Companies regularly ask us our advice on teaching their sales people how to close deals. We also get much feedback from the market generally saying that few of the people that they recruited into trainee sales roles can progress to close deals. Many start as ‘account openers’ where the emphasis is on rapport and ice breaking skills. Yet when promoted to closer positions they fail to bring in orders.
A deal closer is a different skill and mind set to opening accounts. Many who move into sales as ‘openers’ find even that to demanding a role and revert to positions where rapport skills are still paramount such as customers service, inbound call centres, recruitment etc. This is because although rapport is the main skill in customer service or opening accounts the latter is more assertive, requires being proactive and persuasive. For some even customer service is wrong and they are better suited to analysis type role with minimal people facing. So my point is that rather than training their current people to close, they need to look at their recruitment policies. Candidates on interview have a strong tendency to try and answer what you want to hear and finish up talking you into offering them the job and themselves into taking it. The result is someone who drops out somewhere between day one and end of the first quarter or at best never makes it to closer. It isn’t where their career should be heading. A sales jobs offer high income, especially to young people they are always going to attract interest, but often the wrong profile of person.
So, the training often needed is on recruitment and interviewing skills. The key question that follows then is how can you spot a good potential closer at interview? Closing deals is a role for a leader not a follower. Most people are followers who wait to be told what to do, takes orders, literally. Followers will expect you to lead through the interview and stay silent until you speak. Leaders will diplomatically take control. Closers need to be strong and assertive. Yet this is just one trait which is rendered useless if not accompanied with some very soft and sensitive skills. To close deals without rejection, or buyers remorse, a sales person needs to ask the right questions and be very sensitive to the answers. Listening is essential but not enough. She or he has to read between the lines, read the tone and body language and make an assessment of the corporate or personal environment that surrounds decision making.
First and foremost the deal closer needs to gather key information. Yes there are key questions to ask and the listening to the answers. But how many people will admit they don’t have full authority to make a decision? How many people are more concerned about losing face in their organisation by making a mistake? There is an old saying amongst computer system buyers, “No one got fired by choosing IBM. “ What are the true motivations of the prospective customer, which is rarely just what that they say it is.
Even when a prospect has been sold professionally it is not enough. Sold professionally I define as establishing the needs and matching them clearly to the product offer. Then asking for the business. That is rarely enough because people do not like making decisions and have a strong tendency to avoid them. They want to stick with the status quo. All of us are averse to change by varying degrees and a sales person by definition is always promoting change, a journey to new unfamiliar territory.
Offering discounts or promising the earth with no hope of delivering are not closing techniques. No amount of training will change someone whose nature is to do just that. Your sales people have to be strong and ethical to resist these temptations and complete deals in everybodys best interest.
Before interview on a CV look for evidence of taking initiatives, leading. Job hoppers avoid, someone who gives up quickly when it does not work out are not leaders. Look at the interests, Captain of local Football Club, (Leadership), Played Guitar (good listening skills), Black Belt Judo (Doesn’t give up.) The clues are all there.
At interview you need to ask candidates questions like:
Give me an example of a situation where you took charge? (Are they natural leaders?)
If I rejected you right now, what would you say? (Clue: Closers do not ask for feedback they get to the core reason and turn it around!)
Also ask them about their background influences. Has their upbringing been one where they have to take initiatives or someone looked after all their issues for them.
Get your recruitment and interviewing policies reviewed.
My next blog will be about the best sources of potential closers and how to structure a training programme to make them productive very fast.
Author Alex McMillan For contact please email firstname.lastname@example.org.