Across all industries, companies, and contexts, there’s one thing that all sales professionals agree on—closing deals is hard.
So much work goes into that simple “yes” that when it finally happens, it almost feels like a miracle.
But make no mistake, there’s nothing magical about sales. Closing more deals involves creating a smooth, tried-and-tested process that has no gaps and fulfills all the right needs at exactly the right moment.
Below, we explore exactly what it takes to close a deal, from beginning to end—and with bonus techniques to nail the most challenging part.
What makes the sales landscape so complex?
We all know that the sales landscape is challenging. We talk about it enough among ourselves and have first-hand experience of how hard it is. But what is it that makes it so difficult?
Well, it’s because it’s full of inconsistencies. Statistics show that 80% of prospects say “no” four times before they say “yes” but it takes eight follow-up calls to reach a prospect. What’s more, 92% of salespeople give up after they’ve received the first four “no’s.”
Not inconsistent enough? Well, how about this. A reported 75% of executives are willing to make an appointment due to a cold call or email but 85% of prospects and customers aren’t satisfied with their experience on the phone.
And it’s not just about inconsistencies in both parties. So many campaigns and large efforts completely hinge on the tiniest details. For example, 47% of email recipients open solely based on the subject line but 69% are likely to report it as spam based on the exact same thing. There’s even a middle ground. If you include “report,” “learn,” and “book,” recipients are less likely to open it.
Or there’s the fact that sales is a lot like comedy—a joke can land or fall flat entirely based on the timing. Top sellers use LinkedIn six hours a week. Thursday is when you should be prospecting. Wednesday is also a good day. Tuesday is not. If you’re cold calling, make sure you do it between 8:00–10:00 a.m. or 4:00–5:00 p.m. For those of you who prefer emailing, well any time between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. is fine.
In case you didn’t catch all that, the short version is you need to contact your prospects at the right time on the right day to get at least four “no’s” so you can possibly get one “yes,” while having killer subject lines, engaging phone conversations, and also spending at least six hours on LinkedIn.
How can anyone be expected to perform properly in this context?
The sales process
If you try to navigate the sales landscape on the fly, you will get lost. The only way to do it is by developing a solid process that sales reps can follow. By having a structured framework that boosts efficiency and minimizes the disruption caused by sales idiosyncrasies.
The sales process removes guesswork and gray areas from prospecting to closing the deal, while also allowing you to adjust the necessary areas that are leading to bottlenecks. It is, in short, a standardized process that works like a ship route through stormy waters.
Without a process, it’s far too easy to be blown off course, without knowing what exactly has happened. Tracking, metrics, and repeatable methods is the only way to do it.
And yes, that’s what the stats say too—90% of all companies that use formalized processes are among the highest performing. Consequently, they easily outperform companies that don’t.
How sales processes help close more deals
It’s not enough for us to just say that a sales process is better to close more deals. You need reasons why. Well, here are a few of the main ones.
Provides a framework
Frameworks are important to not get lost. It’s exactly like our shipping analogy, if you steer out of the shipping lane, you could be met with stormy waters, run aground, or otherwise get lost. The same thing happens without a framework process. You’re likely to pitch at the wrong time, not close when they’re ready, or forget to follow up at important moments.
Gives better insights
Knowledge is power! The more you understand about your prospects and how they convert, the better able you are to adjust the strategy to their needs. With a proper sales process, you’re able to identify potential risks and adjust in real time—while also keeping an eye on trends.
Onboards new reps
How quickly you can get new sales reps up and running has a direct impact on how long it takes for them to close their first deal. So, it works in your favor to make the whole onboarding and training process as easy as possible.
This is exactly what a sales process does. It allows new reps to see exactly what they’re meant to do at every stage and in every situation to get them up and running. And it’s not just for new reps. With a good sales process, you can identify where there are gaps in your current employees’ knowledge and take steps to train them.
Zones in on your prospects
You need to know everything about who your prospects are in order to sell to them. THis will help you to get much more qualified leads and filter out those who are not worth spending time on. This can be better enhanced with a CRM that has lead-scoring capabilities.
Allows you to forecast
Creating accurate forecasts is essential for any business to be able to properly plan their future. A good sales process will give you all the information you need to be able to predict how much money you’re likely to bring in, and make all the staffing or other expense- or investment-related decisions you need.
The components of the sales process
It doesn’t matter what product you have. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. It doesn’t matter how big or small your company is. Every sales process follows the same basic structure.
There are, of course, innumerable methodologies you can use to tailor the process to your company, but the process itself will never change. This is because we all follow the same stages when we’re considering making a purchase.
First of all, we need to know the company exists. From there, it’s a careful journey of answering our questions and gaining our trust until we’re actually ready to part with our hard-earned money.
Here are the steps involved: Prospecting, Qualification, Appointment, Presentation, Handling objections, Closing, and Follow-up.
Prospecting – The beginning
Prospecting is one of the most difficult parts in the sales process. It’s the act of creating a database of potential customers that you think fit into your target audience. Then, it’s a matter of taking a systematic approach to contact each one and try to move them to the next stage of the process.
The first and most important part is having an extremely thorough understanding of who your target audience is. We really can’t stress this enough. If you are just shooting into the dark, it doesn’t matter how good all the other steps in the process are, it simply won’t work. After all, you can’t sell scuba gear to a fish.
Another key aspect of prospecting is automation. Building automated workflows is essential if you are to cut down on the dreary tasks that take up so much of sales professionals’ time. The fact is, modern prospecting is simply impossible to carry out unless you have a platform that’s capable of handling complex workflow automation.
Here are our top tips for launching your prospecting initiative:
- Research your target audience and create a buyer persona.
- Know your target’s buying habits, pain points, and preferences.
- Discover where they’re located (whether LinkedIn, email, or elsewhere).
- Find the right prospecting tool to help you get prospects’ information.
- Create a campaign to reach out to them. Here’s an example for a LinkedIn prospecting campaign.
Qualification – The honing
You may have found your prospects but you really want to make sure that you are reaching out to the right people. That’s what the qualification phase is all about.
This part should be integrated into the workflow when reaching out to prospects because it’s both in your interest and in theirs that you sort through who is interested in your product and who isn’t.
How do you do this? Generally, it happens through questions or by giving your prospects options. Any good prospecting email should begin by identifying the pain point that your prospect is likely experiencing (and that your product can solve) and making sure you’re communicating with the right person.
Beating around the bush in this regard is of no use to anybody whatsoever. So, you need to know:
- Would they think they would benefit from your service?
- Are they the decision maker?
If you manage to get them on a call, that’s the perfect scenario as your reps can use their scripts and intuition to find out where they stand.
But if you’re doing email outreach or anything similar, it’s a good idea to have some kind of trigger link that automatically groups them by interest. For example, it’s common now on LinkedIn InMails to have a question followed by two options that you can click on.
Appointment – The human touch
For any large sale, getting in front of your potential customer and having that real, human contact is fundamental. Without an appointment, it’s very difficult to build the trust you need for someone to hand over a substantial amount of money.
The appointment will be the staging ground for the next few steps, where you make a presentation, handle objections, and finally close.
But all in good time! First you need to actually get the appointment. This is, of course, easier said than done. Much of this will be down to how effective your automated workflows are and you should constantly monitor and adjust to see what works best.
To get you started, here are some good tips:
- Try to identify your prospect’s concerns or pain points before offering an appointment.
- Confidence is key! Give a day, time, and calendar link and make it their prerogative to say no.
- Sell the perfect world and give them reasons to meet with you.
- Approach it as if you’re a colleague offering advice, not a sales rep trying to get a commission.
- Get to the point. Immediately.
- Don’t give up right away. Even if you don’t get a response, do follow up to a point.
Once a prospect agrees to have an appointment, it’s tempting to think your work is done. But until you actually meet them or get them on a call, there’s no guarantee that they’ll actually show up.
The key is to make it as easy as possible for them to sign up—and then follow up! We can’t stress this enough. Set up automated workflows after they sign up.
The first message should be a confirmation. Then have a few timed ones before the event reminding them of the time and date and asking them to let you know if there are any changes. It’s simple stuff but not following up properly always leads to more dropouts.
Presentation – Selling the good life
Congratulations—you got an appointment! This is a big stage in the sales process and you should be proud.
If they’ve got this far, they’re definitely interested in your services and the balance has shifted. The close is not yours to win, it’s now yours to lose.
So, you need to be careful. If you rush into the presentation before the prospect is ready, it can be detrimental to your efforts. This is because you always need to tailor your presentation to their needs. If you don’t know what their needs are, you will likely start talking about something that is of very little interest to them.
Before you launch into the presentation, take a second or two to reiterate their problems, concerns, or what they need help with to make sure you’re on the same page. If they want to talk, listen. Don’t just fire on with the presentation.
When the time is right, show how you’ve understood their pain points and state exactly how your product can help them. Keep everything concise and to the point.
The best way to achieve this is by following a sales script. This doesn’t mean every word and sentence has to be entirely mapped out and memorized, but you do need to have a set agenda for the call. Having literal lines to say is also extremely useful as it cuts down on the wandering explanations we tend to give when we’re thinning on the spot.
Ideally, you’ll also have some kind of social proof to build trust. This could be the form of case studies or client testimonials. Anything that shows you know what you’re talking about and have happy customers!
Objections – The “no’s” and the “not sures”
People want to be absolutely certain they’re making the right decision before they take the plunge. And that means you’re likely to meet quite a few objections on the road to conversion.
It makes sense, we all do it. This is important to remember as it helps to put yourselves in the clients’ shoes. They’re not objecting to you as a person, they’re simply objecting to the idea of handing over a lot of money to something that isn’t worth it.
When confronted with an objection, always give the prospect time to explain their position and think about it carefully before responding. Never interrupt them.
If you sense they aren’t articulating their real concern, feel free to ask a few more questions to explore what the issue can be.
Most of all, record all the objections you come across. Chances are, everybody will have the same ones and they will come up time and again. By taking the time to find good answers to the common objections, you’re less likely to be put on the spot and will be ready with a confident answer.
Closing – The big win
It all comes down to this. The close.
All the work you’ve put in is put to the test in this make or break moment.
But don’t overthink it.
Yes, there are plenty of tactics and techniques—which we will explore later in the post—but the most important thing is to be authentic and honest. At the end of the day, that’s the best way to be persuasive.
Follow-up – The value giver
While the sale is the big moment of triumph, it really is just the beginning of what you hope is a long and successful relationship.
That means the work is just beginning. As a sales rep, it’s mostly time for you to take a backseat in terms of the actual product or service. But you will need to take an active role in nurturing them and finding opportunities for upselling or referrals.
Above all, this is when the customer service aspect takes over and you need to get feedback from them. Reviews—whether positive or negative—are some of the most powerful influencers in gaining or losing new customers.
Here are some top tips for the follow-up:
- Actively call your customers within the first few weeks of using your product for feedback.
- Send automated emails at predetermined points after they’ve become your customer to enquire how they’re getting on.
- Actually listen! If your customers aren’t happy with a certain aspect, take steps to try and remedy it.
- Remain top of mind with newsletters and other topical content.
- Ask for reviews and referrals. They are invaluable.
Techniques for closing more deals
While authenticity is always the best way to close more deals, it doesn’t mean there aren’t techniques out there that can give you that edge.
Here are some of our favorites.
Assume you’ve already closed
Confidence inspires confidence. If you believe you have already made the sale, the way you speak and the language you use will make them more likely to go along with it.
Now, as with any sales technique, you need to know when and how to use it. The key is to make sure they’re on the same page as you at every moment. Ask questions to gauge your interest and if it doesn’t match where you think it should be, tone it back.
It also works best with prospects that you’ve been in contact with on a number of occasions. Otherwise, it can come across as too much too soon and turn them off.
It’s now or never!
One of the great classics in sales techniques, the “it’s now or never” close makes use of a sense of urgency to encourage a final decision.
It can come in a huge variety of forms, each with a different level of intensity. For example, if you say, “this is the last product we have left,” you’re forcing the potential customer to make a decision about whether they’ll buy at all.
But offering something like a limited 15% special offer that only lasts today (try not to use the word “discount”), you’re still giving them the opportunity to come back at a later time. Just not with the discount.
Another nice use of the now or never is by adding extra services for free if they sign up today, such as implementation or another add on.
If you’re in the SaaS world, your platform can usually do a lot of things. At Pipeline.so, our CRM is a full platform with end-to-end abilities, but we also have added services to help with
But not every company wants or needs that many features. If you’re getting close to the sale, but you notice that they don’t want the popup feature or the project management, simply take them away!
Of course, taking them away will also have to be followed up with a more attractive price. That way, the prospect knows they’re only paying for what they actually want—and you are more likely to make the sale.
Repaint the picture
When prospects are finding out about your product, they often do it bit by bit, piecemeal. Even in the current conversation, each benefit or feature will likely be followed by a discussion.
If you feel you’re getting close to a potential sale, by running through all the benefits in one go, you can repaint the picture, which will come across as more impactful. This is a useful tool, but it only works if the conversation or the process has been particularly long. Otherwise, you’re just repeating yourself and the effect won’t be reached.
Chances are, this won’t be the first sales meeting your prospect has been in. If they’re particularly familiar with them, they may try to press their advantage. After all, they know that you’re usually dying for that sale.
That means, they’ll try to push their luck and ask up front for a discount or special offer. The concession close is when… You give it to them. By them making the suggestion, they feel as if they’re in the driving seat and that they’re getting a good deal.
Now, the important part is to not give away anything that you wouldn’t already have offered. You should never say yes to a deal that is actually bad for business. If they’re asking too much, you give a counter offer. For example, if they ask for 20% off for six months, you could say:
“How about 20% off for two months and 10% off for the next four months? But I can only make that deal if you sign today.”
By adding the now or never close, there’s still the impression that you’re really pushing the boat out with what you can offer. When executed well, this approach can get you the sale and make the customer feel they’ve got a great deal.
The hard close
Finally, we have the hard, nothing-to-lose, all-cards-on-the-table close. Sometimes, it’s time to stop playing games and just say exactly what you want. The honesty and authenticity can work in your favor and make the person trust you more.
And why shouldn’t they? If you’ve come out and said what you want, there’s no longer any elephant in the room. In turn, they’re often more willing to be honest and will finally say exactly what their reservations are.
By knowing what’s making them hold back, you can give an offer that will resolve these misgivings. In general, this approach should be used sparingly. It’s most effective when either you don’t think you’re going to get a yes or you sense from the person’s personality that they are a no-nonsense type that might appreciate the honesty.
Using technology to close more deals
Data and automation is your friend and ally when developing your sales process and closing more deals. Frankly, it is impossible to put a mature process in place unless you have a CRM.
From mapping your processes to developing sophisticated automated workflows to analyzing data, the technology you use is present at every stage.
At Pipeline.so, our end-to-end CRM platform empowers sales professionals to develop a streamlined process that captures and nurtures more leads—freeing them up to close more deals.
If you’d like to learn more about Pipeline.so, reach out to us today!