9 FOOL-PROOF STEPS TO NAILING THE CLOSING CALL
BY BILL FAETH
CLOSING CALLS ARE A BIG DEAL—THOSE CALLS ARE YOUR ROUTE TO INCREASED REVENUE, after all. Because of their importance in sealing new deals, they’ve also acquired a certain mystique. The phrase “closing call” evokes all kinds of emotions for business owners and sales reps alike.
You never want to fumble a sales call. Running a bad closing call might be one of the most painful mistakes you can make; however, if you map out a plan ahead of time, you are much more likely to succeed.
Over the years, I have practiced closing the deal many, many times. I have learned from my mistakes and those of my colleagues, and I’ve discovered what works well and where the closing can go awry. From these years of experience, I have settled on a list of nine easy-to-follow strategies for successfully closing the deal.
1. Set an agenda: Establish your intention at the very beginning of the call. You should have already set the expectation in your previous conversation with the prospect, but reiterate it right away for anybody who wasn’t previously in attendance. I usually say, “So the goal of our call today is to get you started with [Company Name].” It’s a bold move. A lot of people aren’t comfortable being this direct but it is important to be upfront. At the end of the day, you’re conducting a business transaction, so it’s very important to be transparent.
2. Introduce everyone on the call: Have everybody from your prospect’s and your companies introduce themselves. Make sure you know who’s talking and remove any surprises. I like to have everyone state their name, title, and any specific goals they want to achieve during the call. If you need to break the ice, ask everyone to do something like name their favorite cheese.
3. Limit commonalities to no more than two minutes: Don’t spend too much time building rapport. Be human, of course, but the point of a closing call is business. Chat a bit with anyone who is new to establish basic trust and a relationship before catching up with the people you already know, and then move on. Getting too involved in non-business matters can negatively impact your ability to close the deal if you have busy executives on the line.
4. Open the discussion with a question: This can be as simple as “So what’s the status?” or “Where do we stand?” Then sit back and just let them talk; the direction of the call hinges on that answer. They’ll either respond with something along the lines of “We’re good to move forward but we just have some last-minute questions” or say “There are a few things we still have to figure out.” The tone of voice in these answers will reveal if your prospect is ready to buy today or not.
5. Establish an onboarding timeline: If your prospect is ready to go, talk through the specifics of getting started and implementing the account. In addition to one last high-level overview, explain your processes, as well as ongoing customer support and payment terms. Establish a start date for implementation, too. If your prospect isn’t ready to sign on the dotted line either this week or this month, you’re wasting your time. Put the deal back in the pipeline.
6. Answer objections: Closing calls are when all sorts of last-minute objections rear their ugly heads: “Your service costs too much”; “Now just isn’t a good time for us to switch providers”; “I’m not sure if you’re a better option for us than [Competitor X].” Luckily, you can prepare for this. Part of your job is to know your competitors’ and your company’s competitive advantages inside and out. Make sure you have these points readily available before the call so that you are able to address objections confidently.
7. Negotiate price: Going into the closing call, you should have already established your maximum possible discount. You don’t have to offer it, but you need to know how low you can go. Be steadfast in sticking to your lowest price based on their volume and keep the integrity of your profit margin in place. Don’t offer if you don’t need to. Let them name a number and go from there. Make sure you’re negotiating with the financial buyer—the person with the power to approve your pricing. You already should have established who this is but just in case you don’t know, confirm that you’re speaking with the right person before you start making concessions.
8. Review the purchasing process: This step might not apply to you, as not all prospects have an extensive procurement or legal review process. If their procurement and/or legal departments are getting involved, understand exactly what, if anything, they need from you and establish a timeline by which the process should be completed.
9. Get started: If everything’s gone well, you and your prospect should be all set to sign a contract and start the onboarding process by the end of the call. Be crystal clear in making sure that all parties are on the same page. Reiterate what you discussed in the call and literally say, “Okay, so we’re in agreement here. I’ll send you a contract and expect to have it back by [agreed-upon date].” At this point, if you don’t have it already, exchange cell phone numbers with the decision-maker. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard about salespeople hanging around the office until 11 p.m., simply waiting for a contract to come in. Always make sure you have a way to get in touch in case whoever’s sitting on your contract simply needs a nudge.
When you follow these nine steps, your next closing call will be a winner, and you’ll have no more excuses for losing business due to botched calls. On to the next prospect! [CD1015]