WHY CLOSING THE SALE CAN BECOME DIFFICULT
The doctor will answer…
1. The factors that may be causing the difficulties of closing the sale
2. The confidential and sensitive things that are rarely uncovered that can be causing the difficulties
3. Some indicators and danger signals that the sales opportunity may be in trouble
4. How to prevent some of the difficulties
5. What “not to do” when closing a sale become difficult
6. What “to do” when you are unable to close the sale
Difficulties in “closing the sale” happen to most sales people, account managers, and sales managers.
With consumer sales it often is a numbers game.
Out of so many people, only so many will buy if you have done a good job in the sales process.
With business to business sales it is much different.
Closing the sale has always been a challenge.
During the last few years of our economic times, with company downsizings and businesses moving off shore, closing the sale has become more difficult and more frequent, unfortunately.
Factors that may be causing the difficulties of closing the sale include:
1. You failed to complete the fundamentals of the sales process which is to investigate the customer needs, how your products/services meet their needs, their motivation to want your products/services, and build a business relationship with the key contacts of the gate keepers/influencers/decision makers.
Per sales situation there is an average of 3-5 key contacts.
Failure in any of these fundamental things will certainly result in an inability to close a sale.
2. Key contacts have left the company.
3. Key contacts have taken on new positions and responsibilities within the company.
4. Funds may be placed on hold
5. Through the customer’s evaluation of your products or services they may have discovered serious problems and concerns.
6. Your products/services may not be as good as competition which the customer is also looking at
7. Pricing may be an issue no matter how good your products and services are
8. Their may be another key contact of a gate keeper/influencer/decision maker, that no one is telling you about and you have not uncovered.
This can prevent you from closing a sale.
9. The customer may not have sufficient motivation nor have a serious enough need for your products and services.
Other needs just may come first.
10. Their interest in your products and services may be for one of their major projects or accounts. There could be a major change in the situation affecting your opportunity.
11. There may be some distrust towards you, your company or your products and services.
When your key contacts leave the company or change positions, you have to develop a relationship with the replacements.
Certainly ask the previous contact to put in a good word for you with the replacement if possible.
The situation of key contacts changing is common during these business times.
Yes, this certainly slows down the sales process and creates new challenges to over come.
With concerns or issues about product and service quality and reliability, this is a very serious and difficult situation for all.
If there is such, it is important for your company to become aware of it and be aggressive to correct it immediately.
The problem with such issues is that this is something that you do not want the customers, the market or your competition to know about. Correction and improvement is need quickly.
Another problem may be that bringing such issues and problems to the company can place key company individuals in a very poor position and cause much anger and resentment.
This can lead to political turmoil and hard feelings towards you. You may get the blunt of it with bad feelings from those now are in close review and scrutiny due to the situation.
In business, this situation can progress to what is called “kill the messenger” scenario where the person delivering the information of bad news and making the company be aware of it, can get pressured out of the company and terminated.
There is yet another possible uncomfortable situation that can arise from product and service quality issues.
When sales staff are working with excellent potential customers that would be significant business growth for the company, the sales staff get an aura of high regard and fame within the company as being key to some very good new potential accounts.
On the sales staff side, this is a very nice feeling to have and being of such importance can position the person within the company very nicely for promotion, power, bonuses, and possibly financial advancement.
Delivering bad news about product and service issues hindering the establishing of important new customers can certainly shatter this situation.
The company can also view the sales staff as expendable under this situation.
Simply speaking, why keep the sales staff on trying to work on such good potential accounts if the products and services do not function appropriately or adequately.
This situation is not a stable job position to be in.
If the sales staff speaks up about the product and service issues they can lose their job. If they do not speak up, not converting the opportunities and not closing the sale may cause them to lose their job.
There is always a possibility that the company is happy and thankful that the sales staff brought this to their attention to improve especially if correcting the situation is easy for the company to do
The staff may hold onto their position.
What happens if the products and services cannot be improved or if it is very difficult, costly and will take considerable time?
This is a very tough position to be in and the sales staff may fall into a ‘no win’ situation.
The confidential and sensitive things that are often difficult to uncover include;
1. Some of the key contacts in the potential new customer may be planning to leave the company and now not interested in making the decision to purchase your products and services.
2. Some of the key contacts may have ‘fallen out of grace’ so to say with the company due to other situations and they are no longer a key contact for you. They now actually lack credibility or influence in the company.
3. Funds may have been re-allocated to other company needs and no longer available for your products and services.
4. The company may have funds on hold due to internal issues
5. Funds can be placed on hold due to plans to sell the company and more profits are needed on the financial statement to help increase the company’s value.
6. Key decision makers may not have the skills or may not be of the mind set to view your products and services as important.
7. Some of the key contacts may prefer other suppliers and one of your competitors due to personal reasons.
8. Customer expectations of products and services may be at such high levels that neither yours’ nor anyone else can meet their expectations and needs.
They may know this and they are only ‘fishing’ or inquiring in case someone has advanced to a level to meet their high expectations and needs.
9. They may be using your efforts to just gather information for a personal reason such as to share it with your competitor who they have relationship with.
They may even be considering acquiring your company or one of your competitors so they want inside information and a sales call is a great way to get it.
This situation is often used when they already have a preferred supplier and are only using your efforts and pricing to drive down the price of the other preferred supplier.
10. Your efforts may just give them something to do to validate their time on the job and their position. They may not have any intentions of purchasing your products or services.
This happens more often than you can image especially during these economic times of job insecurity.
11. Strategically the contacts in the potential new customer may be using your efforts of trying to sell products and services even though they know that they will not be able to purchase.
That is, they may be strategically setting up a situation where they can protect their job and lack of performance or results by saying “I tried to bring on such and such products and services to help the company but funds were not available and the company turned it down”.
This too, happens more often than you can imagine.
12. Customers can also use your selling efforts to help them leverage for additional funds and budgets in the future.
Some typical indicators of difficulties to come in closing the sale include;
1. They will not share information about other key contacts for discussing your products and services (gate keepers, influencers, decision makers).
Your contact will just claim that they are the main person and only person with full authority, responsibility, and power to make the final decision.
Rarely is their only one person.
The average number of key contacts in an account or customer is 3-5 key contacts per sales situation which covers the Gate Keepers, Influencers and Decision Makers.
2. When ever you attempt to coordinate a meeting with the other important contacts
your key contact does not support this or interferes and works at preventing such. If they do not help coordinate such an effort to professionally be in contact with 3-5 key contacts, this is a major indicator of problems to come.
3. If the customer does not furnish important information to you that you ask for that is important for you to understand their needs and how your products or services can meet and exceed such needs.
4. If the customer cannot verify that there is a budget and funding available to purchase your products and services now.
5. If the customer cannot tell you what factors could stand in the way and interfere with purchasing your products and services now, beware.
There are always things that could interfere and most buyers know what they are. If they are not willing to share these with you, they may actually not be key contacts or they may not be honest about their desire to purchase from you.
6. If the key contacts of your potential new customer refuse an invitation to visit your company’s location even though you offer to provide the transportation at your own cost.
Preventing some of these difficulties is fundamental good sales and business practices.
If the sales opportunity is important or significant, always utilize a team effort.
Arrange for a couple of your key company staff to accompany you on some of the sales meetings with the customer’s key contacts.
Let it be a group meeting with beneficial exchange of information.
You then become the main coordinator of your team.
Each person on your team is to have an important role and function.
They are assigned specific questions to ask and information to get in addition to important information to discuss.
Also, they have an important objective to establish rapport with other key contacts at the customer so they can personally contact them later to help with the sales process, get important information, and help work out any issues
The sales staff should be prepared to coordinate the development of such relationship building.
With this approach, a good business relationship between the two companies can be developed.
If coordinating such a meeting runs into difficulties, at least get the members of your team to personally contact by telephone the other key contacts in the potential new customer.
Coordinating a team approach on both your side and the customer’s side is utmost important for successfully building a strong business relationship.
A saying in the business world about important key accounts is “It may be fun and a big ego boost to win a big account by yourself but you should never lose a big account by yourself”.
If the sales opportunity is significant and important I encourage you to formally summarize meeting notes in writing and share with all key contacts of your team and the customer’s. Include action items and time frames.
Have a formal written agenda with objectives and staff attending for all personal sales meetings.
This will keep everything clear, honest, professional, and on track forward.
Normally, if the customer is not earnest about their intentions of developing a business relationship and purchasing from you, this professional approach will bring them to an important decision.
This will gain their favor and confidence to do business with you; or they will just terminate their interest with you all together and just say that they are no longer interested or in a position to do business with you.
This is alright since you do not want to waste anyone’s time and efforts, theirs or yours.
You can also have your senior executives and president personally call the potential customer’s senior executives to say thank you for giving you the opportunity to discuss doing business together and developing a business relationship.
This approach is very powerful and achieves great results.
You can do the same with your customer service manager calling the potential new account’s customer service manager and other key staffing as well.
This approach builds a strong foundation for a good business relationship.
If there are issues and concerns of trust or confidence in anything, the team approach will normally uncover them and you give you an opportunity to handle them accordingly with the appropriate management level.
I advise you not to insult people with any high pressure sales techniques. Such techniques have been well publicized in so many medias.
If you use them, the customer normally is wise to such and often will get insulted.
They may then refuse to work with you any further.
If this does happen, the best thing to do is to transfer the account immediately to another sales staff or account manager, and hopefully they can salvage the situation.
No matter how well everything seems to be proceeding, sometimes you are still unable to close the sale.
When this occurs, it is often due to one of the hidden reasons listed earlier in this information.
When closing a sale becomes difficult you also can use the approach of reviewing all of the information, progress and any written summaries.
Then professionally mention that you understand that there can be numerous confidential reasons for not proceeding to purchase the products or services and establishing a good business relationship.
You then can professionally ask if they can possibly share any of the details with you so you can understand how to proceed and in what time frame.
Do this with all of the key contacts.
If the issue comes down to confidence and trust in your company, products and services, you may have to wait for a “changing of the guard” where those staff not trusting or liking your company moves on and are replaced by other staff without bad feelings towards your company.
Another tactic is to quote your products and services at cost or below to take one last chance to obtain the new customer based on low pricing.
If this does not work, maybe the low price quoting will force your competition to take the business at cost or below denying them of profit.
Whether you win or lose a new customer, you should always review what you did right, wrong, or could have done different.
Such a review should be done with anyone that you feel comfortable with; from people in your professional business associations or trade associations, fellow staff, peer group, management staff, trainers, consultants or anyone else possible.
This is the only way to improve and advance your expertise.