In my personal opinion, retail sales closing techniques do not work, in the same way, in business to business product marketing. The business to business sales process requires a different skill set in closing a product technology sale, particularly when launching a new product.
Sales closes must be used with a different skill set and less often in corporate sales, since organizations in business to business markets use elaborate decision processes.
How do you cross from a sales pitch to receiving an order? Its 'easy' if you use a consultative approach and have a product with value. But if you use sales closing techniques, watch out for the train!
You are at the end of your meeting. On the other side of the table is the purchasing director of a Fortune 500 corporation. He has over 30 years of experience in purchasing and negotiation. He has a photographic memory and knows your market better than you. You are finished describing your company, your product, and your capabilities. You know you can meet his requirements better than your competition, but maybe your price is a bit higher. Using one of the most important rules in negotiating, he is perfectly quiet, waiting for you to speak. Unfortunately, your co-workers are in the meeting, also staring at you, impatiently, waiting for you to speak.
How do you cross to the other side of the tracks, without getting hit by the train?
Start by recognizing that one of the unique aspects of business to business sales is in sales closing techniques. The business to business sales process is unlike retail sales. Your customer will (i) have a different attitude and (ii) have a different decision process. In other words, selling a $500,000 technical product to a corporation differs from selling a home entertainment system to a family. The key in business to business sales is finding a way to close with prospects who have extensive training and experience in product purchasing and in negotiation.
We have all heard about using sales closing techniques in retail sales. In retail sales, as many as a dozen closing techniques may be successfully applied, in A SINGLE MEETING!. However, here is the dictionary definition of sales closing suicide in market to market selling: "Using a dozen sales closes on an experienced senior purchasing manager"!
For example, have you heard any of the following sales closes in gift shops and car lots?
A salesperson selects a particular close based on the situation and the personalities involved. The customer's response to a close must be followed-up appropriately. These closes are only a very few examples. There are literally entire books written on sales closes.
An experienced car or insurance salesperson may use between six and a dozen closes on a single prospect -- in a SINGLE MEETING. The experienced and successful retail salesperson uses sales closes as a surgeon uses a scalpel. Sales closes are selected to gradually build uncomfortable feelings in the prospect.
The best retail sales closing expert, in the world, taught me the following about sales closing techniques, "You put your finger on the prospect's eye. So gradually, so gently, he doesn't blink." The prospect finally buys to end uncomfortable feelings caused by the closing techniques.
Can you understand how the excessive use of sales closes may drive some trained and experienced business to business prospects away from the purchase of your technical product? Its simple: The prospect realizes that he must answer to others in his organization -- or get rid of a trusted vendor -- which is less comfortable than your best closing techniques. He uses any one of dozens of techniques to postpone his decision, then stops returning your calls.
business to business customers have a decision process that helps to prevent impulse decisions, to prevent fraud or theft, and to include others in the organization. Sorry, but this is an unavoidable fact. Senior business to business purchasing agents have extensive formal training and experience in negotiation. They have long-term business relationships with some of their current vendors.
business to business customers may be under pressure from sales psychology. Worse than appearing transparent and thoughtless, your excessive and repeated use of sales closes may permanently alienate your prospect.
You will be required to pitch the decision maker and others on your road to meet the decision maker. The decision maker may require steps in evaluating your product such as literature, meetings with subordinates, sample evaluations, process trials, price negotiations, comparisons to competitive products. They may use you, perhaps invite you in only to accumulate additional data that justifies their current supplier. You must contend with advanced corporate purchasing tactics.
Where do you start? First, realize that closing should be a way of working, not a script. Begin by understanding all of the steps that the organization will require to complete the sale. Then, agree on what you will need to accomplish at the current step; how you would be permitted to move forward to the next step. In other words, pre-qualify the customer's needs. This pre-qualification is basically your close -- done in advance! Your job is now to reach a mutual agreement that the customer's objectives are satisfied, clearing a step, allowing you to move step by step towards a check that clears the bank.
Believe it or not, you still have not closed. You will close only when your customer is completely satisfied. What's better than closing on a bank check? How about one of the greatest aspects of business to business business: repeat orders?
My philosophy is to use one sales closing technique during any single meeting or phone conversation. Using too many closes in business to business product sales is a typical mistake; but, not using any is another mistake. Using one close during a meeting will help to move a deal forward. Using two closes may be helpful in very few cases. But, using three or more seems very risky to me -- in business to business product sales.
Furthermore, I use more of a conversational close, not a scripted close. For example, there are some purchasing agents who want to be asked for their order. If they seem to be this type, if they look interested, and if the time is right, why not simply ask for the order?
"Mr. Smith your needs are a wonderful fit for the capabilities of Acme Corporation. We are excited that your current widget promulgation will phase transition with Acme's metamorphosis capabilities. During this time you have shown us your requirements and your concerns. We have shown how our organization is capable and focused on meeting all of your requirements. All of us at Acme will work hard to make your program a success. May we have an order?"