Discovery and qualification are more important than a hard close in modern sales, but that doesn’t mean you no longer have to ask for the business.
The information you learned from your prospect at the start of the sales process only gets you 95% of the way to a deal. That last 5% — negotiation, pricing discussions, and the close — can feel more pressure-filled and stressful than everything that came before it.
That’s especially true if you’re making any of the closing mistakes below, which will unnecessarily prolong your sales cycle at best, and derail the deal completely at worst.
10 Sales Closing Mistakes to Stop Making Right Now
1) Not closing at every step of the sales process
When I wrote in the introduction of this piece that closing comprises the last 5% of a sales cycle, it was a slight overgeneralization. While formal closing and negotiations don’t happen until the end of a sales cycle, the best salespeople build in small closes right from the start.
That’s because a polite or indecisive prospect can easily be strung through an entire sales process by an overzealous salesperson who equates their prospect’s lack of objection as buy-in, not hesitation. Qualification goes both ways — you should make it a priority that as you’re determining whether your buyer is a good fit, you’re also looking for signs that they want to move forward.
At the end of every call or conversation, set a clear next step and ensure your prospect is committed to it. If they seem to be waffling or unsure, don’t be afraid to flat-out ask what’s holding them back. If they’re going to walk away from the deal anyway, it’s better to find out sooner, not later.
2) Failing to ask for the business
If you’ve done your job and have gotten a series of small commitments from your prospect, it can seem like the final deal is inevitable. Building this foundation is important, but it doesn’t guarantee a signed and sealed deal on your desk or in your inbox.
Prospects, especially if they’re first-time buyers, won’t know when a deal has come to an end. Your job is to guide them through the process, and that means clearly indicating what steps you’ll take and what steps your prospects need to take. Unless you signal that the discovery, presentation, and recommendations portion of the sales process are over, your prospect won’t necessarily know it’s time to make a final decision.
Asking the question directly — “Are you ready to buy today?” — can also be the jolt a lagging deal needs to bring it back to life or get it out of your pipeline entirely. A prospect who’s trying to avoid or ghost on you is a loose end, and asking a direct question that they can’t get out of answering is a good way to tie it up.
3) Not creating a sense of urgency
Purchasing decisions are driven by two things: Need and timing. If a need is great but other priorities are more important, your deal will get pushed. If a need is great but the prospect doesn’t understand why they need to address it right now, your deal will also get pushed.
Identifying pain isn’t enough to close a deal. You have to create the right timing as well, and that means creating a sense of urgency. Explaining to your prospect not only why they should act but why they should also act now is the only way to close a deal.
4) Not knowing the prospect’s decision criteria
Asking for the business is a way to signal to prospects that the end of the sales process has arrived. Of course, you also need to be aware when it’s time to ask for it. Asking too soon makes the prospect feel rushed, while asking too late will make the deal last longer than it has to.
At the beginning of every sales process, make sure you find out what specific criteria the decision maker needs to make a purchase. Do they need the vendor to follow a certain review or legal process? Do they need a specific set of features or a specific business case to be built? Find out these criteria and fulfill them methodically so a natural endpoint becomes obvious.
5) Not understanding the prospect’s purchasing process
Understanding the purchasing process is a similar, but slightly different requirement than #4. Some companies require a legal review or formal procurement process to get a deal done. Others are required to evaluate a certain number of vendors. Still others will have specific requirements for payment terms or types.
Know this process before formal negotiations start, so that you won’t get through the entire closing sequence only to have to go through a weeks-long review process before the deal can be signed.
6) Closing before everyone is at the table
Negotiating with the wrong people is a waste of time. They won’t be able to tell you whether a decision can be made or what it will be. Bring in all necessary stakeholders and have them up to speed on the your progress thus far before you start talking about pricing and terms.
7) Using underhanded closing tricks
You should have run a straightforward and honest sales process up to this point, so why stop now?
Too many salespeople fall back on tricks and techniques designed to persuade their prospect into closing before they’re necessarily ready to. The problem with those tricks is that they’re completely transparent, put unnecessary pressure on buyers, and don’t even work that well.
Keep your behavior above water throughout the entire sales process, unless you want to leave your buyer with a bad taste in their mouth at the eleventh hour.
8) Closing too early
Just as you wouldn’t pitch your product (we hope) on the first call, you shouldn’t try to close when you’re only halfway through discovery. The sales cycle can and should be sped up if it’s possible to do so without cutting corners, but oftentimes you’ll need to follow each step and work on the buyer’s timeline to get a deal signed. Trying to force a sale over the finish line when you’ve only completed a few of these steps will prematurely end a deal that you could have eventually won.
9) Not understanding their bottom line
Making a sale isn’t the end-all, be-all. The deal has to be mutually beneficial to both parties, and that means not compromising on price or payment terms to a point where you’re harming your company. Be accommodating where you can and help your buyer out if they’re genuinely willing to commit to a purchase, but don’t agree to terms that are so far from your company’s bottom line that you’d be better off walking away.
10) Talking too much
At the negotiation table, silence is your best friend. Salespeople routinely talk themselves out of a deal: Their prospect is fully bought-in and ready to discuss specific terms, but the rep gets so excited that they keep going … and going … and going … They accidentally introduce doubt into the buyer’s mind. Poof. That’s the sound of money disappearing.
If you tend to be a chatty closer, remember this: No one ever listened their way out of a deal. Every time you finish introducing a new term, responding to a question, offering a concession, or most importantly, stating your price, you should shut up. And when your prospect says, Sounds great, I think we’re ready to move forward, wrap up the conversation and end the meeting.
What other closing mistakes should salespeople avoid? Let us know in the comments below.