstrating quick insight up front is key to having sales conversations that close the deal. The insight you share early on will ultimately earn you that in-depth sales qualification conversation—or, as we like to call it at the Sales Insights Lab, the disqualification conversation. More on that later.
Step #2: Engage them.
When it comes to engaging prospects during sales conversations, we have another area where salespeople tend to go in one of two directions.
On the one hand, many salespeople launch into the sales conversation with a monologue-mentality, doing 90% of the talking and failing to engage the prospect in any tangible way. These salespeople do tons of heavy lifting at the beginning of the conversation, and they never really transition over to get the prospect talking.
On the other hand, some salespeople will at least try to engage the prospect and get a real conversation going—but they never get it right. They’re not really sure how to go about it, so they end up with sales conversations that fall flat and fail to engage, rather than sales conversations that close the deal.
So what should you do to engage prospects successfully?
Well, you should demonstrate your quick insight up front and then get the prospect talking. That’s it. Get them talking about their challenges.
A good transitionary question might sound something like, “Based on what I just shared with you, do any of those challenges ring true for you?”
Questions like this will get prospects talking, so you can dig in with more questions and really get them to open up. Once you have them emotionally engaged, the conversation will start to flow.
Now, there may be times when you have to come back with some more insight to keep the prospect’s attention. If they start to get cagey, or they seem to be disengaged, simply go back to the first step of sharing quick insight and start over again.
Once you get them to open up and engage, the floodgates will open and they’ll start to connect with the sales conversation.
Sales Conversations That Close the Deal Step #3: Disqualify.
This is a critical distinction of the way we think about selling at the Sales Insights Lab.
In today’s world of selling, everyone’s teaching you some kind of qualification technique. But the problem with sales qualification is that it hinges on the hope or assumption that the prospect is actually qualified. And our research shows that a whopping 50% of prospects aren’t a fit for whatever a given salesperson is selling.
So we have a pretty different take on qualification.
Instead of assuming or hoping that prospects are qualified, we focus instead on simply determining whether they’re a fit—and if they’re not, that’s perfectly fine. We come in with a mindset of, “I’m not sure if this prospect is a fit. Let’s find out.”
With this approach, if a prospect asks us, “Why should I do business with you?” we reply, “I appreciate that question, but at this point I’m not even sure that you should do business with me. Would it be okay if I ask you some questions to really understand what’s going on, and then I can let you know if I think we’re a fit or not?”
That’s the disqualification mindset, and it’s critical to having sales conversations that close the deal. Take a step back and simply focus on determining whether they’re a fit.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should just easily disqualify any prospect who seems a little cagey, tough, or difficult at the beginning of a cold call. If someone’s not in the mood to talk to you right now, that’s not a reason to disqualify them.
You want to take each prospect through a systematic set of questions to determine whether they are truly qualified for your offering. This is the disqualification process that should shape your sales conversations.
If it becomes clear that the prospect is not a fit, then end the conversation, move on, and never think about them again.
Step #4: Use spontaneous questions.
I know I just got through telling you to take each prospect through a systematic set of questions to determine whether they’re a fit or not—but hear me out. Spontaneous questions are critical for sales conversations that close the deal, too. Here’s how systematic and spontaneous questions work together.
You should follow a systematic set of questions that you typically ask every prospect. But if you’re just thinking like a robot during the whole sales conversation, rotely asking question one, question two, question three, question four….then you’re missing so many opportunities.
So the first key to successfully implementing this selling system is to use your systematic questions as the foundation for your conversation—think of them as the pre-planned questions you already know you’re going to ask, so you can have the peace of mind of knowing what’s coming next and not get caught up in scrambling to think of what to say.
But the second key is to give yourself the ability to ask spontaneous questions as they arise in the conversation organically. Think of yourself as a detective trying to dig deeper into what’s really going on.
For example, if the prospect says something that surprises you or that seems important, ask a spontaneous question such as, “Interesting. Can you help me understand that?” This isn’t a scheduled, systematic question but it allows you to go deeper. Other examples of spontaneous questions include, “Can you unpack that for me?” or “I see. Help me understand why you mention that,” or “Tell me a little bit more about that…”
Spontaneous questions make all the difference between an average salesperson and a great salesperson. A great salesperson can ask spontaneous questions to really get the prospect to open up—leading to far more sales conversations that close the deal.
Sales Conversations That Close the Deal Step #5: Give a two-way presentation.
This is one of the biggest distinctions between average salespeople and the best salespeople out there. It’s also one of the biggest differentiators between mediocre sales conversations and sales conversations that close the deal.
Average salespeople give presentations that are more like monologues than engaging presentations. They just talk the whole entire time. They throw up all their information over the prospect—even if they’ve already gone through a thorough discovery conversation. It’s a one-way presentation.
But the data unequivocally shows that top-performing salespeople only do about 65% of the talking during their presentations, which means that the prospect is doing at least 35% of the talking. This is an important distinction because great presentations are actually two-way conversations. Your presentation should never be a monologue, but rather a dialogue.
Two-way presentations require presenting a little bit of information or a key point, and then letting the prospect take it all in and respond. You also want to keep the presentation really short. That way, the prospect’s questions and responses are what ultimately drive the bulk of the presentation.
When you have a prospect effectively lead the presentation with their questions and responses, they’ll automatically be engaged with what you’re saying. If you find that you’re doing all of the talking during your presentations, you’re in trouble. This means that your prospects are likely feeling disengaged, distracted, and thinking about other things while you present.
Remember, it’s critical to give two-way presentations if you want to have sales conversations that close deals.
So, there you have it. Now you know 5 critical steps to sales conversations that close the deal. Which of these ideas did you find most useful? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section 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.