Sales Training: How To Close Sales Faster
All sales professionals want to close sales as quickly as possible. The challenge that we hear from most sales coaching clients, is that the harder they push, the slower the sale seems to move, and in some cases, the sale comes to a complete stop.
The key to moving sales as quickly as possible, without scaring away the prospect, is to align the selling process with the buying process and advance the sale from one step to the next by effectively managing the 4 possible outcomes of each sales meeting with a prospect.
Being aware of the four possible outcomes of a meeting is the first step in creating your strategy for each prospect meeting you lead.
In fact, most sales professionals think there are just two outcomes sales meetings, a yes or a no. So, let’s get a better understanding of the four possible outcomes and identify which two are favorable and which two are unfavorable.
Of course, your goal is to purposefully move towards one of the two favorable outcomes at every meeting.
The four possible outcomes:
- A “NO” from the buyer
- A Continuation
- An Advance
- A “YES” from the buyer,
We’ll review each of these outcomes in the next few pages starting with every salesperson’s least favorite, no.
Hearing a “No” from a buyer is what some sales professionals fear the most. No one wants to hear that the buyer is not interested in moving forward and investing time and/or money in their solution.
On a side note, as sales professionals, it’s important to interpret our first couple of “No’s” from a buyer as the prospect just hasn’t said YES yet. And that’s because very often the first “No” can be overcome by utilizing the 4Cs to overcoming objections.
Nevertheless, there are times when NO really means NO and it’s time to move on and make space for a better opportunity in your pipeline.
Believe it or not, there’s actually an outcome that is worse than a getting a no and that’s getting a Continuation.
Why Am I Not Closing Sales?
You’re likely not closing sales because you’re ending prospect meetings with a continuation instead of an advance. A continuation is when the buyer hasn’t said “No,” but also has not committed to taking any action towards a specific next step.
Oftentimes, a continuation includes some action that the salesperson will take next—such as sending more information to the buyer, following-up in a specified amount of time, or anything that does not require the buyer to invest or commit further in the relationship.
While we all fear getting told “No,” a Continuation is actually worse. And that’s because in a Continuation, the salesperson must invest resources into the relationship without any commitment from the buyer to do the same.
Here’s the really bad part, so often our fear of being told NO creates “ask reluctance” in an effort to avoid getting told NO.
In other words, to avoid getting told NO, untrained sales professionals chase their own tail by not directly asking a buyer to move to the next steps in the sales process. This reluctance results in the salesperson investing time and money into prospects who are not committed to investing in the next steps.
If all the proper steps in the sales cycle have been executed correctly, you’re better off getting a clear “No,” and making space to add a new prospect into your pipeline rather than chasing after a prospect who’s not willing to invest in the next steps.
Here’s How To Close A Sales Call
That brings us to the 3rd and 4th possible outcomes which are also the two favorable outcomes: an Advance and a YES.
Let’s jump to the 4th outcome first, a YES.
The YES outcome is always a good feeling, and, of course, even though your buyer is telling you she’s ready to move forward, it does not mean that your work is over.
Scheduling the next appointment will still apply when achieving the next step.
In longer sales cycles, it may take multiple meetings with a prospect before earning a YES. That’s where the Advance comes in.
If your buyer is not ready to fully commit to the purchase after a meeting, your objective is to “ask” for the Advance and to schedule it before you leave this meeting.
We’ll define what an advance outcome looks like next.
In his book, Spin Selling, Neil Rackham defines an Advance as an event that moves the sale forward towards a decision.
The key component to an Advance in the sale is the buyer committing to a logical next step that requires her to invest resources such as time or money.
It’s important to note that without a commitment from the buyer, you don’t have an advance; you just have a Continuation—which means you have not moved the sale any closer to a YES.
As mentioned, the typical sales cycle for your solution will determine the best path of Advances that will effectively and efficiently move your sale closer to the YES.
In other words, the number of advances needed to yield a close will depend on the average length of your sales cycle for your specific company and industry.
For example, in sales cycles that typically result in a close from a single meeting, an Advance could occur one or more times in that first meeting and that one meeting could even result in a close.
In longer sales cycles, you could have just one advance per meeting until each step in the sales cycle is covered thoroughly enough to appropriately ask for the sale and get a YES.
Now that you understand the four possible outcomes from every meeting you’ll have with a prospect, it’s clear why it’s so important to define the objective you want to achieve for each meeting in order to minimize chasing your own tail and dragging out the sales cycle longer than necessary.
Next, we’ll identify the three most common types of advances and how to ask for them.
How To Close Your Sales Faster
While none of us like hearing a prospect tell us no, it’s better to get a direct no instead of getting trapped in “continuation land.”
That’s because a “no” means we can move on and make room for a better prospect in our pipeline.
A continuation means we do all the work while the prospect is not investing any resources in us.
While our ultimate goal is to get the client to say, “yes,” there may still be a few important points to cover in this meeting or in future meetings before a YES is even feasible—that’s where advancing the sale comes into play.
So how do you advance a sale?
Let’s take a closer look at the three most common types of advances you can implement to move your meeting closer to a yes.
Data-Driven Advances are used when your buyer needs some sort of custom proposal, a feasibility study, or custom design to make a decision, and she has to provide you with specific data in order for you to support any of those next steps.
These advances are centered around the prospect committing to take action and provide the data needed.
Ideally, your goal is to get your hands on that information before the first meeting or during the first meeting, but, worst case, you can take a leap of faith with your success and hope the prospect gets it to you after the meeting.
Either way, your next step is to get the next meeting on the calendar with a specific date and time for the two of you to review the proposal together.
Remember, you must get that next meeting scheduled BEFORE you leave this meeting, and then send the invite immediately following.
To increase the chances of your prospect keeping that next meeting, be sure to focus on how the next meeting will benefit the prospect and why she wants to be there.
Worst case, by getting the next meeting scheduled, even if the prospect fails to provide the data needed, at least you have a scheduled time on the calendar to regroup.
Experiential-Driven Advances are utilized when the best way to display your value proposition and/or unique selling proposition is by initiating a trial or firsthand view of your company (for example, a factory tour).
Again, this could be a quick trial that takes place during your first meeting, or, in more complex situations, you may have to schedule the trial for a future date.
Either way, experiencing your value proposition does take some commitment from your prospect; therefore, you have a solid plan for an Advance.
Again, be sure to schedule the next meeting before you leave this meeting.
To create urgency with Experiential Advances, it’s best to work with the prospect to define a goal date of when a solution like yours needs to be implemented, then work backwards from that goal date to create a timeline. In that timeline, be sure to show how long they will need for the trial and the evaluation and when they should start the trial.
Also, as the person responsible for your own success, you want to make sure you have scheduled milestone meetings to connect with your prospect during the Experiential Advance.
As always, you must schedule that next meeting before you end this one unless, of course, you want to leave your success in the hands of chance.
Buyer Persona-Driven Advances are used when there are multiple decision makers involved in the purchase decision and your goal is to meet as many of them as possible.
Remember, information-gatherers can tell you, “No,” but they cannot tell you, “Yes,” so it’s worth taking the time to meet with as many decision-makers as you can.
In some cases, your contact may not want to expose their colleagues to a “salesperson” or may just want to feel in control of the process and not let their colleagues have a vote in the decision-making process.
Of course, your point of contact is not able to show the value of your solution as well as you can, so it’s a priority for you to meet as many decision-makers as possible.
A great tip to getting information-gatherers to be open to you meeting with other contacts, is to start asking questions that only their counterparts will know the answer to.
If you’re already working with a top decision-maker, remember that it is common for senior-level prospects to want buy-in from their team members before making a decision, which means you’ll want to meet with end-users and influencers even if you’re already working with the final decision-maker.
As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts in the sales cycle. To assure your success, you must advance the sale from one step to the next until you get that yes. If not, you’re leaving your success in the hands of someone else.