Improve Your Closing
Occasionally UK readers send me questions or topic suggestions that I feel
would be of interest to you. In this issue I give some tips to improve your
sales closing ratio in response to a question Rob Smith wrote me from the
"I sell IT equipment to schools in the UK over the phone. I seem to always
hold a massive prospect list that's constantly changing but I'm struggling
to get my deals closed. The following is how 85% of my potential deals go:
- I find a prospective customer
- Find out what they have at the moment and what they want (where they
want to be with I.T. in the future)
- I find out when they are looking to buy Theatre tickets
- And ask who is involved in the decision making
- I put together a proposal and post/email/fax it to my contact
- I call him/her to discuss the proposal with them, make sure it's what
they wanted and make a few extra suggestions.
- I'll try and have a laugh with them to get some rapport going.
- I'll try & confirm a decision date again.
- Say something like - "is this something that we can go ahead with now?"
it never is….
- "I'll call you in ? days to see if you have come to a decision"
(before date I promised to follow-up on)
- "Just calling to make sure everything is OK and to see if you have gathered
all the other quotes yet?"
- "how do we compare" - normal response is pretty good
- "is there anything I can do before you have your meeting tomorrow that
would help you in making a decision?" - usual response is "No"
(day of decision)
(day after decision):
- Secretary says he's not there
- Secretary speaks to him and then tells me he's selected a competitor.
"It's quite depressing really and I do put the effort in, I'm sure it's
just down to my sales skills. What do you suggest?"
Use Precious Sales Time Wisely
Thanks for writing in Rob. Selling this way IS depressing. I suspect that
you are losing your deals very early on. By this I mean that you are expending
too much energy on deals that you'll never win.
The decision to send out a proposal should be an important one. Only well
qualified prospects that you KNOW you have a high likelihood of winning, merit
the effort of creating a proposal.
This is contrary to what many of us learn in sales, which is that is a "numbers
game". Send out more proposals, and you'll get more sales the thinking goes.
The problem is unless you know with certainty that you are selling to your
prospect's most important buying criteria, your proposals have a low chance
of success. You can bet that the competitor who wins the deal, knows just
what to put into his proposal before he sends it out.
Qualify Better - Close More Sales
You need to get very clear on what is most important to your prospect. You
do this by asking the following questions when you first interview the prospect:
- Why are you planning to purchase this new computer network now? - What is
most important to you in a new computer network? - Why is this important now?
You also need to know who the likely competition is that is currently being
favored (there is almost always someone with the inside track). One way to
ascertain this is by inquiring about similar or related purchases made in
the past. Find out which vendors they bought from and why they were awarded
Ask if any of their past vendors are bidding for this deal. Ask why wouldn't
they buy from those vendor(s) bidding on this deal if they bought from them
in the past.
Ask the following question about each past vendor bidding on the deal separately
to determine who is being favored. Don't just ask "why don't you buy from
one of those companies?" Instead ask "Why don't you buy from ABC company?
They gave you good installation support last time which you said was very
important to you".
By asking about preferences for their current/past vendors, you will find
out if there is a real opportunity for you or if they just are gathering bids
to document that they have performed a competitive evaluation.
>>> Unless you can find a compelling reason why they
would switch to a "new" vendor, your odds of closing are going to be very
Other Questions You Can Ask:
How well do their current vendors meet the "what's most important" to the
After you've thoroughly discussed the vendors that they have current business
relationships, you can easily ask about any other new vendors that they are
considering. They'll likely open up to you on this now because you greased
the conversation by getting them to talk about their current vendors first.
If they are reluctant to answer questions about other vendors, then tell
them you are selective about who you give bids to. If you know whom else they
are evaluating, then you will better know if you can help them and should
bid on it.
>>> The lesson here is don't do a proposal
unless you can PROVE that you offer an advantage in meeting their key criteria. Being me-too is not enough because it is likely that there are already vendors
they do business with that they prefer and know better than you.
By rigorously qualifying your prospects, your closing
ratio and total sales will increase significantly. You'll be happier
also because not only will your bank acount be fatter, but you'll be working
with people who want to work with you.