Is Your Sales Team Struggling to Close? 5 Key Sales Skills to Close More Deals

Craig Christensen

achieving win-win outcomes

I recently had the opportunity to present to a few hundred sales leaders and other executives at Microsoft’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference. During my session, I discussed 5 key skills from my book, Closing: 5 Sales Skills For Achieving Win-Win Outcomes (download an excerpt) that can help them achieve win-win outcomes on future opportunities—skills that are mastered by the top 5 percent of sales performers.  The material has been so well received that I wanted to share this content with other sales leaders whose teams may be struggling with similar issues.

Remember that time...?

We all recall a time when we lost a deal that we were sure we won.  It’s a painful memory we’d love to forget. The problem is that many sales leaders think of “closing” as an event—a key presentation or a point in time where we either win or we lose. But closing is much more than just a single event. Rather, it’s a process of successful decision-making that happens long before the contract is ever signed, and winning or losing the sale depends on whether your salespeople have—or have not—added value to that decision-making process.

Your salespeople may think that their primary job is to close deals, but top-performing salespeople see this differently. They understand that their primary role is to influence good decisions in order to achieve win-win outcomes. When your sales teams engage clients with the intent to do what’s best for the client, the client is far more likely to open up and share their beliefs about what success really is. This enables them to become more of a trusted advisor rather than merely a solution provider. And the more the salesperson understands the client’s needs, the better and more mutually beneficial the decisions become.

Once your sales teams begin to view closing differently, they are ready to learn and practice five key skills.

5 Sales Skills For Achieving Win-Win Outcomes

Skill 1: Identify the “End-in-Mind Decision”

Salespeople often focus too much of their time on trying to “sell” clients on their deal, which can overwhelm clients with too much information (much of it not relevant to the client). They also often rarely clarify the one decision to be made with their clients before a meeting. These tendencies can create confusion—and worse—resistance.

At the end of every sales interaction, a client should confidently and comfortably be able to make a single decision that moves the business forward. While this decision will be unique to each meeting and circumstance, it should always serve both the buyer—and the seller’s interests.

Skill 2: Address “Client Key Beliefs”

Clients’ beliefs significantly influence the decisions they make to move forward, or not.  To confidently make an End-in-Mind Decision and move toward a final business decision, clients must believe that: 1) the salesperson understands their business situation, and 2) that the solution being offered will meet their unique needs. To address these client key beliefs, your sales teams must provide proof points for each of their Client’s Key Beliefs. These proof points allow the client to see, know or feel that the salesperson really understands them. Whether it’s a piece of research, a report or a third-party testimonial, every proof point must satisfy the Client’s Key Beliefs to effectively enable good decision-making.

Skill 3: Resolve objections

Anticipating questions and objections is an important skill for any sales professional; viewing objections as an opportunity rather than a threat is essential to success. An objection can open the doors to explore other options that truly meet a client’s needs. In fact, we’ve found that your sales teams can effectively resolve client concerns by following a simple three-part process to 1) acknowledge, 2) understand and 3) resolve the objections. When handled correctly, clients help to resolve their own concerns and the result is most often a mutually beneficial “win” for both sides.

Skill 4: Prepare the conditions for good decision-making

Far too often, salespeople cave into a client’s request to simply send a proposal rather than meet in person, or they attend client meetings that don’t include the right decision-makers. Other times they may present when the allotted time isn’t enough to adequately reach a decision. To prepare the conditions for good decision-making, your sales professionals must gain the client’s agreement on the meeting agenda, its duration and attendees well in advance of the meeting. This allows for good decisions to be made more quickly and efficiently.

Skill 5: Open purposefully, close powerfully

Top performers close powerfully by getting a decision. It’s that straightforward.

A powerful close begins with a purposeful opening that is clear, client-centric and proposes the End-in-Mind Decision.  When clarity, language and flexibility are skillfully combined in an opening statement, people will often willingly collaborate with you. In addition, if you’ve preconditioned the meeting by gaining agreement on the End-in-Mind Decision and ensuring the right decision-makers are present, you’re more likely to get their buy-in.

We have seen that as salespeople adopt these mindsets and skillsets, they dramatically improve their win rates. By enabling their clients to make better decisions, your salespeople are far more likely to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes so that closing the sale becomes an enjoyable and rewarding process for everyone.

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