Definitive guide to closing in the 2010’s

Executive Summary

In this 1,700 word article, Paul shows how you must close your sales with the modern consumer who wants to buy, not be sold to. Paul’s secret is to close throughout, by getting “ticks” of approval from your customer along your sales process.

Objection handling for the 2010’s is also explored with the real way to handle this sensitive area.

An excellent summary as to how all salespeople should be closing with the modern consumer.

Today’s customer

People often ask me what distinguishes a true salesperson, from someone who acts part-time in this role, or who dabbles in selling.

The answer is closing.

Closing the sale does have too many associations with cheesy 1980’s salespeople and reminds me of Alec Baldwin playing Blake in the film Glengarry Glen Ross. A-B-C. A-always, B-be, C-closing. Always be closing! Always be closing!!

Today we help the customer buy since they’re in charge more than ever before. Especially when selling to Generation X’s (typically born between 1965 and 1980), these people will back off immediately when a salesperson attempts to close them.  They have an in-built cynical radar to salespeople.  They don’t trust them and prefer to be in control of their buying.

Today, we can’t wait until the end of our sales process to ask for the business, it just doesn’t work that way anymore. However we have to close somehow otherwise we’re not professional salespeople.

Customer ticks

The answer is you radically change the way you’re measured as a salesperson and you examine your sales process to find the customer tick points.  A customer tick point is where your customer has to take some action to move the sale along and it’s these that you close on. Simple, as Sergei Meercat, would say.

Let me explain.  Here’s the typical sales process:


As you can see, we have the close and that’s where typically, most salespeople do their closing.  This is far too late and will throw up objections that we try to overcome.

No, we need to build in customer tick points.  Where the customer needs to give us a tick to move along their buying cycle.  We close to obtain these ticks. Here’s some examples.


Inbound marketing gravity

You can see that it all starts in the inbound marketing, which is when customers interact with us and our company online.  With the customer looking to solve their pains and problems or satisfy their needs, they’re looking online for solutions and recommendations.  Here we have ticks such as downloading an article, “liking” you on Facebook, reviewing your LinkedIn profile.  There’s not much we can do here to close the customer, they do it themselves and will contact us when they’re ready.  Gravity will draw them towards your solution, if your gravitational pull is strong enough.

Knee jerk reactions

If you operate a proactive appointment approach at this stage, then you need to be aware of brush-offs or knee jerk-reactions.  These are ways of the customer trying to get rid of you because you’ve disturbed them or interrupted their buying process. They need more time to think it through in their heads because you’ve caught them off balance.

You might be on the phone looking to fix up an appointment.  These are not real objections or blockages because the customer hasn’t revealed their need to you yet and doesn’t know much about your solution.  They just want rid of you or need more thinking time.

The best tactic with knee-jerk reactions is to accept that this is exactly what they are.  Take the example of you browsing in a store and the salesperson comes up to you and asks if they can help you.  What do you say?  Typically you’ll say something like you’re not ready, or just looking, or not now.

Or you’re being offered something over the phone, and you say that you’ll think about it.  Recognise them?  Of course you do because we do it all the time with salespeople.

So treat them for what they are, just brush offs and make your request again. Acknowledge them properly but just ask again in a different way, remembering to sound polite and non aggressive. Oddly you’ll find your customer agreeing the second time around because they’ve had more time to work out your request and their instant reaction has been tempered.

The final word on knee jerk reactions.  Are you closing too early to something the customer is not ready for yet.  In the store, maybe you were too early in your buying cycle, maybe you did genuinely need time to browse first.

Test closes

With the first contact, you need to build your rapport.  Ticks come along with observing their body language to see that they’re open and want to talk further, perhaps pacing your speed and posture.  A useful close here are test closes.

Those little assertions on your part.

“Is everything OK so far?”

“Is this looking like being a useful meeting?”

“How does that sound Mr Brown?”

Trial closes

During the meeting when we begin to explore the customer’s pains, problems and goals to see if our solution is going to help them, the kind of ticks we’re looking for are permission to give you sensitive information possibly. If you operate a two-stage process, then you’ll be wanting commitment from them for the next meeting.

Trial closes work well here. These are asking for the sale if the solution might fit later.  They’re not full blown “take it or leave it” kind of closes but more subtle such as:

“If I come up with a financial plan that does all this for you, are you in a position to go ahead?”

“If we can get the charges reduced slightly, would you consider going ahead?”

At this stage a stylish Yes Tag can work wonders.  Yes Tags are neat little endings to sentences which seek a positive nod from the customer.  Used sparingly they are very effective. The statement you make needs to finish with a “isn’t it?” or a “don’t you think”, for example.

“You’re looking for a tailored solution for that, aren’t you?”

“An investment in a tax free environment would be spot on, wouldn’t it?”

Asking for the business

During the solution presentation, you’ll want their agreement that the solution suits them and takes care of the issues they came to see you about. And naturally, you’ll want them to go ahead with the solution, the final asking or closing.

There’s a whole library of techniques you can use here, and entire books have been written on the subject.  The point is though, that if you’ve done your testing and trialling, and have received ticks from your customer along your sales process, then the final asking needn’t be difficult.  Just ask.

You can assume the sale is going ahead and just dig out the form, saying something like

“Let’s go ahead then, shall we?”

“Let’s go ahead with the paperwork now, shall we?”

Or a Yes Tag might work here

“You’d like to proceed, wouldn’t you?”

Hypnotic closes

You could get hypnotic in your closing. Now I’ve got your attention.

The three part convincer is very powerful.  You see everything comes in threes, triples are magical and flow. So always give people lists of three things maximum.  Couple this with a convincer and you’ll close anyone. Convincers are the number of times people need to be told something to be convinced.  Most customers are convinced on 3.

Give a convincer to start with, then another convincer, and then ask for the business. For example…

“This plan is totally suited to your risk profile we talked about… and it will produce the returns you stated in your proposal… so let’s go ahead shall we?”

Handling reservations

Sales seldom get made without encountering some issues or hiccups along the way, because the customer is unlikely to be happy with everything. It’s natural they will have reservations and it’s also accepted that we should be able to handle them elegantly.

The secret in handling reservations is not to employ the carefully thought through acronym or process, but to pre-empt and stop them happening in the first place.  All top performing salespeople do this. They take the customer along their buying cycle and bring in typical problems that other customers have encountered.  They suggest the issue and then overcome it in the same breath.

For example, if your price is particularly high in the market you operate in, then bring this up and hammer home the extra value you provide. Or if you don’t offer your widget in a huge range of colours, bring this up and explain why and the value this brings to your customer.

You must do this during the sales cycle, don’t let the customer bring it up.  Besides if you’re doing your testing and trialling, these issues will raise themselves a lot earlier and you can deal with them at that point.

Listen to them, I mean really listen

When your customer raises an issue, how do you handle it? My best advice here is to really listen to what they have to say and stop trying to justify the issue.  No, wait, listen to them, I mean really listen to them. Don’t go into your usual autopilot and start thinking what we’re going to say before they’ve even finished telling you their problem. We all do it. But we must stop thinking about what to say next, we should truly listen to them.

Once we’ve heard them, playback what they just said to see that you’ve understood them and then you can probe to find out a little more. Once you’ve established completely their reservation, then you can justify it or pile on the value to see if they’re content to go ahead.

LAPAC summarises this.  Listen, acknowledge them, probe them, answer them and close them. LAPAC was first created when sales evolved from the shiny shoe boys of the 1950’s. It’s very last century and should be used with care.  My recommendation is you pre-empt any reservations during your selling, not at the end. If you don’t know what the weaknesses are in your proposition, ask your competition, they’ll tell you.

ABC – always be closing

Alec Baldwin was correct in the film.  You should always be closing, but doing so in an elegant manner is the key.  The other secret is to seek customer ticks along their buying process. If you seek and achieve these ticks, then closing will just naturally happen.  Ask any superstar salesperson of the 2010’s.