Some will tell you that closing is what sales is all about. And while it may be hard to argue against this notion based on all the material devoted to it, studies and experience show that closing is not as important as some make it out to be. Often the choices and actions you take along the way impact the outcome a lot more than the moment it actually happens.
Although the ending is important, just as in the movies, it’s the plot and the themes that get you there that are really what determine the quality of the ending, in this case the entire sale. While sales can fall apart due to a bad close, the close itself can be a disappointing experience if the plot fails to involve and satisfy the requirements of the audience. In film it all rests in the hands of the director, while in sales it is up to the sales professional. A strong conclusion in film starts with the first frame of the movie; in sales, a mutually meaningful close starts early in the process, usually before the first contact.
Long before the sale starts, spend time segmenting and prioritizing the market, with the aim of pursuing the best opportunities first. “Best” means the greatest likely fit, greatest likely acceptance by the buyer, and greatest likelihood of happening. The basis for this likelihood is determined by your understanding of where you have had similar success in the past. Looking at where, when, how, why, and with whom you have had success in the past, you can begin to model the future and lay out a predictable road to success. Very much like a storyboard in the movies, visualize what a sale looks like in terms of people involved, number of meetings, length of cycle, and desired outcome for each encounter with the buyer.
By laying out the scenes, a director can build the plot and create the emotional involvement needed to capture the audience, while understanding and managing the interaction between characters and plot. The sales professional can do the same, preplanning meetings, questions, and actions to discover the maximum amount of knowledge about the buyer while at the same time allowing the prospect to discover how the seller and the offering can tangibly impact his or her objectives. The seller is not only qualifying the individuals and the company but also quantifying impact. The process allows the seller to create drama and an emotional connection that becomes so important at the close. By getting buy-in to the full scope of the impact, the seller is able to fully leverage this later when the inevitable emotional conflict arises.
In the movies, emotions are elevated through conflict only to be resolved by the ending. In sales, the drama is internal for the buyer, then externalized in the form of objections toward the end of the cycle. This is where some salespeople run the risk of trying to overcome the objections rather than dealing with them. They should again take their cues from films; good directors know that for strong and meaningful endings, they need to resolve issues.
Sales professionals need to deal with the buyers’ objections by resolving the conflict buyers feel. Buyers feel conflict because they know that making the purchase is the right thing but it represents change (which is hard); the status quo is a strong force. While the new offering may be better, people learn to live with the current shortcomings. The change the seller represents brings with it new and visible risk. Buyers try to reconcile this by vocalizing their concerns in the form of questions, that is, “objections.”
Rather than getting defensive, sellers must help them resolve the conflict. Draw on the elements qualified and quantified together with the buyer during the earlier discovery phase. Help the excitement and acceptance of this phase be the resolution for their concerns. Here again, quantification is key, especially when you face price-related objections and more so when you do not have a lower-cost alternative to what is currently in place. By being able to draw on the agreed quantified differences, price can be put into context, and focus is placed on the potential gains, not the additional cost of the offering. This is not an easy process, but it is straightforward as long as the work is done earlier and the elements of the plot developed; they can now be drawn on to close.
Address, resolve, and make sure the buyer acknowledges that it has been resolved or it may resurface again.
The close of a sale is a catharsis, much like a good ending to a movie, but the fundamentals happen based on work that takes place much earlier in the flow. Done right, however, it does ensure that the initial close and subsequent sequels will be continuous and profitable.