Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

Secrets to Becoming a Top Closer

Charlie Anderson is a sales consultant, trainer, motivational speaker and author. He started his career in the newspaper business; his family owned a group of newspapers in the Boston area.

Charlie Anderson is a sales consultant, trainer, motivational speaker and author. He started his career in the newspaper business; his family owned a group of newspapers in the Boston area. He now has close to 23 years of sales and entrepreneurship experience and spends much of his time consulting and training outside sales at newspapers across the country.

Anderson took a moment out of his busy schedule to talk about one of the most essential aspects of outside sales: closing the sale. He explained that there are many components that contribute to a good closing ratio. “It’s about having the right attitude and having the right skill set,” Anderson explains. Anderson arrived at his conclusions after interviewing hundreds of sales people for his book “The Secret to Sales Greatness,” which he released in 2008. His research showed a direct correlation between a salesperson’s attitude and their close ratio. “Every single thought and subsequent actions will have an effect on their ability to close sales,” Anderson stated.

There are many ways your thoughts and attitudes could sabotage your closing ratios, and Anderson gave me a few examples of those:

Some salespeople think it’s not their responsibility to ask for the sale. They assume that the prospect will just say whether or not they want to work with them; essentially, they assume the sale.

Every single thought and subsequent actions will have an effect on their ability to close sales.”

They believe that the more proposals and presentations they make, the more sales they’ll close. They think it’s only a numbers game, but there is a lot more to it than just numbers.

Some salespeople think that their pricing is the reason they’re not making a sale, and if they had better pricing they’d close more sales. But, as Anderson says, “To me that’s just an excuse of that’s getting in the way of closing.” Closing is about differentiating yourself from the competition by adding greater value.

The fear of coming across as too pushy is a key factor in not closing a sale. Salespeople often feel like if they ask for the sale more than once, they’ll come across as pushy, as a result, they never follow up or ask for the sale a third time.

Anderson says the way to get around the pushy stereotype is to demonstrate that your intention as a salesperson is not to sell, but to help. Your primary goal should be to find prospects that need and want your help. If your approach to selling is trying to convince people to do business with you, you’ll come across as pushy. “It’s more about style and delivery,” Anderson states, “not about the number of times you ask for the sale.”

Anderson believes that the difference between a top closer and an average closer lies in the salesperson’s belief system. A top closer emphatically believes in their products and services, and company. They also believe in their ability as a salesperson and in their ability to close a sale. While an average closer doesn’t have the same convictions and beliefs in the products, services, company and/or pricing. “Salespeople have to understand that our buyers buy our conviction and belief in what we sell,” Anderson explains. “We have to believe in order for them to believe. If we demonstrate doubt, they buy that as well. We have to believe in our products and our services and our professionalism as a salesperson. We have to believe it’s our responsibility to close the sale.”

1.) Listen and understand what the prospects are saying. In order to be a better listener, salespeople have to teach themselves to listen to the words and interpret the meanings. They need to understand what the prospects are trying to say instead of simply hearing. Follow the 80:20 rule of communication: salespeople need to do 20% of the talking and 80% of the listening.

2.) Salespeople need to invest more time in building rapport and credibility. This is one of the most important steps in improving the close ratio. To build rapport and credibility, a salesperson needs to be responsible, consistent, empathetic and honest.

3.) Another critical skill set is qualifying. Salespeople need to do a better job qualifying, making sure they’re meeting with the decision maker; qualifying as it relates to the approval process, to the buying motives, and to budget.

So how do you qualify? “It’s about asking more questions and following a sales process,” Anderson explained. If you follow a sales process, the first step is rapport building, the second step is to establish ground rules, and the third is to qualify. “If you’re following a process, you understand there should be a step whereby you qualify the opportunity before investing your time, money and resources.”

4.) Ask for commitments. “For some strange reason, salespeople have a tendency not to ask for commitments,” Anderson mentioned. Commitments are simply verbal agreements between two people to take certain actions. It can be as small as a phone commitment/appointment; an agreed-upon time to talk. This is an important commitment. “I truly feel that closing a sale is all about getting small, little mini commitments throughout the sales process. If you tie them together—you end up with a sale.”

5.) Another important skill is selling value rather than price. A salesperson that merely pedals price doesn’t differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Salespeople need be able to diagnose the prospect’s situation, provide solutions that add value and are meaningful to the prospect. “If they’re coming up against price objections, they’re not differentiating themselves in the marketplace,” Anderson states. “Which means they’re not listening and diagnosing the prospect’s situation.”

6.) Salespeople also need to help prospects move through the change process. Most salespeople don’t realize that in order to make a purchase, prospects have to make a change in what they’re doing. They have to move away from the status quo. The greatest competition we have in sales is status quo thinking, the prospect just doesn’t want to do anything different. It’s our responsibility as professional salespeople to help them realize that every business problem has an impact. Once they realize that their problems have an impact and consequences, they begin to take action.