How to Close a Sale

Personally, I dislike the phrase “close the sale”.  

I used to sell products that were consumables used on a continuing basis so I preferred to think of the first sale as “opening a relationship”. So, how to close a sale  was less important to me than how to start a business relationship.

Introduction to How to Close a Sale

“Closing the Sale” is the process of asking for the sale and getting a commitment from your potential customer.

Closing a sale is a critical aspects of the sales process. It is an essential skill. 

The ability to convince a prospect to buy a product or service is what sets a successful salesperson apart from an unsuccessful one. Your job is not done until you have successfully closed the sale, and that means using a combination of techniques and strategies to persuade the customer to make the purchase. 

Closing is the point where the buyer decides whether or not to purchase your product or service and many salespeople struggle with closing deals especially if they don't have a solid understanding of the sales process and effective techniques to use. 

There is no doubt closing requires skill, finesse, and a deep understanding of the customer’s needs and wants.

And there is nothing more frustrating than having put in all that effort and having done everything right up to that point and not being able to seal the deal.


But here’s the ironic thing about how to close a sale.

Often whether you close the sale or not happens much earlier in the sale and not at the end.

All the best closing techniques will not save your sale from shoddy research, poor rapport skills, not asking relevant questions and the inability to listen to your prospect.

But first ...

To effectively engage with your prospects, it is crucial to have a solid grasp of the sales process, which comprises several stages:

and then, finally, closing the sale.

Prospecting is the preliminary step in identifying potential customers who may have an interest in your product or service.

Building rapport involves developing a relationship with your potential customer by understanding their requirements and gaining their trust."

Build Rapport, (relationship and trust)

The first step towards making a successful sale is building a rapport with your potential customer, which helps establish trust.
People are more likely to buy from someone they like and trust.
Therefore, it's crucial to take the time to understand your prospect, find common ground (if possible), ask relevant questions, listen actively, empathize with them, and provide honest answers to their questions.
By demonstrating a genuine interest in their needs and concerns, you can build a strong relationship with them and increase your chances of closing the sale.

In addition to building rapport through verbal communication, matching and mirroring your prospect's body language and voice qualities can also create a sense of connection and comfort around you. This IS Rapport Building.

When it comes to trust, Stephen Covey, the author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, explains that there are two components of trustworthiness: character and competence:

Character includes qualities such as integrity, honesty, fairness, and ethics.Having a strong character demonstrates reliability and trustworthiness, and it assures your potential customer that you have their best interests at heart.
No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care” – President Theodore Roosevelt.

Competence refers to your abilities, skills, and knowledge in your area of expertise. Developing a strong competence instills a sense of capability and trustworthiness in your customers. Therefore, take the time to understand your industry and your product or service thoroughly to become a valuable resource for your clients.
Oren Klaff in his book "Flip the Script" has a unique method for establishing your competence.

Remember that building a relationship with your customer not only increases the likelihood that they will make a purchase but it also increases the likelihood that they will refer others to your business.

Understand Your Prospect's Needs

The second step in how to close a sale is to fully understand your prospect's needs. 

To close a sale successfully, you need to understand the buyer's needs and wants

Ask them probing questions (often open-ended questions) about what they're looking for, what they would like to achieve (their goals and motivations), what problems they're trying to solve, and what their budget is.
Listen carefully to their answers. 

For example, asking questions like "What are you looking for in a new car?” instead of “Do you need a new car?" will give your prospect the opportunity to explain their needs in more detail, which will help you understand how you can help them.

Once you have a clear understanding of their needs, you can tailor your pitch to address those specific points. 

A useful principle to remember here is that people are either motivated by the carrot or the stick. That is, they are either seeking to end or avoid a problem or they are moving towards some goal.
Phrase your language according to witch direction they are moving in.

Qualify Them

It's essential to determine if the prospect has a genuine need for your product or service, if they have the budget to purchase it, and if they have the authority to make the buying decision.
Qualifying leads is crucial to ensure that you, as the salesperson, are spending your time and resources on the right prospects.

Identify the Decision-Maker 

It's pointless to present a solution to someone who isn't in a position to buy. Therefore, one of the most crucial steps in closing a sale is to identify the decision-maker. Once you confirm that they qualify and have the authority to make a decision, you can move on to offering your solution.

Present a Solution

After understanding the buyer's needs, it's important to present a solution that addresses their specific pain points.
Remember to offer solutions rather than just products.
Highlight the benefits of your product or service and explain how it can solve their problems.
Ensure that you focus on the value your product or service will provide to them, not just its features.
This approach helps establish your credibility and expertise in your field, making the customer more likely to trust your recommendations.

Ask for the Sale

One of the most common mistakes that salespeople make is not asking for the sale. Many salespeople assume that the buyer will take the next step on their own, which can be a missed opportunity. If you want to know how to close a sale it's crucial to be direct and ask your potential customer if they're ready to make a purchase. If they're not ready, you can ask them about their concerns and address them to move the sale forward.

Handle Objections

If you sell anything, you will inevitably encounter objections.

As the well-known sales trainer Tom Hopkins says, “There's not a product or service on the market that doesn't have some built-in objections and at least a few minor problems." Therefore, even the most interested customer may have concerns or objections about making a purchase.

Objections should be viewed as an opportunity to address potential customers' concerns and demonstrate that you understand their needs. The most effective way to handle objections is to carefully listen to what your potential customers are saying and respond with empathy. If objections are not effectively addressed, they can derail a sale.

Handling objections involves addressing any concerns or objections that customers may have about your product or service.

I have extensively written about sales objections. (click this link to read more)

Understand Your Prospect (as well as their needs and wants)

Sales trainers often emphasize the importance of understanding prospects' needs and desires when they write about how to close a sale, but they often overlook the importance of understanding the prospects themselves.

People have preferred communication styles. You may have heard of VAK: Visual, Auditory, or Kinaesthetic (feelings). People often stick to one of these modalities.  However, this is just one aspect of the unique ways in which individuals communicate.

Furthermore, people have preferred thinking patterns and ways of making decisions. By asking the right questions, you can identify these patterns and tailor your language to match their communication style, make sense of things, and decision-making process.To read more about How Prospects Make Decisions, click on this link."

To find out 7 ways to find and utilise your prospects patterns go to Responsive Customers.

Using these will set you up well when it’s time to close the sale. 

Use Social Proof

Social proof is an effective tool for closing a sale, as people are more likely to purchase when they see that others have had a positive experience with your product or service. Utilize testimonials, case studies, and reviews to demonstrate to potential buyers that your product or service has helped others in similar situations.

Social proof is an influential method of demonstrating to customers that others have benefited from your product or service.

According to the Salesforce blog, incorporating social proof early in the sales process can establish trust and credibility with your customer.

This approach can instill confidence in your product or service, ultimately increasing the likelihood of the customer choosing to purchase from you.

Create a Sense of Urgency

Establishing a sense of urgency can be a powerful technique for closing a sale.

People are more likely to make a purchase when they believe they might miss out on an opportunity. You can create urgency by offering a limited-time promotion, emphasising the scarcity of your product or service, or by reminding the buyer of the consequences of not taking action.

Incentives can also encourage urgency and make the customer more inclined to purchase from you.

Additionally, highlighting the limited availability of your product or service can be a way to foster a sense of urgency.
For example, saying "We have limited stock of this product, so if you want to ensure that you get it, it would be wise to order now" or "This special offer of an extended warranty is only available until the end of the month" can create a sense of urgency for the customer.

Actual Closing Techniques

  1. The Assumptive Close.
    The assumptive close is a technique where you assume that the customer has already decided to make the purchase. For example, instead of asking "Are you interested in purchasing this product?" you might say, "When would you like us to deliver your new product?" This technique works well when the customer has already expressed interest in the product.
  2. The Urgency Close / Scarcity Close.
    The urgency close is a technique where you create a sense of urgency around the purchase. This can be done by emphasizing that the product is in high demand, or that the sale is ending soon. For example, you might say, "This product is flying off the shelves, and we only have a few left in stock. If you want to secure yours, you need to act fast."
  3. The Ben Franklin Close.
    The Ben Franklin close is a technique where you list the pros and cons of making the purchase. This helps the customer see the benefits of the purchase while acknowledging any concerns they may have. For example, you might say, "On the one hand, this product will help you save time and money. On the other hand, I appreciate that you're concerned about the price and when I think about it and the long-term benefits it offers, the price seems a small investment."
  4. The Option Close.
    The option close is a technique where you offer the customer two options, both of which lead to a sale. For example, you might say, "Would you like to pay in full today, or would you prefer to take advantage of our financing options?" This technique empowers the customer to make a decision and helps move the sale forward.
  5. The Summary Close.
    The summary close is a technique where you summarize the benefits of the product or service before asking for the sale. This helps reinforce the customer's interest in the product and reminds them of why they wanted to make the purchase in the first place. For example, you might say, "So, just to recap, this product will help you save time, increase productivity, and streamline your operations. Based on everything we've discussed, are you ready to make the purchase?"
  6. The Columbo Close.
    This technique is based on the TV detective Columbo's trademark move of suddenly "remembering" another question he wanted to ask just as he's walking away from the suspect. In sales, this technique involves pretending to accept "maybe" and walking away before "remembering" an important point for the customer to consider while they're thinking about the purchase. For example, you might say, "I just remembered an important point for you to consider while you're thinking about this purchase. Can I have just another moment of your time?"
    When you pretended to accept “maybe” and the customer thought you were headed for the door, the pressure on them to make a decision disappeared.
  7. The "Puppy Dog Close".
    This technique is based on the idea that people who visit pet stores and cuddle with puppies are highly susceptible to purchasing them. In sales, this technique involves allowing the potential customer to experience the product or service firsthand. This could involve utilizing a free trial period, retaining a product for a month, or similar approaches.
  8. The Sharp Angle Close.
    This technique is used to handle experienced negotiators who expect discounts or add-ons during sales conversations. By offering what they want but at a cost, sales professionals can surprise these customers and gain an upper hand in the discussion. For instance, you might say, "Yes, I can hold four months of stock for you, but only if you order now."

Use Closing Phrases

In addition to using effective sales techniques, it's also helpful to use closing phrases to seal the deal. These phrases can help create a sense of urgency or emphasise the benefits of the purchase. Hubspot provides several examples of effective closing phrases and I have included some others:

  • "If you're ready to get started, I can help you place the order today."
  • "Based on everything we've discussed, it sounds like this product is a perfect fit for your needs."
  • "I don't want you to miss out on this opportunity to improve your business."
  • "When would you like to start using your new product?"
  • "I'm confident that this product will exceed your expectations."
  • "Would you like me to place the order for you?" 
  • "When would you like to receive your product?" 
  • "I appreciate that this is a significant investment, and I believe that the value our product/service provides makes it worth the cost. What do you think?"
  • "If you're ready to take the next step, I can get the paperwork started right away. What do you say?"
  • "I want to thank you for your time today. I think our product/service can help you solve your problem, and I'm excited to work with you. Are you ready to move forward?"
  • "If I could offer you X, would you be ready to make a purchase today?"
  • "Shall we proceed with the purchase?" 
  • "This is the last opportunity to take advantage of this offer."

Follow Up

After you've closed the sale, it's important to follow up with the customer; otherwise, you might create the impression that once you've got their business, you disappear. Following up shows that you care about their satisfaction and helps build a long-term relationship.

Salesforce recommends following up within 24-48 hours of the sale to ensure that the customer is happy with their purchase and to answer any questions they may have.

It also pays to check in periodically (longer term) after the sale to see how they're doing

Conclusion, how to close a sale

In conclusion, closing a sale is an essential skill for any salesperson and to do it successfully requires a combination of skills, strategies, and techniques. Building rapport and trust with your prospect is the foundation for a successful sale. Qualifying the prospect, understanding their needs and them personally is essential to tailor your solution to meet their needs. Don’t waste your time presenting to a non-decision-maker. Presenting a solution and asking for the sale can be nerve-wracking, but with the right closing techniques and phrases, you can confidently close the deal. Remember to handle objections with empathy and understanding and leverage social proof to establish credibility. Creating a sense of urgency can also be a powerful motivator for your prospect to take action. Finally, don't forget to follow up with your prospect to solidify the relationship and potentially generate future sales. By mastering these skills, you can become a successful salesperson and achieve your sales goals.

Further Reading