I have had numerous interactions over the years with sales managers and business leaders who believed that the problem their sales force was suffering from was a lack of closing skills. Sometimes, they believed that their salespeople simply didn’t have the ability to win at the boardroom table. In every case, they wanted their salespeople to learn how to close deals.
Closing is rarely the real challenge or anything resembling a realistic self-diagnosis. It is usually one of two major issues.
Not Opening Opportunities
It’s easy to believe that closing is the problem when your revenue numbers aren’t increasing. More often than not, you are looking at the wrong end of the sales cycle.
A thoughtful review of the sales pipeline almost always reveals a lack of prospects, a high number of prospects that should be disqualified, and a number of dream clients in which a single conversation was had, but where no commitment that would advance the sale was gained.
No opportunity is ever closed before it is opened.
Normally, the lack of opening is the direct result of too little prospecting, choosing only a single method to prospect, a lack of direction when it comes to the company’s sweet spot, or poor accountability. In some cases it is a combination of all of the above.
Working on closing does nothing to resolve any of these problems. In fact, it makes things worse for the company, worse for the sales force, and painful for their prospects and dream clients.
A Lack of Effective Sales Process
When opening isn’t the problem winning new business, the problem is almost always the lack of a reasonably effective sales process. There are some iron laws of sales that are embedded in sales processes because they greatly improve the salesperson’s chances of winning the opportunity. More still, great sales processes create value for the buyer at each stage of their buying process, making the whole process a great experience for the buyer.
The problems for sales organizations and salespeople who struggle gaining new business almost always stem from set of beliefs that suggest that the iron laws can be violated and the opportunity still won. They believe they don’t need a process, especially if they occasionally win a deal.
Some salespeople’s beliefs cause them to shortchange the discovery process, believing that the company’s slide deck will answer all the prospect’s questions and provide the right solution during the presentation. Sometimes the lack of process is a failure to develop a solution that is aligned with the prospect’s vision of their future. Sometimes it is a failure to identify and develop the needs of the buying committee members who meet the salespeople for the very first during the presentation.
To win new business, the improvement needed is always found in all of the areas leading up to the final commitment-gaining event, not the commitment-gaining event itself. If everything leading up to that final event is done well, closing is very natural and relatively easy. If much is missed leading up the close, working on a better close doesn’t help.
Closing isn’t your problem. It’s something else altogether.
Why do sales managers, business owners, and entrepreneurs often assess the problem in gaining new business as closing problems?
What information would they need to see in order to identify where their real problems lie?
Why is opening more important than closing? Why is it more difficult?
What are the sales process problems that derail opportunities and make closing all but impossible?