Sales managers are not always present in small businesses, so we are often asked what…
My wife Carolyn, and I were discussing the topic of closing a sale.
I said to her, “A salesperson doesn’t have to close sales”, and she quickly replied, “Sometimes I want to be closed.”
I asked, “Do you want to be closed or do you need reassurance?”, she replied “Reassurance.”
The dialogue brought up a question related to closing and using closing techniques. What should a salesperson do when a buyer’s not ready to make a decision? Should they use closing techniques to close a deal, or help the buyer by using facilitating questions and sharing information?
When someone seems ready to make a decision and hesitates, a simple question like, “Do you want to make that decision today or do you need more information or time?” can be used. It’s a facilitative question and not a closing technique. It’s not designed to “get them to decide.” It’s designed to help them work through their decision making process. It keeps the ownership of the decision on them. Your role as the salesperson is to facilitate “their” buying decisions.
A salesperson has no control of the buying decision to be made, although many salespeople forget this truth. It’s a reality that’s tough to accept when you need to attain your sales goals by winning or closing business. The sales job is to generate sales, or is it? Maybe the job is to realize X amount of business by finding the people that want to buy your offering. If you can’t make people buy, it makes sense to focus on finding those who want or need to buy and help them make a decision that’s hopefully in your favor. If you want to develop your skills at facilitating buying decisions, it starts with accepting that you have no control over the outcome of the sale. You do have influence, but do not have control.
Check your motives – It’s not in the words
It’s easy to argue that closing or facilitating is all semantics if you are only focused on the words we use, so let’s not. You’ll find out if you’re closing or facilitating by examining your motives. The table below will help you examine your motives during the sales process. I imagine you might flip back and forth since today we have more teaching on facilitating, but if you want to close more business and receive more referrals focus on facilitating.
Focus on Closing
Focus on Facilitating Decisions
|Your primary concern is about winning the deal.
|Your primary concern is that the buyer makes a well-informed decision.
|You use questions to control the conversation.
|You use questions to help you discover the buyer’s needs and fit, and help the buyer make a well-informed, comfortable decision.
|You are listening for buying signals to close on.
|You are listening to confirm the buyer’s needs are a good fit for your offering and their conviction is strong in deciding to work with you.
|You only present what will help them favor your offering.
|You present anything that will help them make a well-informed decision as well as your offering.
|You believe you can control the buying decision and take credit for the buyer’s decision.
|You realize you have no control over the decision and focus on helping the buyer make a decision.
It’s always been a good practice to facilitate buying decisions, but when I started selling 30 years ago, you could get away with more closing techniques to win business. In today’s information age, a slick sales talker can easily be exposed with five or ten minutes of searching the web to confirm what they’ve been presenting, which makes trying to control the sales much more futile. People do not rely on us for product and service information as much as they used to, but making decisions is still as difficult today as it was 30 years ago and will continue to be in the future. Buyers will recognize a salesperson who has the skills to facilitate tough buying decision without presenting pressure, and this skill will be counted in many decisions as value added toward a long-term relationship.
Related Management Tip
When working with your sales teams help them make tough decisions by facilitating the decision-making process rather than making the decision for them. Set the direction and expectations, and then allow them to make decisions. You will be helping them to become better salespeople and modeling how they should work with their buyers.