How to Close a Software Solutions Sale

By Geoffrey James
Selling software generally means selling solutions. Successful software sales reps act as consultants and trusted advisors to help customers better understand their problems and devise a solution that can be implemented quickly and at a minimum cost. Solutions (unlike simple products) have a tendency to be amorphous, however. They always can be further defined and characterized, and solutions-oriented discussions sometimes can go on for hours. At some point you’ll need to close the deal, but that can be difficult when asking for the business seems to come from out of nowhere.
 
Here’s how to close a software solutions sale. First, during conversations in which you are defining the problem and the solution constantly check to see if the discussion is on target. During the meeting, seek to identify the customer’s objectives, strategy, decision process, timeframe, and so on. Position your solution to satisfy those needs. When you make a statement or propose a solution-based approach, always ask checking questions to get feedback from the client about what you’ve said. These open-ended, nonleading questions allow you to gauge how the customer is responding and to adjust your solution accordingly. More importantly, this checking process gives you the information you need to confidently close.
 
Effective checking does not mean asking painfully obvious leading questions such as: Does that make sense to you? Do you agree? With leading questions, customers just nod along, without really agreeing. Instead, ask checking questions that require real thought and a real response, such as: How does that sound to you? What do you think about that? Unlike leading questions, checking questions encourage the customer to provide you with frank, vital information. That’s why it’s critically important to ask checking questions every time you position your products and services as part of the intended solution.
 
The best part about constantly checking is that, in many cases, the client often will preemptively close the sale for you by saying something such as: So, when do we start? If the customer does not preemptively close, however, then you must move to close or you will lose ground and possibly the entire deal.
 
Since, you’ve already positioned your products or services so that the customer understands how they meet his or her needs and used checking to get feedback to make sure there is agreement and understanding, you now can give the customer a concise, powerful summary that reiterates the benefits of your product or service. Once you’ve done this, make one final check – not for understanding but for agreement. If a final objection surfaces, handle it and then restate the final check. If no final objection surfaces, ask for the business. It’s a simple as that.
 
The above is based on a conversation with Linda Richardson, president and CEO of Richardson, a sales training firm headquartered in Philadelphia, PA.