There is an art to making the sale and closing deals.
It’s part psychology, part problem-solving, and a ton of active listening skills. There are a few key things you can master that will help you close more deals and have more effective meetings.
- Establishing a good meeting process
- Understanding your prospect’s pain points (and how your offering solves them)
- Listening for buying signals and being able to react
- Appropriate follow-up
We could write an essay on each point and how exactly to execute, but let’s cover the basics for now.
Establishing a Good Meeting Process
Having a good meeting flow is essential to building trust with your prospect. If there is no meeting structure and you’re fumbling with questions or where to go next, why would your prospect trust your service or product to reflect something else?
Warranted or not, you are the face of the service or product.
The prospect’s opinion on it and your company’s ability to execute rely heavily on how well you handle meeting flow and prospect objections.
Have your steps lined out from beginning to end, especially if your first meeting is a demo and not just a discovery meeting where you’re asking questions to figure out where you fit in your prospect’s business strategy.
You can define these steps in multiple ways, from the traditional outlining method (like you did in your school essays) to the more fun (and better for visual learners) process of creating a flowchart.
Tips and Warnings
- Don’t be too rigid in your structure – your outline or flowchart is meant to be a guide, so you know how each part flows into the next. Don’t alienate the prospect by forcing them to stick to your directions!
- Include key stats, examples, or phrases – if there are certain words, phrases, statistics, or examples that work well for you in meetings, write them down in the appropriate section, so you’re more likely to remember.
- If creating a deck, write down which slides correspond with which outlined sections/flowchart bubbles; that way, you don’t get out of sync with your deck and are sure that everything you want to say has a time and a place
Understanding the Pain Points
This is where having strong discovery questions comes in handy. You already have a basic idea of why the prospect is taking a meeting with you – their needs align with what your product or service provides.
The meeting is where you hammer out the more minor details.
If you aren’t sure what to ask, you won’t be able to get enough information on the prospect to properly advise them or direct them to the correct services or product. They won’t trust you to understand them, and it will be harder to move forward in the sales process.
If you still need to figure out which discovery questions you should be asking, this is an excellent time to work backward:
- What does the team need to properly execute on the deliverables?
- What does the prospect need to look like to qualify? (Revenue, yearly spend, budget, location – whatever qualifies them, if not already asked, should be on your list of questions)
- What are things that might indicate the fit is bad?
These are all good things to have as discovery questions.
Listen for Buying Signals
What are buying signals?
Buying signals are things a prospect says or does that indicate they have a genuine interest in buying and might want to move forward. A prospect with no intention of buying is unlikely to ask for more details on price or a specific application, for example.
Here’s a short list of some key buying signals to look out for:
- Asking questions about the product/service – Your prospect is showing interest in your offering and is willing to spend the time to figure out if you can help them
- Sharing information – When your prospect volunteers information about their needs and challenges, they willingly give you the tools you need to figure out a solution. They want you to find a solution for them.
- Questions about price – When a prospect asks for pricing information, they’ve typically decided that they want the solution you’re offering (or one similar to it) and want to see if you fit in their budget and how you compare to other providers. This is an indication they are ready to move forward soon.
- Asking for references – When you get to this point, the prospect has evaluated your product or service, identified that it meets their need, and now wants social proof. If you can, ensure the reference companies you provide look like the prospect’s company.
- Asking about next steps – This is verbal proof that the prospect wants to move forward. They want to keep engaged, and they want to know where they are in your sales process so they can buy from you.
Being able to answer these questions is essential – if a prospect asks for references and you have none, that can kill the deal immediately. If they ask for basic information and you don’t know the answer, that also erodes confidence and trust. You should also know how to talk about pricing. “It depends” is not an appropriate answer in itself. Be able to give them a ballpark on the price – all the variables that price depends on should have been discovered in the meeting or prior conversation. If they aren’t, add them to your discovery question list to ensure you get all the info you need to quote appropriately.
Know your facts, numbers, and sales process!
This is where good deals go to die.
You can have a fantastic meeting, find out you’re a perfect fit for their needs, they’re excited to go forward, and… you forget to follow up. You take too long to get a quote to them. You thought somebody else was going to follow up and they didn’t. There are many ways for a follow-up to fall through and many ways you can avoid them.
This is where a strong sales process is necessary! Know each step of your sales cycle, how the prospect moves through the pipeline, and who is responsible for each step, and keep on top of it!
If you’re not in a CRM, at the very least, give yourself alerts to remind you using your phone or calendar program. Whatever it takes.
If you forget to follow up and emotions cool, or you fumble the handoff process, it can kill a deal immediately or make it significantly harder to close.
Be ready to quote, have your follow-up steps outlined, know when to execute them, and make sure to actually execute them.
Here are the cliff notes of the workflow we use to close deals:
1. Have the discovery meeting (and learn what you need to quote and move to the next step of your sales cycle)
2. Immediately schedule a second meeting if you’re moving forward. Don’t wait until later. You can always cancel a meeting if things fall through, but you never know if you’ll be able to get somebody back on the phone.
3. Send a recap email to the prospect with timeframes and a reminder of commitments (for both sides!)
4. Send any marketing collateral, quotes, proposals, or planning documents at least 24 hours before the next meeting. Give them time to look over everything! Even better, send over the quote and proposal ASAP and send it again in the 24 hours prior to the meeting so they don’t have to search their inbox for it.
5. Have the second meeting, review any quotes, proposals, or planning documents, answer any questions the prospect has, and get feedback from the prospect. Ask timeframe questions and get commitments, e.g., “if this is signed by X date, then we can start on X date.”
6. Remind your prospect of their commitments and whatever else was discussed in the meeting with a post-meeting recap email sent the same day. Hold them accountable to these commitments and timelines established!
7. Conduct weekly outreach via phone or email until the prospect agrees to sign or until they tell you no.
8. If they agree to sign, send over the final proposal/quote for signature, let them know you’ve sent it over (if sending via a service like DocuSign), and remind them of the original timeframe.
Holding your prospect accountable is just as important as holding yourself accountable when in the final steps of closing the deal.