If you’re a fan of Kyra Sedgwick, you probably watch The Closer on TV. This highly rated police drama’s title refers to Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson. Her job is to “close” murder cases by finding the right suspect and getting him or her to confess to the crime.
Closing a business sale is very similar… except for the reading of the Miranda rights. For both, you target your audience, speak to them directly, describe the facts of your case, and convince them to sign off on your proposal.
To learn the best practices for closing a sale, we interviewed Ray Simon of Enpio.com in San Francisco. Ray is a Salesforce.com consultant and one of the best closers I know.
ISBB: What are your top methods for close a sale?
Simon: I like it when the prospect tries to close me, not the other way around. I do this by establishing value up front. The beginning of the sales cycle is the opportunity to prove that you offer the best service and that you are sought after by other buyers. Some ways of doing this are being referred by a trusted source, having done good business, and posting testimonials on your website to prove it.
When you are nearing a close, your focus, for the moment, is on the prospect and his or her needs. The prospect already knows that you have a pipeline, that there is a window of opportunity when they can do business with you, and that they have your full attention. That is the reality. Then they want to close.
They want you before your focus shifts to the next opportunity. After that, everyone wants to brag to their boss, colleagues, spouse, or friends that they hired or bought the best (insert your product/service here) around. No one brags that they got the second-best because the best one took on a new client and couldn’t fit them in.
What has worked best for non-profit organizations with limited budgets?
It’s the same approach for businesses as well as non-profits. Everyone seems to have a limited budget these days.
In the first few minutes of our first conversation, I ask directly what their primary problem is, when does it have to be solved, and what their budget is. Typically, they talk about the first two, and then avoid the third. But I won’t move on until budget is explored. I ask what is the most they can spend and what they are comfortable spending. I find that this brutally direct approach sets the tone for the rest of the engagement.
It is important to establish that I don’t want to know how much money they have so I can take it all. I just want to know what kind of solution they can afford. Establishing the budget boundary shapes the discussion around their timeline and addressing their primary problem. Sometimes the budget and what they want are way out of line. That’s why I think it’s best to get that out of the way quickly and either determine that they need to adjust their expectations, their budget, or to move on to another provider because on the current course, everyone is wasting their time.
How do you close a really tough client?
Rule #1: It’s better to walk away than over-commit and stay.
If you over-commit and stay, the client owns you and the remainder of your relationship will be inequitable. After you have overindulged your prospect, who is now your client, at what point do you tell them that you will no longer do work for free or that they can no longer call you 24/7?
How do you manage the rest of your prospecting when one client (regardless of size) is monopolizing your resources? If the client is used to walking all over you, what makes you think that they will pay their bill in full, or on time?
If you walk, you free up your resources to keep your pipeline active and other new business, which will undoubtedly be more profitable, will flow.
What’s your best closing success story?
It was actually the time that I reluctantly obeyed my own Rule #1. I had a referral from a colleague that could have been an exciting project, but it began to spill over into over-commitment territory. I had to put an end to it, so I let them know that any more resources would require payment. I went so far as to invoice them for future services, without expecting to hear back, but to make the point clear (to them as well as myself).
Months later, I got a call letting me know they were going to pay the invoice online, and they wanted to schedule a project start date. They ended up being a great client to work with and the project produced an ongoing relationship.
For more closing advice or to speak with Ray Simon about a Salesforce.com implementation, visit www.enpio.com.
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