Although closing a sale is actually natural and easy, far too many salespeople have adopted such a distorted view of the close that they dread trying, even though the close is their reason for being there. In fact, statistics tell us that in about 60 percent of all sales interviews, salespeople fail to ask for the prospect’s business. The usual scenario goes like this:

Well, Mr. Jones, that’s about all I have to tell you. Is there anything else you would like to ask me? No? OK, I guess I’ll call you again in a week or so. Have a good day.

The salesperson is then standing outside the prospect’s office wondering, “What happened? I thought for sure I had that order. What did I do wrong?” The usual answer is the salesperson did not do anything wrong. The salesperson just did not do anything.

In a well-planned, smoothly executed sales interview, the close is the natural conclusion. In a real sense, the entire sales interview is one long close. The close is the exciting culmination of a process you have been planning for and working toward for weeks or months.

All sorts of results depend on your success at this point: Your income, meeting your company quota, being of service to the client and getting a number of good referrals for new prospects are some of the most obvious. Just be sure you adopt a realistic, sensible attitude toward the close and make it a part of the planning purpose.

Closing is not a separate event tacked onto the end of a sales interview. It is something that happens all along during the course of the presentation. Instead of regarding the close as a separate segment of the presentation inflexibly located at the end, consider the close in the context of the entire sales cycle.

Closing begins the moment you speak the first word to the prospect and continues throughout the whole process until the order is signed, sealed and delivered.

You close on many points: the prospect’s agreement to grant an interview, concurrence on the existence of a need or a problem that can be met by your product or service, permission to make a survey, on-site visit or trial installation, accord on how much or what model is needed, and acceptance of your explanation of product benefits.

When each step in the sales process is handled correctly, the close is the natural conclusion to a successful interview.

Each point of agreement you and the prospect reach during the selling process is a successful minor close that brings you closer to the important climax. All of these minor closes help to establish a climate of mutual cooperation between you and the prospect. Then, when the time comes for the final decision, nothing is left except one more tiny step to take on the path that has already been laid out and followed consistently throughout the presentation.

The sale has actually been made or lost long before the time arrives to sign the order. The final step should be just a formality, a necessary step, but not one that requires making weighty decisions.

Failure at the close is usually the result of inadequate completion of the prior steps in the sales process: inadequate prospecting, incomplete qualifying of the prospect, or too little probing to determine the prospect’s real needs or dominant buying motive.

As a result, the presentation has focused on the wrong features and benefits, or the wrong evidence has been supplied to support claims for the, product. A prospect’s failure to buy does not automatically brand you as a poor closer. Studying your entire performance to find the weak link in the chain is necessary.

The art of closing sales is not the process of persuading people to make decisions, but the art of making decisions with which people will agree.

Even when all the steps leading to the close have gone well, the prospect may still hesitate. Logically, the prospect should gladly sign the order when you have the right product or service to offer, have presented meaningful benefits, have a carefully planned strategy for servicing the prospect’s account, made an impressive sales presentation, and successfully answered all concerns.

However, the moment of decision is difficult for most people. Buyers take many risks: They must live with the purchase and pay for it; they may be forced to justify the buying decision to someone else; they may be responsible for an important impact on the company’s productivity or profitability as a result of the purchase. Risks are threatening to most people.

The buyer knows that an affirmative decision involves a change in attitude and/or behavior, and change is always painful and threatening. If you believe that the decisions you recommend are in your prospects’ best interest, then you must support buyers and help them make the decisions that will solve their problems. Consider how the prospective buyer is probably feeling and thinking.

Once prospects agree they can benefit from using your product or service, your responsibility is to guide them to a close. You must never be discouraged by no. If you honestly believe that a sale is an exchange of mutual benefits, then a “no” should set up this train of reasoning: The prospect is asking me to re-explain that this decision will work, so I will continue to reassure and close.

You should not be dissuaded when buyers hesitate. People do not like to make decisions without assistance and reassurance-some simply cannot make decisions at all. There is no agony like that of indecision. This is why many prospects are relieved, even grateful, when you assume the responsibility for making the decision.

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