Closing isn’t just for the final stage of the sales process.
Early in my career, I landed a meeting with the CEO of a prospect company. When I arrived for the meeting, the CEO’s assistant told me that the CEO had been called out of the office, and that if she wanted to reschedule, she’d contact me. I had committed to the meeting, but I hadn’t closed the CEO’s commitment. It was a tough and valuable lesson.
ABC—Always Be Closing, the sales mantra of Alec Baldwin’s hardball character in the film “Glengarry Glen Ross”—doesn’t have to be aggressive. Always Be Closing is a mutually beneficial way to confirm buyer commitment. No matter where you are in the sales and buying process, continually and respectfully confirming your prospect’s commitment is smart and proactive. Here are two examples.
Setting Your First Meeting
A first meeting should be focused on learning about your prospect’s business needs and issues, and determining if there’s a fit with your products or services. Be candid with your prospect and yourself. Make sure that your prospect is willing to invest the time needed for a productive meeting. Confirm your prospect’s commitment through questions such as:
- Is there anything before or after that hour that affects your availability?
- Is this date soft-circled for our meeting, or is it a confirmed date?
If your prospect waivers on a date and time, ask: Is he genuinely interested in resolving his business needs and issues? A “no” at this point may be disappointing, but it saves your time and effort for qualified prospects.
The Signal That You’ve Missed Something
The definition of a successful meeting with a prospect is a clear next step. Many salespeople focus on describing their own next steps, such as, “I’ll send you those specs” or “I’ll call you next week.” Focus instead on confirming your prospect’s commitment by asking:
- What do you see as the next step?
- Is there anything we’ve discussed that can prevent you from moving forward?
Never leave a meeting with “I’ll think about it” as your prospect’s next step. It’s a sign that you missed something. Follow up with questions that address the gap:
- I honestly thought I clarified your questions and concerns, and I’m wondering: What exactly didn’t we cover? What information do you need? What questions do you still have?
Give your prospect time to respond, even if that means a long silence. You’ll uncover information that will help you to determine the next steps—or if the next steps are worth taking.
The sooner you intentionally apply ABC throughout the sales and buying process, the more time you’ll spend with people who have a true interest in your product or service.