Keeping the Upper Hand When Closing Sales Deals

December 3, 2015


Welcome to the first post in our sales prospecting series based on the book The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson of the Corporate Executive Board. This series summarizes the key themes of the books and highlights best practices.

When the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) published The Challenger Sale in 2013, it put forth a groundbreaking perspective on what it takes to be a successful sales rep, turning long-held assumptions on their head. Read on for insights into how successful sales professionals – the challengers – consistently deliver above-average performance by closing differently than their peers.

Begin with the end in mind

It may seem strange to begin this series with a focus on closing deals. But this is an area where many sales reps struggle. And one reason for that is the way sales professionals think about the close as separate from the rest of the deal. In fact, the close is an integral part of the entire deal and when this stage of a deal is worked seamlessly into the overall process, reps tend to fare better. That said, sales reps should not focus on the close to the exclusion of preparing to deliver value to the prospective customer. Many reps fail to ask the right questions to move the deal along and ensure they are helping prospects achieve their goals or overcome their challenges. We’ll share best practices around this in a future post in the series.

Make all the right connections

Meantime, as reps are setting the stage for a smooth close, it’s critical to consider who will be the ultimate decision maker and be sure to get face time with that person. However, in today’s buyer-empowered world, it’s just as critical to make inroads and gain support from others in involved in the purchase. As Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson of the CEB found, too many reps exert too much time and effort trying to access the ultimate or senior decision makers. Instead, they should first build consensus among those on the buying committee and leverage that to gain access to the ultimate decision maker. Gaining that buy-in from the committee means reps must tailor their message to each key stakeholder.

Focus on value

It’s a given in today’s world that the tailored messaging should focus on the benefits to the stakeholder and not on the product or service. However, it’s just as important that the sales rep believe in the value her company and offering can deliver to the customer. That belief empowers the rep to stay strong when the customer pushes back in any way, especially around negotiations.

Engage in give-and-take

As The Challenger Sale underscores, while driving toward a close, challenger reps make big requests of the prospect throughout the process. Doing so makes it clear the rep is focused on moving things forward, such as by insisting that a contract be signed soon to ensure rapid installation.

This dovetails nicely with words of wisdom offered by Geoffrey James – award-winning blogger, and author of Business without the Bullshi*t and How to Say It: B2B Selling. He says closing should be a natural part of your conversation with the customer, and that to boost the likelihood of a close, follow these best practices:

  • Make each meeting a mini-close. Go into each customer meeting with a measurable goal in mind and get agreement from the customer by the end of the meeting.
  • Check frequently that you’re on target. Continually ask the customer for feedback on how they feel about interactions to date.
  • Make a final check, then close the deal. Do a final check-in for last objections, address those and then suggest moving forward with the deal.
  • Follow up immediately. Send an email or document to summarize the decision and agreement.

Check back soon for the next post in this series, in which we will share insights into how to best qualify prospects. In the meantime, sign up for our blog to stay in the know on this and other sales-related topics.