Sealing the deal – How to close a sale

The path from initial interest to confirmed sale hardly ever runs smoothly, especially in today’s tough marketplace.

When sales targets are high and prospects are scarce, it’s essential for salespeople to hone their skills and fine tune their approach for a successful close.

There are many organisational challenges facing salespeople, but most of these can be whittled down to three main root causes;

  1. A lack of sales staff motivation,
  2. Failure to maximise sales capability, and
  3. Inefficient management of the sales pipeline.

To help you close that sought-after sale, here are three key areas to focus on;

1. The right motivation

If your staff motivation depends on targets and reward schemes alone, your team productivity, and therefore performance, will suffer.

Sales managers that also have their own individual targets to achieve, raises the possibility of divided priorities. Does the manager focus on hitting their own target or manage the team to hit theirs?

Helping your people to meet their targets requires a high-level of support and development. It is essential to identify whether your salespeople have the right mindset and skills, to provide them with the best opportunity to close. In order for managers to gain such an insight they need to continuously monitor and develop their teams; in short they need to be coaches.

Management training in coaching skills can enable sales managers to objectively evaluate their teams and coach them on areas of difficulty, as well as embedding a sustainable development-focused culture.

A manager who is focused on maintaining the success of their team through effective communication and motivation will be better equipped to help their people plan and confidently carry out a sale, from start to close.

2. The right skills

Giving your people the right, targeted development is the first stage, ensuring that these skills are used to their full potential is the next. Your salespeople must employ their skills to the maximum at every point of the sales cycle, especially the initial stages.

Failure to spend enough time and effort on questioning and listening can mean that a prospective sale is doomed from the start.

Each sales role has its own set of specific competencies but certain core skills are always necessary; such as in-depth prospect knowledge, opening, presenting, and effective questioning and listening to name just a few.

When it comes to closing, listening to your prospect and differentiating yourself are sales 101. The emphasis needs to be on the value your product or service can bring to the customer.

Salespeople need to be able to effectively articulate their sales value proposition. This doesn’t mean simply justifying the price tag; it means identifying the pains of your prospect and highlighting the unique ways in which your product or service can remove these pains.

All too often we see large pipelines that aren’t closing (the Sales Director’s biggest nightmare). The natural solution to most people is to send that sales person on a closing or negotiation course when in fact the problem is that they are not effectively questioning and listening or using the information gleaned to build a compelling proposition. So the prospect asks for a proposal at the end of the meeting with no intention of ever reading it.

3. The right system

The last piece of the puzzle is a well-managed pipeline. A pipeline that is not constantly updated and nurtured can feel like it is slipping through your fingers.

Research into the challenges facing sales directors shows that 22% of their pipeline is lost to the abyss through poor management; a failure to recognise which leads are worth pursuing, losing the duds, and using skilled sellers to take good leads forward.

Ensuring that your sales force possesses skills needed to manage your pipeline effectively is dependent on an accurate and objective measurement system. Guesswork alone cannot identify where exactly capability gaps lie, and therefore why leads may be slipping off the list.

Your system of skills evaluation needs to focus on creating a true reflection of your sales force capability; measuring against best practice competency benchmarks and leaving personal opinion at the door.

Pooling the data from objective analysis will paint a clear picture of where development is required, helping you to provide targeted skills training to raise specific competencies that could be impacting sales.

A higher level of overall capability in the right areas will produce a positive effect on each and every deal, enabling you to maximise the use of your pipeline.

Though there is no magic formula for closing a sale, establishing a basic foundation of good capability and constant development will help to drive high-performance. Ensuring that the right motivation, skills utilisation, and measurement system are in place will give you the tools you need to sell in the most challenging sales environment.

About the author

This article was written for ByteStart by Russell Ward, CEO of Silent Edgeand author of, “High Performance Sales Strategies”, published by Pearson, priced £14.99.

More on sales

For more advice on all aspects of generating sales, try some of these other guides;

And for tips and ideas on developing a strong team, read these guides;

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