Salespeople make three big mistakes when trying to close a sale. Do these sound like you?
- You are too scared to ask for the sale.
- You don’t know how to ask for the sale.
- You are so anxious about losing the sale that your confidence plummets and your ask sounds weak.
Then what happens?
…your pitch fizzles out or loses momentum.
…it’s easy for your prospect to say no (because you never really asked).
…you lose confidence in yourself, so your prospect loses confidence in you.
I’ve seen this over and over again: Every time you attract a new prospect, you have no problem talking about your product or service. You go over features, benefits, and build their excitement.
But then…it all goes downhill. When it comes to actually closing a sale and sealing the deal, you simply can’t pull it off without feeling like a used cars salesman/saleswoman.
If you have struggled with closing your leads, you are not alone!
Most people don’t know how to close a sale. Even professional salespeople, with decades of experience in sales, sometimes agonize over closing deals.
I want to show you how you can close deals more easily.
#1: Create a closing sequence
This is a very different way of approaching a close. Most salespeople don’t give much thought to their close. They have a pitch or an agenda and then they just … end by meekly tossing the ball to their client.
You want to buy or not?
Ready to start?
No! This is the worst way to close. If you close like this, you are going to hear excuse after excuse, such as:
I’ll get back to you.
I have to think about it.
I don’t think this is right for me.
I want you to approach closing a sale just like you approach opening a sale. When you approach leads, you probably have a list of things you do, such as:
- Harvest cold leads
- Find points of common interest
- Develop a pitch strategy
- Draft and send cold emails
- Follow-up with cold calls
- Send a proposal
- Schedule a pitch meeting
You also should have a list of things you do before a close. I call this a:
Closing Sequence: A series of steps that creates a smooth transition and leads a client into a close.
Before you actually get to your closing remarks to ask for the sale you need to get your client ready. What should you do in your closing sequence? Read on.
#2: Harvest your power moments
This is one of my secret ninja strategies for persuasion — and it’s non-smarmy. Everyone in their presentations, pitches, or stories have what I call ‘power moments.’
Power Moment: A part of your pitch that instantly makes your prospect closer to buying.
A power moment is when you say something that makes everything click for your prospect. It could be a story, an example, a slide, a piece of data, an explanation. For example, I have noticed when I talk about vocal power, people don’t really ‘get it’ until I share the story about my dad.
Another powerful example of power moments is with our flagship course, called People School. It’s a high quality product and it takes some time to sell it to each lead. When I am covering the benefits of People School, one piece of data convinces people to buy. It’s when I share that only 15 percent of our financial success comes from our technical skills; 85 percent comes from our people skills.
This always blows prospective students’ minds. If they want more financial success, they have to invest in people skills, not just technical skills. I know this is my power moment because this is when students most often ask me, “How can I make my people skills better?” Answer: People School.
Action Step: You need to identify your power moments. When speaking with clients previously, what story, point, or argument has made them say ‘A ha!’ or ‘Interesting’ or ‘Great?’ Do some self-analysis on previous closing meetings or calls and identify the points that have resonated most. Those are what you should use to transition to a close. Here’s how you know you have one:
- Your prospect says “Aha!” or “Fascinating!” or “Really?”
- Your prospect leans in and raises their eyebrows in interest because they want to get closer and see more of the material. (Nonverbally, the lean plus eyebrow raise is a power move.)
- Your prospect asks how they can buy, do, or get more.
#3: Create small yes’s
Before you get to your closing sequence you want to create opportunities for your prospect to say yes. Two researchers, Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser, decided to test exactly how to get people to do something. They went door-to-door in a small neighborhood and asked people if they would put up a large sign on their front lawn that said “Drive Carefully.”
Only twenty percent of the people contacted said they would put up the sign in their yard. I actually was surprised a full twenty percent said yes, but it was still a small percentage. Then the researchers asked people if they would put up a smaller three-inch sign saying “Drive Carefully” in their window. Many more people said yes to this. Then the researchers came back three weeks later and asked those same people to put up the much bigger sign in their yard. This time, seventy-six percent of the people said they would put the larger sign on their lawn.
What does this study tell us? A LOT. It’s the perfect example of how asking for a small request first will help you get a ‘yes’ to a bigger request later. Why does this work? People who first put up the small sign began to feel helpful. They also made a verbal as well as written agreement with the researchers to drive safely. In fact, these people most likely felt like they were very good citizens for putting up the sign.
Therefore, when researchers returned and asked people to put up the larger sign, they had very few barriers to break. The homeowners already had been in agreement with the researchers, already had thought of themselves as helpful citizens, and already had changed the look of their house by adding a message. Making it bigger would take a very small mental change, and this is why seventy-six percent said yes the second time.
Action Step: Create a “Yes! ladder” in your pitch. Ask your prospect questions that get to their core needs and make them answer “Yes!” For example, you could ask, “Are you feeling frustrated with your X?” or “Do you wish you had help with Y?”
#3: Mirror your prospect’s behavior
As a salesperson, you know that sometimes it’s difficult to get people to listen. According to a study presented in 2013, mirroring your prospects’ behavior will make them listen to you.
You might be wondering how this could be helpful if you don’t get to see or interact live with your prospects.
It’s important to note that people respond well to mirroring their nonverbal behaviors, such as facial expressions or body language. However, people also respond to mirroring emotional intonations, vocal delivery, and colloquial language.
This means your message will get through to your prospects if you:
- Match The Way They Talk – How are your prospects communicating? Are they being friendly? Quiet? Animated? See if you can dial up to match their delivery.
- Match Their State Of Mind – Why are your prospects saying what they’re saying? Could you put yourself in their shoes and see where they’re coming from? Matching your prospects’ emotional intonation will show them you understand their point of view.
- Match Their Language – Do your prospects use slang and casual language or are they more formal and proper? Match them to show you are on the same page.
Important note here…never mirror or match someone with negative, angry or destructive behavior. I love to mirror people — but not if they are doing something I would NEVER do.
My rule of thumb: Mirror on positive nonverbal, words and behavior to highlight what’s already going well.
#5: Be An Expert
Francesca Gino, a professor at Harvard Business School, makes a compelling case for curiosity as a driver of sales.
Here’s the deal, humans are curious by nature. We want to know the whys, the hows, and the whats.
As a salesperson, you need to know it all! Knowing everything about your product or service allows you to satisfy your customers’ curiosity.
But knowing your product or service inside and out does more than answering your customers’ questions. It also allows you to create a convincing sales pitch that lands you more deals. Be sure to show your expertise far before launching into your closing sequence.
- Do at least ten mock meetings with hard-hitting friends. Do you know the answer to every question?
- What is your greatest fear in what you are selling? What’s the worst that could happen? Play out all of the worst-case scenarios and create action plans for them.
- Get expert-level body language…it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.
#6: Focus On Quality To Close More Sales
It’s important that you emphasize the quality of your product or service as you approach your closing sequence.
According to a study that examined 1,876 print ads in national magazines for more than two decades, companies that sell high-quality services or products should focus their advertising efforts on emphasizing said quality, because that will increase their sales.
But what happens when your product is, well…average? What then?
According to the same study, companies that sell average quality products or services might experience a decrease in sales if they emphasize their not-so-shiny qualities. In this case, focusing your marketing efforts on high quality customer outcomes and benefits.
I would encourage you to segue into quality demos before you actually ask for the close. (Next step!) Here’s how:
- Share a case study about a client similar to the client you are pitching. Are you pitching a stay-at-home mom? Use a case study of a similar stay-at-home mom and how you helped her.
- Dazzle with data. If you are asking for a high number, show high numbers. How many people have you helped? What percentage of people benefited from your product or service? How fast do you help people?
- Do you have some high-quality clients? Showcase them!
#7: Use Stories To Improve Your Sales Percentage
Humans love stories. Long before our ancestors put their thoughts and experiences on paper, they used to sit around the campfire and share stories.
For early humans, stories had vital importance. They shared insights on the dangers a tribe might face in the wild and described the locations of water and resources.
Good stories have the power to convince you to take action.
But what makes a good story? And, more importantly, how can you craft a story that will help you close more sales?
According to a study published in 2015, good stories can stimulate the release of oxytocin in the brain.
Oxytocin is a hormone renowned for its role in sexual reproduction, childbirth, and breastfeeding. But recent studies show that oxytocin also plays an important part in bonding, prosocial behaviors, mood, and generosity.
Stories that have a high-impact narrative get our attention, stimulate our oxytocin production, and engage us at an emotional level.
A 2015 study showed that good stories – those that generate emotional resonance – can convince people to donate money to a cause. These stories are powerful enough to convince people to part with their money.
How could you use this information to close more sales?
- Craft a story around your product or service.
- Create a brand story about your founders, origin or company.
- Tell your customers’ stories.
#8: Use Humor To Improve Customer Trust
If I were to ask you what you enjoy most about hanging out with your friends, chances are you’d answer something about how much fun you have together.
But what makes certain people fun? Well, humor seems to be a decisive factor. Not just humor…laughter.
I have a theory that once you laugh with someone, you are on your way to building a lasting connection. In fact, I think there is no sweeter sound than a group laughing together. And the science proves me right…
Studies have shown that humor has a positive impact on group productivity, communication, and effectiveness. Laughter is a physical manifestation of humor that has strong emotional and interpersonal aspects. Laughter is also a way of communicating you’re experiencing joy.
When you see someone laugh, you perceive that they’re relaxed so the primitive part of your brain assumes you’re not in danger. Scientists believe that’s why laughter is so contagious.
Your brain is hardwired to want to laugh in social situations. All you have to do is make it easier to do so. When you and your clients engage in mutual enjoyment and laughter you create very enjoyable memories and improve the group’s cohesion.
So, how could all this information help you close more sales?
- Humor encourages your prospects to trust you. People are more likely to buy from someone they trust, and humor is a great social lubricant.
- Laughter increases both social bonding and cooperation between strangers, and it will improve your customers’ buying experience.
I know what you’re thinking…being funny isn’t easy, but you can still pull it off.
Humor is so important to sales and business nowadays that the Stanford Graduate School of Business teaches a course on it. So, you should definitely use it to close more sales.
Action Steps: Here are some tips that should help you be funny:
- Relax – If you’re not relaxed, your customers might miss the joke. It also signals to people that you are trying to lighten the mood.
- Vary Your Voice – Sometimes you need to cue to someone that you are telling a joke by adopting a more humorous tone. You also can do this by leaning in and smiling as you tell the joke. We have found that even smiling can change the sound of your voice!
- Signal the Punchline – It’s important to signal the punchline to increase your audience’s curiosity. Adding a little pause before the punchline will add to the suspense.
- Tell Jokes You Really Like – If you think the joke is funny, you will communicate it with your entire body. You’ll have a hard time trying not to laugh while telling it, and you’ll be smiling all the time. This will make your customers more likely to agree with you and relate to your humor.
- Keep a Funny Story List- Not all jokes are typical one-liners. Stories make for the best humor moments.
- Get our more advanced humor strategies in our article How to Be Funny.
#7. Harness Your Ambiversion
Most people assume that extroverts make the best salespeople, but a study published in Psychological Science showed that’s far from the truth. Each type of personality has its pros and cons, but ambiverts close more sales than both extroverts and introverts. And guess what…you can learn to be an ambivert. But first, here’s why ambiverts close more leads.
An ambivert is someone who can be flexible with their personality traits. In the right situations and around extroverts, ambiverts can dial up their outgoing attitude to match the people they are with. While around introverts, ambiverts can dial down and be more reserved to match the person they are with.
The key here? Respectful matching. You do not need to change who you are to be a better salesperson, but you can dial up or dial down to match the person you are with. Customers are looking for someone who can listen and respond to their concerns, someone they can relate to. The more you match them, the more they will feel heard and understood.
Here’s why salespeople can’t always close the deal:
- Extroverted salespeople can turn off introverted customers. In the eyes of an introverted customer, the extroverted salesperson sounds overconfident and too eager to sell, which makes the prospect overthink the purchase.
- On the other hand, introverted salespeople may listen to their customers’ concerns and needs, and empathize with their customers’ desires. But introverted salespeople do not push the sale enough. This lack of assertiveness can force them to fail to close the deal.
Ambiverts engage naturally with all their prospects. They have a flexible pattern of talking and listening, so they resonate with any type of audience. They can be assertive, enthusiastic, and relate to their customers’ problems and interests when they need to.
In other words, the best sales tactic is to match your customer’s personality instead of forcing your customer to match yours.
So, how can you use this information to your advantage? Learn to optimize your introversion or extroversion (or if you’re already an ambivert, carry on!)
- If you’re an extrovert…spend the first few minutes getting to know your customer. Then use your confidence to showcase why your service or product is stronger than your competitor’s.
- If you’re an introvert…you should address your clients’ concerns to convince them to buy. Do you have social proof or other case studies? Then dial up your assertiveness when asking for the sale. If you have to, script it out or practice asking for the sale ahead of time. Your customer can’t buy if you don’t ask!
- And ambiverts…stay true to your nature and emulate your clients’ behavior to close more sales. Ambiverts can convince both introverts and extroverts that their decision to buy is the right one. So, you have an advantage when it comes to closing sales. Take our ambivert quiz and learn how to leverage your ambiverted flexible qualities.
#10: Optimism Sells Better
After studying optimism for more than 30 years on more than one million participants, Dr. Martin Seligman and his team have discovered that optimism is a predictor of sales productivity.
And you probably know this already. If, for example, you weren’t able to close a deal in any of your last five attempts, you might think there’s something wrong with your approach.
A pessimist might think there’s no point in making the sixth attempt because trying won’t produce different results.
On the other hand, an optimist might think that his or her approach has worked before. So, trying again will definitely produce better results.
Fine, fine, you get it. But can you condition yourself to be more optimistic? Can optimism be learned?
Well, according to Dr. Seligman, certain cognitive training techniques can help you overcome your self-defeating beliefs. Here’s how:
- Identify Your Self-Defeating Beliefs. The first step is identifying your self-defeating beliefs and the events that trigger those beliefs. You might perform certain activities that stop you in your tracks. Maybe you feel defeated after making some unsuccessful cold sales calls, or maybe you simply feel useless after seeing your newsletter’s low open rate. These activities might be triggers for your self-defeating beliefs. Whenever you feel down, try to identify the cause. Is your mood caused by a certain activity? Use a notepad to keep track of your mood during the day. If you’re happy in the mornings but grumpy and angry at yourself by lunchtime, your mood might be linked to something you do in the meantime. Tracking your mood changes increases your chances of identifying the activity responsible for your cranky disposition and your low self-confidence.
- Are Your Self-Defeating Beliefs Real? The second step is evaluating the accuracy of your self-defeating beliefs. This step involves some detective work because you need to gather evidence that proves or disproves your negative beliefs. Sure, maybe you’re not a successful cold calls salesperson, but maybe the problem lies with your contact list, not your sales skills. Maybe your newsletter had a low open rate because the email list is old and no longer relevant for your products or services. You need to determine if you are really doing something wrong or if you’re just blaming yourself without reason.
- Use Evidence To Find Explanations. You might get stuck in certain habits of thinking that can lead to self-defeating beliefs. Using the evidence you gathered in the previous step can help you break out of your self-imposed defeatism box. What does the evidence have to say about your current closing percentage? Most events have more than one cause, and you might not be it. So, does the evidence you gathered offer any alternative explanations? Are you truly responsible for what’s not working, or are you simply beating yourself up over things out of your control?
- Use Distraction And Disputation Techniques To Fight Pessimism. Sometimes, you don’t have enough time to gather evidence and confront your self-defeating beliefs in a factual manner. When this happens, you should use distraction techniques to lift your mood and break the train of pessimistic thoughts. A good way of toning down your pessimistic thoughts is focusing on your surroundings and listing the things you see and their uses in your head. These distraction techniques will help you change your internal dialogue that often erodes your confidence and affects your closing percentage.
Action Step: Create a professional development plan to become a more proactive force in your life.
#11: Actually Ask
Here’s a big mistake many salespeople make: They don’t actually ASK for the sale.
The most important part of your closing sequence is actually asking for what you want them to do. This is your call to action. Here’s how a great pitch and closing sequence go, culminating in a strong ask:
- You have a strong first impression. You give a great handshake and ask about their weekend. You share a funny story from your weekend.
- You start with a series of questions about what they need — creating a yes ladder.
- You share a story of how you started your business that helps them understand who you are and your company’s mission.
- You dazzle them with data, showing them how many people benefit from your service.
- You share a case study of a similar client and explain exactly how your high quality product benefited them.
- You ask them to buy.
Here’s the key: Closing a sale can be as simple as asking someone to be excited.
You always want to frame your ask in an exciting benefit:
- Are you ready to feel better / look better / be better?
- Are you ready to start this journey with us?
- Are you ready to join the team?
You are not asking:
- Do you want to buy now?
- Do you want to spend X dollars?
- Do you want to be a customer?
Ask them if they are ready to claim the benefit you provide. That’s how you close a sale.
#12: Thank them for a good (or bad) close
Once you close…then what? You have two possibilities:
If the close went great, move forward on action steps! Don’t let that momentum die. Harness the excitement with full steam ahead. Don’t ever go into a close if you know you can’t follow-through on the other end.
If the close didn’t go so great, thank them for their time and leave the door open. You never know when someone might come back to you. You never know when you might see that person again. Always end with a thank you and possibility to work together in the future.
Remember: You are selling something great. You are great. Believe in what you are selling and that confidence will be contagious.
Closing a sale might seem difficult at times, but it gets easier with practice. Including these 12 tips in your sales pitch will help you close more sales and boost your sales percentage.
About Vanessa Van Edwards
Lead Investigator, Science of People
I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes. More about Vanessa.
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