Sales Best Practices

How to close the sale: 6 effective sales closing techniques

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Serena Miller

Editor, Sales Best Practices

It’s no secret that today’s volatile economic conditions have led to longer deal cycles. Buyers continue to tighten their purse strings; more and more stakeholders are involved; invisible threats from competitors mount; and decisions fall on the shoulders of finance and procurement teams.

Sellers struggle to effectively and consistently overcome these various challenges, and the vast majority will admit that winning deals is harder than ever. Each deal is unique, which often makes it difficult for sales reps to choose the technique that will help carry them across the finish line.

Here, we’ll take a close look at 6 of the best sales closing techniques, including when and why they work, their key advantages, and what tools sellers will need for successful execution.

What does it mean to close a sale?

Sales closing is much more than simply signing on the dotted line or collecting payment for a product or service. For B2B sales organizations in particular, sales closing is the strategic stage of the sales cycle wherein the customer agrees to the proposed (and often heavily-negotiated) deal terms and signs a contract.

It’s important to note that what happens in the stages leading up to sales closing are crucial to its outcome. Theoretically, sales closing should be a breeze, since each completed step and activity leading up to this particular task demonstrates the prospect’s interest in becoming an official buyer. After all their hard work and dedication throughout the previous cycle stages, sellers should be properly poised to close the sale.

But, in reality, sellers often inadvertently mishandle the sales closing stage and fumble the deal in the eleventh hour. Again, this is especially true for B2B sales teams, who must get that final green light from, on average, 6 to 10 decision-makers.

Luckily, by leveraging the right technique at just the right time, sellers can nail the sales closing stage. Rather than taking an aimless or overly-pushy approach to sales closing, salespeople who have effective tactics in their back pockets can consistently close more deals at a faster pace.

Why are sales closing techniques important?

Choosing the proper sales closing technique (based on the deal and customer type, specific buyer objections, prospect goals, etc.) can benefit sellers in several key ways:

  • Faster sales cycles - Highly experienced sellers know that getting a deal to the sales closing stage doesn’t necessarily mean that they have the win in the bag. Deals in this final stage in the cycle can remain stuck there for weeks (or even months) before the buyer actually commits. But, armed with the right closing tactics, salespeople can confidently and successfully nudge deals through this cycle stage — without appearing aggressive or desperate — for greater predictability and revenue.
  • Stronger customer relationships - You’d be hard-pressed to find a prospect who’s excited to buy from a brash, overly-assertive rep. On the other end of the spectrum, meek sellers come across as unsure, unprepared, or uneducated about their product or service. While striking the right balance is vital throughout the entire sales cycle, it’s particularly crucial when closing the sale. Intentional use of the appropriate closing technique requires sellers to take a close look at the unique details of that specific deal and customer; which in turn helps them build trust with that customer. And since customers are 23% more likely to spend money with brands they trust, taking the time to apply a more nuanced, personalized method for sales closing can help clinch the deal.
  • Less wasted time - Most sellers have had the experience of chasing after a non-committal prospect. They spend weeks or months hosting meetings and demos, discussing expected outcomes, and presenting to larger buying committees only to be ghosted or—perhaps even worse—kept on the hook for even longer. It’s a huge waste of time that could be better spent on countless valuable selling tasks. But sellers who are well-versed in effective sales closing techniques (and who understand how and when to use each) have a better pulse on the health of their deals in this stage. This strategic approach to closing enables them to more accurately identify when it’s time to call it quits and move on.
  • More valuable ideal customer profile (ICP) - There are several factors to take into account when defining your ICP (like pain points, budgets, objectives, etc.), and there are many different strategies for both fine-tuning and expanding it for success. One sure-fire way to improve your ICP description is through testing, measuring, and analyzing the efficacy of sales closing techniques—then using those results to break into a new market or vertical. If you conduct some research into up-and-coming markets for your solution and manage to engage with those prospects, take careful note of which closing techniques sellers used, along with their outcomes. Then, use that data to better understand, extend, and target your ICP for greater reach (and profit!).

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Common sales closing challenges

Even when the odds are in a seller’s favor, these major common challenges can throw a serious wrench in closing the sale:

  • Lack of collaboration - Closing a deal is difficult (if not impossible) when not everyone is on the same page. Remember: today’s economic landscape has made the buying process more complex. In fact, a Gartner survey of 250 B2B customers showed that 77% of buyers say their last purchasing experience was extremely complex or difficult. Several stakeholders are typically involved, each with individual concerns, objectives, and priorities. If the sales closing stage is the first in which they’re actively involved and/or have access to key details surrounding the deal (like budget, expected ROI, implementation timeline, approvals, and more), then reaching a consensus becomes even more challenging.
  • Difficulty negotiating - Executing a successful negotiation is a critical skill for salespeople. In fact, 48% of sellers say that competing against lower-priced competitors is their biggest obstacle when trying to close a deal. So if your salespeople aren’t properly prepared to negotiate the terms of a proposal, justify the value of your products or services against their cost, and effectively compromise without completely falling apart, then a significant portion of prospects may choose to walk away.
  • Talking to the wrong people - Just because someone from a prospective customer’s company expresses an active interest in your product or service doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to close the deal. Let’s say Sam from the prospective company’s marketing department sees how your company’s marketing automation solution can solve his pain points and reaches out for a demo. While it may be valuable to discuss potential offerings with Sam, it’s even more crucial to confirm whether or not he holds any purchasing power before moving forward. Sure, getting your foot in the door with Sam can get you one small step closer to attracting a new customer, but if he isn’t an actual decision-maker at his company and he can’t (or isn’t willing to) connect you with the right person, closing the sale likely isn’t on the table.

6 sales closing techniques

The sales closing stage doesn’t have to feel arduous or never-ending. Here are six traditional closing techniques to consider:

1. Puppy dog close

The puppy dog close tactic is built off the belief that, if given a puppy to take home as a “trial run,” most people would end up keeping the puppy; a theory that’s grounded in reality, apparently, as 68% of surveyed pet foster families end up permanently adopting the pet.

With the puppy dog close, sellers allow prospects to try before they buy, usually through a free trial. This method is great for prospects who are on the fence about how your company's product or service will impact their day-to-day operations. If they can see firsthand just how much your solution impacts their productivity, efficiency, profitability, collaboration, or another objective, then they’ll be more likely to pull the trigger at the end of the free trial.

    2. Scarcity close

    Sometimes, a prospect is truly interested in your product or service, but doesn’t feel a sense of urgency to make the purchase. The scarcity close tactic leans on the findings of a psychological study conducted by Stephen Worchel in 1975. The study revolved around placing many cookies in one jar, then only two cookies in another jar right next to the first. Though the cookies were all identical, the subjects preferred those from the jar that only held two.

    The principle remains the same in sales, as customers tend to prefer items that are in high demand or aren’t readily available to the masses — either in reality or by their perception. Sellers can take advantage of this technique by offering a discounted price for products and services for only a limited time, or by offering an add-on with a clear expiration date.

    It’s worth noting that the scarcity close only works if the prospect truly believes the product or service is scarce; so don’t offer the same sweet, urgent deal multiple times and expect them to jump. Today’s buyers are smart and can smell a bogus, scammy promotion from a mile away, so make sure you take an authentic approach to the scarcity close.

    3. Takeaway close

    This technique centers around the idea that humans don’t like to have something taken away, and that their desire for the now unavailable option will grow. It’s the exact reason why pretending to eat a toddler’s broccoli off their plate often provokes their own, newfound interest in the vegetable.

    This technique is best for prospects who are a great fit for your product or service and have shown a high level of interest, but are hesitant to make the monetary investment. Sellers can nudge them forward by simply stating that they might not be a great fit for the solution after all, given their expected spend. It’s a bit of reverse psychology that can spur the prospect to bolster their budget.

    4. Assumptive close

    The assumptive close can be incredibly useful for more seasoned sellers who have a deep understanding of your company’s offerings and a knack for reading buyers’ social and emotional cues. With this tactic, salespeople assume the prospect wants to make a purchase, and proceeds as though they’ve already made the decision. They may ask the buyer to schedule an implementation date or whether they want to purchase additional add-ons or features.

    While positive thinking and an upbeat, assertive attitude are a great foundation for this technique, it’s a risky approach without the right tools. If a seller misreads a prospect’s interest level, their assumptions can be perceived as aggressive and cause them to lose the deal altogether.

    Some modern sales execution platforms take the guesswork out of the equation with buyer sentiment analysis, which can help sellers more accurately understand how they’re resonating with buyers. These powerful tools offer deep insights into responses — whether positive, negative, objection, or referral — into each engagement and help salespeople determine the appropriate next steps, depending on context.

    5. Question close

    Negotiations are pretty much a given when it comes to B2B sales, so sellers should always be well-prepared to handle objections at the closing stage. One effective way to get ahead of these objections is to ask prospects the right questions (and lots of them) throughout the entire sales cycle, and actively listen to their responses. This enables salespeople to carefully craft their responses and rebuttals ahead of time.

    Once closing time comes around, asking strategic questions can instill confidence in the buyer and squelch their doubt. If you put yourself in the buyer’s shoes, you’d likely feel more positive about the deal if, instead of pushing you to sign the contract, the seller asked you some of the following questions:

    • Is there anything about this offering that doesn’t suit your needs?
    • Do you feel that this product/service will solve the problems we discussed?
    • In a perfect world, how would this product/service change your day-to-day life?
    • If you look three months, six months, or a year into the future — how will this product/service have impacted you, your team or your organization?
    • What do you think are the pros and cons of implementing this solution?

    Increase win rates and accelerate deal velocity with the Sales Execution Platform

    While tried-and-true sales closing techniques are a great place to start, sellers will likely still struggle to consistently push deals past the homestretch if they’re using manual or disparate sales tools. Outdated, disjointed point solutions create data silos and workflow gaps that hinder sellers’ productivity and sales closing efficacy.

    The Outreach Sales Execution platform boosts sellers’ efficiency across the entire sales cycle, and empowers them to predictably and consistently close more deals. With workflows for sales engagement, mutual action plans, pipeline management, forecasting, and more, Outreach can help sales teams accelerate deal velocity and increase pipeline conversion.

    Learn more about how to improve your sales team’s win rates, or request a demo today.