Close More Sales

By Geoffrey James

Most traditional courses in closing business emphasize the “ABC” (Always Be Closing) strategy. Salespeople are advised to constantly and repeatedly ask for the business, in order to give the customer multiple points at which to say yes. Over the years, closes have been categorized – the Ben Franklin close, the Yes Set close, and many others.

But times have changed, or at least sales practices have shifted, and customers don’t like being hammered to buy. The ABC strategy creates a sense of pressure, which inevitably creates resistance to the sale because the customer doesn’t want to feel that the salesperson is more interested in the sale than in meeting the customer’s needs. If customers succumb to pressure and are disappointed, they inevitably resent the salesperson, and often find a way to get out of the deal and not to do business with that salesperson again. If a company wants a long-term relationship with a customer, high-pressure closes and the ABC strategy are likely to do more harm than good.

That being said, the old ABC strategy has one benefit – it encourages otherwise reluctant salespeople to actually attempt to close. There are many salespeople who don’t close to avoid rejection, being pushy, or closing down what they want to believe is a viable opportunity. However, the primary reason most salespeople resist closing is that they haven’t gotten feedback from the client about whether it’s safe to close. Absent that essential information, closing becomes a “moment of truth” rather than the natural extension of a productive conversation with the customer.

Salespeople can close more business and build stronger customer relationships if they follow an “Always Be Checking to Close” strategy. By treating closing as a process that happens throughout the dialogue with the customer, salespeople gain the confidence to close and thus increase their close ratio. By asking for feedback on what they present to clients, salespeople have a better idea of how the client is likely to respond when it finally comes time to close.

Here’s how it’s done, in five easy steps.

Step 1: Cultivate the right mind-set.Great closers believe that the clock has only one time – right now. If they get a lead, they’re on that lead immediately, and they follow up flawlessly. If you want to close, you’ve also got to torque up your sense of persistence. If there are three salespeople competing for the same business, the better closer is on top of the opportunity at the start and in follow-up, for example, sending a tailored follow-up letter or email to the customer within one day of the meeting. Closers are vigilant and inexhaustible in their follow up. They’re good at dialogue and possess the skill and confidence to know how and when to ask for the sale. More important, they realize that it’s almost always a mistake to close a sale that, in the long run, does not meet the customer’s needs and will alienate the customer and damage the relationship or the company’s reputation.

Step 2: Set the objective for the customer meeting.

Whenever you call on a customer, have an objective that is specific, measurable and appropriately aggressive. Specific objectives aren’t feel-good goals like “I will get closer to the customer;” they’re goals that can be easily assessed and measured, such as “I will get a list of the key decision makers” or “I will ask for the business.” Objectives should be aggressive, but appropriate to the stage of the sales cycle. For example, on a first sales call for a complex multimillion dollar deal with multiple decision makers, it would be overly aggressive to set an objective such as “I will close the deal today.” Setting objectives doesn’t mean that you can’t be flexible and adjust the goal while you’re in the meeting. But a great closer always has a direction and understands where the meeting needs to go in order to maintain momentum and win the deal.

Step 3: Constantly check to see if you’re on target.

Throughout the meeting, keep the customer involved. During the meeting you will, of course, identify the customer’s objectives, strategy, decision process, time frames, etc. and position your ideas, products or solutions to satisfy those needs. That’s the customer-focused sales process. However, you must also ask “checking” questions to get feedback from the client about what you’ve said throughout the call. Asking open-ended, nonleading checking questions allows you to gauge how the customer is responding and to adjust your solution accordingly. Most important, this checking process will give you the information you need to confidently close.

Effective checking does not involve leading questions such as “Does that make sense to you?” or “Do you agree?” With leading questions, customers will often take the easy way out and nod along, without really agreeing. Instead, ask checking questions such as “How does that sound?” or “What do you think?” Unlike leading questions, checking questions encourage the customer to provide you with frank, vital information.


Salesperson: “We have a first-rate delivery capability in all key markets.” (The salesperson did not check after expressing this view.)

Client: “How do you handle invoicing?” (The conversation has moved on and the salesperson has no idea whether the customer agrees or disagrees with the “first-rate delivery” assertion.)


Salesperson: “We have a first rate delivery capability in all key markets. How do you think that might be useful?”

Client: “I’m concerned you can’t meet our global needs.”

Salesperson: “I understand how important global capabilities are to you. Why do you feel we may not be able to meet them?”

Client: “We want feet on the street, and you don’t have international offices.”

Salesperson: “It is important to have people where you need them. For that reason, we have partnerships with the top companies in regions where we don’t have our own offices. Would that address your concern?”

Client: “It might, providing you can invoice centrally.” (The salesperson is learning what the client thinks and repositioning his company’s capability in order to build toward the eventual close.)

Every time you position your products and services, you must check to get feedback. The best part about constantly checking is that if you do it correctly, the client will often preemptively close the sale for you by saying something like, “So, when do we start?” However, if the customer does not preemptively close, then you MUST move to close or you will lose ground and possibly the entire deal.

Step 4: Give a concise, powerful summary; then make a final check for understanding.

You’ve positioned your products or services so that the customer understands how they meet his or her needs up to now. You’ve used checking to get feedback to make sure there is agreement and understanding. Now comes the mechanics of the close. First, give the customer a concise, powerful summary that reiterates the benefits of your products or services. Once you’ve done this, make one final check – not for understanding but for agreement. Example:

Salesperson: “Our worldwide service capability will allow your employees access anywhere they travel, at a cost that’s significantly less than you’re spending today. How does that meet your objective?”

The purpose of this final check is to seek a green light to go for the close. The final check also gives the customer the opportunity to surface any final objections that might interfere with your close. If a final objection surfaces, handle it, and then restate the final check.

Step 5: Ask for the business.

Now it’s time to be direct and to ask for the business or next step. This must be done confidently and clearly. Example:

Salesperson: “We are ready to start. Will you give us the go-ahead?”

If the customer declines, acknowledge that fact to the customer and then find out why. As appropriate, make a second effort. Regardless of whether you actually closed, end the meeting with confidence, energy and rapport to make a positive last impression. Thank the client for the business or reinforce the desire to work with the client. Follow up immediately.