If you’ve worked in sales for any amount of time, you understand the frustration of a failed sales call. You engage in a long discussion with a prospect, personalize your pitch, and pacify any doubts, and eventually, you begin to feel confident about the conversion. But when the time comes to close, you’re met with lack of commitment or—worse—a resounding no.
It’s brutal, and it will make you question every sentence you spoke, wondering where you went wrong.
It could be that you didn’t go into enough detail about the desired benefits, that you didn’t convince the prospect that their concerns would be satisfied, or that you weren’t flexible enough in price negotiations. Or it could be none of those things.
Instead, the death of the sale may have happened the instant you uttered your closing phrase.
Even the most perfect sales call can be botched by inadequate closing phrases. Leave too much flexibility for prospects in making the decision, and they’ll delay it, providing time for doubt to set in and the effectiveness of your pitch to wear off.
In sales, an effective closing phrase can make the difference between success and failure.In sales, an effective closing phrase can make the difference between success and failure. Click To Tweet
The next time you’re ready to push for the conversion, consider adopting one of the following approaches. With a compelling closing phrase, you may be able to start enjoying the benefits of increased conversions, higher commissions, and fewer follow-ups with undecided leads.
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1. Avoid yes/no decisions
One common closing phrase used by salespeople to shift from a discussion to a decision is “Are you ready to get started?” The problem with this question is that the answer is either yes or no. It provides the prospect with an easy out—a simple way to avoid making a commitment.
Instead of asking a question with a yes/no answer, Emma Brudner—Managing Editor at HubSpot—suggests asking an either/or question:
It seems like these two products are the best options based on your needs and goals. Which one would you like to move forward with?
The answer to this question provides insight into the prospect’s potential to convert:
- If he chooses an option but delays making the decision, you’ve at least learned what he’s most interested in, and you can ask additional questions to find out what needs to happen to convince him to convert.
- If he refuses to choose an option altogether, he’s probably not convinced in the value of what you’re selling. You could start again from scratch, or you can shift your focus to more promising prospects.
This closing phrase encourages the prospect to think about which option he prefers and why, which may help him solidify his decision to convert. Additionally, it shifts the decision away from yes or no and towards a selection between two options.
2. Get a feel for the future
If you’re struggling to get a feel for your prospect’s thoughts and opinions and believe an assumptive close may be interpreted as too assertive or manipulative, ask the following question to gain insight:
On a scale from 1-10, how confident are you that this product will satisfy your needs?
The answer will provide you with an understanding of how likely the prospect is to convert. If the response is high, it may represent justification for moving to the assumptive close.
But if the response is low, Bob Ruffolo—CEO of IMPACT—suggests following up with two additional questions:
- First, ask why the response isn’t lower (assuming it wasn’t a one).
- Then, ask what prevented a rating of 10.
Ruffolo argues that these questions help you learn what you’re doing right, which can provide guidance for appeasing the concerns that led the prospect to provide a low rating.
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3. Focus on very specific benefits
In an article for Inc., Jeff Haden—Contributing Editor for Inc. Magazine—argues that the most effective approach to sales is focused more on the customer than the product or purchase. The product is inconsequential. What’s important is how the purchase will benefit the customer.What’s important is how the purchase will benefit the customer. Click To Tweet
Why is the prospect considering a purchase? What specific goals is she trying to meet? What pain points is she trying to solve? Uncover the answers to those questions, and then cater your pitch to how your product solves those problems or enables those goals.
Use the first part of the sales conversation to form a detailed understanding of how your product will provide distinct and personalized benefits to the prospect, and then transition to the close by reminding the prospect of those benefits:
It sounds like [product] could really help you [meet specific goal/eliminate specific pain point]. Would you like to get started on the contract now?
4. Offer a one-time-only deal
For some prospects, it’s all about the cost.For some prospects, it’s all about the cost. Click To Tweet
Whether they’re hesitant to sign the dotted line because they need to work with other decision-makers or they feel like the value of what you’re selling doesn’t justify its cost, these can be some of the trickiest prospects to convert.
According to Chad Halvorson—founder of When I Work—offering an add-on can be a tipping point for these types of prospects.
If they’re interested in two services but unwilling to pay for one—much less both—providing both for the price of one can be a convincing way to complete the sale.
If you buy today, I can give you both products for [price].
This approach increases the prospect’s perception of the value he’s getting from the purchase, and it also creates a sense of urgency that inspires the prospect to make the decision to move forward.
5. Set a date
Halvorson also suggests a tactic from the assumptive sale playbook: get the prospect to commit to a date:
When can we begin [implementation/training]?
Even if the prospect hasn’t yet committed to the purchase, getting her to think about the date when her team can get started is likely to stimulate thoughts and feelings associated with completing the purchase.
Having imagined what it would be like to complete the purchase should make the decision less overwhelming.
Knowing when the prospect is planning to have the new solution in place will also give you more information about when an undecided prospect has purchased from a competitor or decided not to make a purchase at all, allowing you to focus your energy elsewhere.
6. Uncover remaining hesitations
Some prospects are very open with their concerns. Others listen but don’t provide much feedback. When dealing with the latter, it’s crucial to get the prospect to open up and tell you what’s preventing the sale.
Mike Brooks—President of Mr. Inside Sales—believes the key approach in this situation is getting the prospect to disclose what you need to do to close the deal. This can be accomplished by asking a simple question:
What happens next?
Brooks says to ask the question and then put your phone on mute and just listen. The prospect will divulge the process he needs to go through to get a final decision, will bring up any concerns that are preventing the deal, and—essentially—let you know if the deal is still worth pursuing.
If the prospect mentions that the price is more than he can afford and you’ve already offered the lowest possible price, it’s probably best to move on to a new lead.
Conversely, if flexibility in pricing is still an option, you’ll learn where you need to focus to make the sale.
7. Empower the customer
In an article for Target Marketing, Jeanette McMurtry—CMO at Elateral—tells the story of an experiment conducted by two social psychologists. The psychologists asked people on a city street to donate money to a cause. Initially, only 10% of people donated.
Next, the psychologists made the same request, but this time they added the phase “but you are free to accept or refuse.” After adding this phrase to the request, nearly 48% of people asked agreed to donate.
This simple phrase—but you are free—transitions the decision from one you’re pushing them to make to one they’re deciding to make on their own. It puts the prospect in control of the decision, which caters to the human desired to feel empowered—not guided or forced.
For this closing phrase, you can use the words “but you are free,” or you can substitute them with something that conveys the same idea but sounds less formal:
It seems like this product satisfies all of the criteria you’re looking for. We can get started now, or we can schedule another meeting if you want more time to investigate other options.
This reminds the prospect that your product satisfies his needs perfectly, but it also makes him feel in control of making the decision on whether or not to move forward with the purchase.
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8. Set expectations upfront
One of the most difficult moments of a sales call is determining the right moment for moving into the close.One of the most difficult points of a call is determining the right moment for moving into the close. Click To Tweet
Maria Sundström—Head of Sales and Marketing at Liid—says this decision can be avoided altogether by setting expectations for the shift at the beginning of the call.
This can be accomplished by presenting the prospect with a meeting agenda, or simply by telling her upfront that the last 15 minutes of the call will be dedicated to discussing a final decision.
Then, when the time comes to move into the close, you can transition—without the transition feeling sudden or unwarranted—with the following phrase:
We’re moving into the last 15 minutes of our discussion now, so it’s time to move on to the final agreement.
Not only does this approach eliminate the anxiety of finding the right moment for your closing phrase—and the risk that you won’t get to the close before time runs out—it also allows you to gather information upfront about the prospect’s ability to make the decision.
If you tell the prospect that the last 15 minutes will be reserved for setting up the agreement, she will reply with the steps required for approval on her side if she isn’t able to make the decision on her own.
9. Lean on the competition
Sometimes it’s obvious that a prospect has no intention of closing that day—if they ever plan to convert at all.
There are two primary options when dealing with this prospect: continue spending time trying to convince the prospect to buy, or give up and move on to more promising prospects.
Ghassan Abdulquader—Business Development Manager at Souq.com—suggests a third approach that’s more aggressive and designed to evoke in prospects the fear of making a mistake:
You’re first on my list, but since you turned me down, I’m going to work with [competitor name]. Do you know him/her?
This works well when a prospect is obviously interested in the product but is pushing for an unreasonable deal or being intentionally difficult. The risk of the benefits of your product being delivered to his competitor may drive him to make a decision.The risk of the benefits of your product being delivered to competitors may drive him to decide. Click To Tweet
Keep in mind that this approach could easily be perceived as aggressive and manipulative, so it’s best used when prospects are engaging in the same type of behaviors. Otherwise, the tactic could serve as the final deciding factor against working with you.
10. Create urgency
Some prospects will delay a decision forever. Whether it’s because they have long approval processes to go through or they’re feeling indecisive and unconvinced, these prospects can become a huge waste of time if they keep demanding your attention but never close the deal.
For these prospects, a sense of urgency can provide the motivation needed for conversion.
Offer the prospect a deal he’ll find difficult to refuse, but provide a deadline for making the decision:
This offer is only available for the next two weeks, so I’ll need a signed contract from you by [date] in order to give you the deal.
This can encourage prospects with approvals needed on their side to push for the approval process to be expedited.
The prospect can be considered cold after the deadline passes or she reaches out to ask for an extension. If the deadline passes with no update, there’s no need to spend time trying to make the deal. It’s highly unlikely that the prospect will ever convert.
Growing Your Commissions with the Perfect Closing Phrases
With a closing phrase that caters perfectly to each specific situation, you can increase the likelihood of closing a deal, avoid delays and an endless series of meetings, and prevent wasting your time on prospects who have no intention of converting.