ABC: Always Be Closing
This is the strategy—or maybe the motivational phrase—that encapsulates an effective sales strategy.
At least, that’s true in Glengarry Glen Ross.
But regardless of how you feel about this as a philosophy, it describes a very important concept in the world of sales: closing matters.
You can get on your prospect’s good side. You can talk them up. You can show them how good your product is and how lousy the competition is. But if you can’t close, you don’t get the sale.
The thing is, closing is tricky, especially if you’re new to the sales game.
I won’t lie. Closing is a nuanced, complex strategy for the most part, and there are no shortcuts that can net you immediate results. But there are a number of tricks and tactics you can use to boost your close rates—or at least help you develop some fine-tuned techniques of your own.
Let’s take a look at how to close the sale, shall we?
Table of Contents
- How to Close The Sale
- 1. Assume you’re going to make the sale.
- 2. Be the first vendor to respond.
- 3. Be really upfront.
- 4. Keep benefits top-of-mind.
- 5. Try the “it’s now or never” approach.
- 6. Try the puppy dog approach.
- 7. Give a concession contingent on a close.
- 8. Use leading questions to make your prospect convince themselves to close the deal.
- 9. Optimize your offer for your prospect.
- 10. Try the “Columbo close.”
- 11. Evoke the fear of loss.
- 12. Try the soft approach.
- 13. Optimize the presale process.
- How to Become a Better Closer
How to Close The Sale
I’ve pulled these tricks together from a combination of traditional approaches, modern strategies, and my own personal experience.
You should find that at least some of these tricks for how to close a sale work for your personal sales approach. Even if they don’t, there’s probably something you can learn from them.
1. Assume you’re going to make the sale.
This is a common sales strategy that comes in clutch when closing: assume the sale.
Catchy. But what does it mean?
Basically, this is the concept of assuming like the sale is already made. You see prospects as people who are going to make the purchase, no matter what.
Why is this helpful?
For starters, it’s good for your confidence. You’ll approach the conversation feeling confident, and that radiating confidence will help boost your close rate.
More importantly, it will help you look for angles that allow you to close. This person is going to buy. Why are they going to buy? When are they going to buy?
If you do this effectively, your closing process will become practically effortless.
You can also use this to construct persuasive lead-ins to the close; for example, “so when can we get you started?” assumes that the person is already going to buy.
2. Be the first vendor to respond.
Sometimes, it just pays to be on the ball.
Research has found that 35-50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first to a prospect. Responding quickly is an easy way to give a great first impression.
I’m not talking about an automated email response, though that can be helpful. I’m talking about a real, human reply.
It’s a simple trick that goes a LONG way toward eventually closing the deal. It’s hard to beat first impressions!
You can measure your team’s email response time using EmailAnalytics. And remember, that which doesn’t get measured doesn’t get improved!
3. Be really upfront.
The upfront agreement is a trick meant to cut the BS, so to speak.
Let’s be honest. Sales is a bit of a dance. Salespeople often have to pretend that they aren’t selling, and that can be seen as disingenuous by prospects.
So avoid it.
At the start of the conversation, lay out your expectations as clearly and concisely as possible. And try to strike a deal—not necessarily a deal to buy a product, but a deal to navigate this process together.
For example, consider this approach. “Okay, I’ll be honest. I want to sign you up for our services today. I’ll give you my pitch. I’ll have you try things out. You can ask me any questions you want. But at the end of all that, if I can answer all your concerns and get the price right, would you sign the contract today?”
Getting an upfront acknowledgment sets the tone for the entire interaction. It also presents you as more sincere, which can be valuable in the context of closing.
4. Keep benefits top-of-mind.
This trick is all about highlighting aspects of your pitch in a way that serves your narrative. Generally, this means you are listing benefits for the customer.
For example, “You said you enjoyed using this app. It looks like it can boost efficiency by 20 percent. It’s objectively cheaper than what you’re using now. And on top of that, we can lock you in at this pricing for the next few years. Are you ready to sign?”
It’s a great way to remind a prospect of the benefits they’ve already seen—while discreetly minimizing any issues they’ve had.
Always try to keep the benefits of your product or service top-of-mind for your prospect.
5. Try the “it’s now or never” approach.
This one can backfire, so be warned.
One of the biggest problems in closing is urgency; if your prospect doesn’t feel compelled to take action right now, they might never take action.
How can you motivate them to move forward?
Try the “it’s now or never” approach. The idea here is to present the deal in a way that makes it seem temporary—or else unavailable in the near future.
For example. “I can get this to you for $500, but that’s not everyday pricing. In fact, that offer is going to expire at the end of the day tomorrow, so if you want to guarantee it, you’ll need to sign by then.”
Some prospects can see this as a high-pressure technique, which can turn them off. But others will find it motivating. Try to phrase this as politely as possible, and make sure the prospect sees you as being on “their side.”
6. Try the puppy dog approach.
What’s the puppy dog approach? It sounds so cute! It’s one of my favorite tricks for how to close the sale.
It is pretty cute.
Think of it this way. You’re thinking about buying a dog, but you’re not sure about it. You’re talking it over with the spouse and kids, and crunching the numbers, and you’re not quite sold.
Then, you actually hold the puppy. And you fall in love. There’s no going back from there.
Image via Giphy
That’s the principle behind the “puppy dog approach.” You get the prospect to actually try your product or service, and maybe get used to it. From there, the sale should close itself.
Of course, this is contingent on your product or service’s appeal. That’s why it’s so important to focus on your product; sales come naturally to great products.
7. Give a concession contingent on a close.
Savvy prospects understand the sales game. They’ll negotiate with you. They’ll push for a better deal.
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And in many cases, it’s effective to give a concession.
But you can utilize the concession to move quickly to the close; this is also called the “sharp angle” technique because of the quick change.
For example, let’s say your prospect says something like, “I’m enjoying this, but I can’t see paying $250 a month for it. Can you knock it down to $200?”
At this point, you can get “approval” if you need, then lead with, “If I can get you $200 per month pricing, would you sign today?”
Again, this is a way to imply urgency. It’s also a way to close the deal quickly, while ensuring both sides feel like they “won” the negotiation.
8. Use leading questions to make your prospect convince themselves to close the deal.
This is a psychology trick that gives you a sort of subtle mind control by steering your prospect through a series of thoughts you want them to take.
The idea is to ask your prospect leading questions. You want to get them to admit, gradually, that this is the right solution for them.
For example, you can lead them with things like. “So this product has all the features you need—it’s not missing anything? And it’s in your budget at the current pricing?”
With the right questions, your prospect will essentially talk themselves into closing the deal. If they have no objections to your questions (which you should already know the answers to), then logically they won’t see a reason why not to continue with the sale. If they bring up objections, you can counter them.
Don’t underestimate the power of questions. Check out our post on the correct answer to “sell me this pen” for the psychology behind asking questions!
9. Optimize your offer for your prospect.
This strategy for how to close a sale is more straightforward, but it’s important to address.
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how much urgency you imply. It doesn’t matter if they give your product a test drive. If the offer isn’t good enough, they’re not going to go through with the sale.
That’s why “offer optimization” is so important.
On some level, this is about offer improvement. You can cut the price. Improve the terms. Make the deal more attractive.
But improvement isn’t always so straightforward. That’s why I’m using the term “optimization” here. It’s about optimizing the deal to suit this prospect, specifically. What does this person hope to get out of the deal? What would make them more likely to close?
This requires you to understand your prospect well.
10. Try the “Columbo close.”
Columbo is a fictional character—a TV detective. Among other hallmarks, he was known for pretending to walk away from a suspect (or a mystery) with threads still dangling. Then, he’d turn back around and say, “Just one more thing,” presenting some critical piece of evidence or logical conclusion that makes everything come together.
I don’t think the phrase is copyrighted, so feel free to use it directly.
The real crux of this trick is to present something “extra” when a prospect is on the fence.
For example, “You don’t have it in your budget. I get it. But it does serve all your needs, right?” You can let the conversation naturally continue, then pull out, “Just one more thing… we have a special offer for businesses like yours. If you’re willing to sign up for a 2-year contract, we can get you pricing below your current budget.”
It’s a gambit worth trying if you have the extra information to provide. Make sure to hold something back in case you need it.
11. Evoke the fear of loss.
You could also try the reverse approach.
Thanks to negativity bias, people are incredibly averse to loss. That’s why losing $20 feels more intense than gaining $20.
You can exploit this as a way to secure the close. If your prospect seems interested, but somewhat unwilling to move forward, consider taking things away.
This approach is best used over the course of days, rather than minutes or hours.
For example, let’s say you offer your best, bottom-line pricing of $2,500, down from $3,500, and your prospect won’t budge. You move on, then a week later, inform them that the “best” pricing is no longer available—but you can still offer the product for $2,800.
Now, $2,800 is objectively more expensive than $2,500. But that’s not the point. The point is, your prospect might be afraid that if they don’t act soon, the pricing may revert back to $3,500.
It’s a way to motivate your prospect to act fast. Just be careful, and don’t use this trick for how to close the sale as your first attempt to secure the close.
12. Try the soft approach.
Some people are averse to high-pressure sales techniques. They like to take their time with decisions, and they don’t trust people trying to persuade them.
If this is the case, many of the above tricks simply won’t work.
Instead, you’ll need a softer approach. A lower impact approach.
Here, you’ll guide your prospect gently toward the natural conclusion. For example, “so you’re looking for a service that can improve your marketing ROI. If you had a strategy that could get you 100 percent ROI, with an upfront investment of $1,500, would that interest you?”
This, along with other open-ended sales questions, is gentle and probing, so it’s not the best way to corner a stubborn prospect—but it might be just the trick to win over a cautious, skeptical type.
13. Optimize the presale process.
Closing is important. But it’s not everything. It can’t be.
What good is a valuable closing strategy if you’re targeting the wrong people?
If you’re losing prospects early in the process?
If your offer simply isn’t compelling enough?
Before you get too deep into analyzing how to close the sale, take a look at your presale process. Are you generating leads that have a high likelihood of converting? Are you doing research on all your prospects before you engage with them? Do you have marketing funnels and drip campaigns to help your prospects become ready for the sale?
Unfortunately, this isn’t really a “trick.” It’s also not something you can do entirely on your own. If you want to optimize the presale process, you’ll need the help of your entire sales team. You’ll also need to recruit the efforts of your marketing team.
The good news is, once you have a better presale process, closing becomes a lot easier.
In some cases, the deals will close themselves.
How to Become a Better Closer
In addition to these sales closing tricks and techniques, there are some overarching strategies and approaches that can make you a better closer:
- Experiment. Different tricks work for different types of prospects, and no trick will work well in all situations. Experiment with these and other closing strategies to get a feel for how they work—and when they’re best used.
- Find your personal style. Every salesperson has unique strengths and weaknesses—and a unique personality. While you may have a script or a set process to follow, it’s important to tinker with your own approach and find your preferred personal style.
- Learn to read others. Choosing the right closing strategy is often about the emotional disposition and opinions of your individual prospect. If you can learn to read other people effectively, you can almost always find the best approach.
- Remain persistent. Did you know that most prospects say “no” multiple times before they finally close? Even a great presale strategy and a brilliant closing technique may not be enough to win these people over. Be sure you remain persistent when the occasion calls for it, and try closing multiple times.
- Learn from the best. There are solid techniques to use and statistics to learn, but the best way to become a better closer is through experience. Accordingly, one of the best ways to improve is to learn from the experiences of others. Shadow some of the best salespeople you know, and learn from them directly when you can.
In sales, communication is everything. With the right email and communication strategies, you’ll get more leads, greater interest, and—you guessed it—more closed deals. Be sure to see our guide to the top ways to increase sales.
The next question is, how can you tell whether your email strategy is working?
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Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.