Traditional selling approaches suggest that the “close” comes after the presentation is made. One-liners are memorized, salespeople are reminded to always ask for the business, and in high pressure sales salespeople are taught the ABC rule: Always Be Closing. However, as selling gets more complex and trust becomes the key to winning the business, the traditional closes become far less effective.
The Closing Plan accomplishes two very important functions:
- It enables you to get a sense of what might happen if your presentation successfully addressed all the prospect’s pain issues.
- It encourages the prospect to give you a clear decision at the end of your presentation.
All this is done before you make your presentation.
The first part is to “test the waters” before you present your solutions. This will give you a clear indication of your prospect’s readiness to accept your proposal if he perceives it as a good solution to his problems. It’s similar to the old “trial close” with one exception. It is an open question that does not put pressure on the prospect. (If I can…will you sign the contract?) To test the waters, you might say this:
- “If you have the conviction that we can solve your problem and it makes sense financially, what will happen then?”
- “If you felt that our solution was exactly what you need to eliminate these problems, and it fit your budget, what would you do at that point?”
In a perfect world your prospect would say that he would give you the business. If the answer is ambiguous, you may have to re-evaluate your decision to make a presentation. Regardless of what the prospect says, you will have a much better idea of just how close you are to winning the business.
The second part of the closing plan is to agree on a date and time for the presentation, insure all the decision makers will be present, and ask for a decision at the end of the presentation. Here’s a good way to express this:
- “Can you make sure that everyone who has a stake in this decision will be there for the presentation?”
- “Can we agree that at the end of the presentation you could give me a “yes” or “no” answer? And if I miss the mark, I would expect you to say “no” to me. Is that fair?”
Using a closing plan will help you stay in control, get a conditional commitment before you present, and eliminate “think it overs.”
Self-Study Assignment: What do you do now before you make a presentation for someone’s business? Make a commitment to establishing a good closing plan before your next presentation. Record both parts of the closing plan and listen to it regularly until you feel comfortable with the concept.