The best closing sales tips encompass not only how to close a deal, but also look at the entire spectrum of sales, lead generation, marketing, the customer life cycle, and long-term customer retention.
Marketing efforts are only as effective as the results they produce. In addition to creating well-planned marketing campaigns, salespeople must also qualify the leads they generate. Generating a lot of leads is noteworthy, but it's the qualified leads that often convert into customers.
Yielding better leads
Qualified leads have a legitimate interest in your business and its products or services. To generate strong leads from your marketing tactics, try thinking outside the "paid advertising box." Consider these seven ways to yield more — and better — leads:
- Publish a company newsletter. Include helpful, high-value content that keeps existing and potential customers interested and excited about what you have to say. Consider offering special deals, industry tips, or other relevant content.
- Create a business website. Your business must have a website for prospects to check out. Be sure the site is professional, easy to navigate, and search engine-friendly.
- Run an email marketing campaign. Keeping in consistent contact with your audience helps customers remember you the next time they need something you offer. Increase the value of your emails by occasionally including coupons or deals only available to email recipients.
- Network. Get out in your community by sponsoring an event, or join a small business networking group. Word of mouth is essential.
- Place a "subscribe" form on your website. Automate the subscription process so your mailing list can grow. Ask for only the most basic information from would-be subscribers, so they're more likely to request ongoing notifications.
- Get involved in social media marketing. Social media is arguably the best way to engage in an ongoing conversation with your customers, where you can learn from them and they can learn from you. But remember, social media is a two-way communication channel; if someone asks you a question or airs a complaint, don't ignore it. By responding quickly (and professionally), you'll show that you care about your customers' happiness.
- Offer a referral bonus and reward your best customers. Sometimes your best customers can also be your best marketing tool. Keep them happy and they will gladly recommend you to their friends and family.
Lead-generation mistakes to avoid
Any list of closing sales tips should include advice on how to avoid committing lead generation mistakes that can put your sales efforts at risk. Here are several common errors and suggestions to improve your sales practices and get better results:
The call to action is ambiguous or non-existent. Wherever your call to action (CTA) appears (in an email or on your website), never assume that users will instantly grasp its meaning or feel as if they must stop whatever they're doing to click on it. All too often, a CTA can get mixed up in a body of online text or lost amid a blizzard of imagery — either way, if a prospect is unable to identify a CTA as such, it might as well not exist.
Focus on making your CTA standout wherever it appears on your website (ideally, above the fold). Make sure you're clearly indicating what the prospect's next step is meant to be. Lacking a call to action, it's unrealistic to expect a prospect to act on their own.
No landing page to guide prospects on the next step. Businesses must have a dedicated landing page to guide prospects on the way to closing a sale. When people click on a call-to-action, it's because they want what you're offering, whether it's an eBook, white paper, or anything else. They don't want to be sent to your homepage or Contact Us page.
Just as importantly, that landing page should be user-friendly in design and content. Prospective customers shouldn't be greeted by a "wall" of advertising copy or any large chunks of content that require too much time or patience. Break up landing page content into short sentences and short paragraphs, and be liberal in your use of bullets and lists.
The landing page stresses product features instead of product benefits Companies can get caught up in promoting their offering's bells and whistles, thinking that if they make things "shiny" enough, customers will flock to purchase them. Instead, the real goal should always be answering one key question: "What's in it for me?" Doing so can draw a prospect to the landing page in the first place, and can influence them to take the next step in the sales journey.
Lead forms are too long and/or too demanding. Businesses sometimes force prospects to provide too much information at the outset. This can turn off the prospect, diminishing their interest in further exploring your product or service.
As mentioned earlier, tailor your lead form to match whatever it is you're offering. If it's an article, in most cases asking for their name and a "how did you find us" question will suffice. If you're offering an in-depth customer case study, it's reasonable to ask for additional information (but not too much). Nurturing a sales lead means not demanding more than the prospect is willing to share at any given point. Your goal in successful lead generation is forging a relationship that's far more likely to result in a conversion than any off-putting hard sell.
The art of closing a sale
If your sales team could use a mini-refresher course on strategies and tactics, here are some tips on closing a sale (both proven techniques and a few new ideas) to share with them:
Be upbeat. People want to buy from other people who are enthusiastic about their product or service, not from someone who appears beaten-down, depressed, or otherwise unpleasant to be around. Optimism and a positive outlook are contagious.
Learn when to stop talking. Generally, the best approach with prospects is to listen rather than talk, and to ask questions, rather than drone on about your product's many benefits. The right questions lead to fruitful conversations, which in turn can lead to a better understanding of the customer's needs and challenges.
Build empathy. Prospects want to feel like the person selling to them gets them and genuinely has their best interests at heart. Empathy is the basis for a meaningful customer relationship, coming naturally out of being able to listen to what the customer says (and what goes unsaid) and offering the most efficient and cost-effective solutions available.
Serve as a valued resource. Prospects appreciate any assistance that makes their lives easier. Whenever possible, share the expertise you have (even if this doesn't directly lead to closing a sale), because over time you can establish a bond that makes selling and closing easier.
Be closing from the outset. As a rule, the hard-sell strategy rarely pays off. An honest, forthright approach can be far more effective. Let the prospect know that your intention is to sell a product that will genuinely benefit their business, and that you plan to conduct the sales process in an atmosphere of honesty and mutual respect. By eliminating any sense that you are engaged in some sort of cat-and-mouse game, you pave the way for a close that feels like an organic conclusion to the process.
Know the buying signs. An assertive salesperson can sometimes miss clear buying signals from the prospect that indicate the deal is nearly done. Questions such as, "Can you tell me how long delivery will take?" or "Are additional upgrades available?" suggest the prospect has made up their mind and is ready to move forward.
Sometimes salespeople sabotage their own best efforts by continuing to "sell" after they no longer need to do so. Upon gaining a verbal commitment, refrain for the time being from tactics such as attempting to cross-sell or upsell another product or feature.
"Can you tell me how long delivery will take?" and "Are additional upgrades available?" are questions that suggest the prospect has made up their mind and is ready to move forward.
Competing with other, and sometimes bigger, companies
Every small business must eventually face the challenge of competition from other businesses in the same industry – sometimes much larger businesses, with far greater resources. What are the best ways to boost sales and compete? Here are some suggestions:
Emphasize your unique value proposition. The benefits your business offers to customers should form the foundation of your unique value proposition. Whatever sets you apart (less cost, better service, or higher-quality value), your sales team should incorporate it into their all-purpose sales pitch.
Up your response time. Larger competitors may take longer to respond to customer inquiries or are slower to talk about a sale. As you cultivate sales leads, be sure to respond quickly when they show any interest. Don't make prospects wait for an automated response, which they can get from any big company. Let them know immediately of your interest in exploring solutions for their companies.
Promote your business strengths. Cost isn't always, or even the predominant, factor in a prospect's decision to make a deal. If your small business does a better job delivering a product or service on or ahead of schedule — or provides extended service beyond the date of delivery — make this part of your sales pitch.
Sales are crucial to growth. Look for creative ways to frame your sales message that don't revolve around price. Other key differentiating factors will emerge that put you on a level playing field with bigger competitors.
A guide to effective customer retention
Nothing beats a customer who regularly buys from you. Here are suggestions for converting one-time customers into repeat business:
Make customer service a priority. Many of the most successful small businesses align several aspects of business operations to revolve around the needs of their customers. These companies:
- Outline specific principles in their mission statement and employee handbook.
- Establish internal systems that support front-line employees to deal with virtually any type of customer-interaction situation, often empowering employees to make on-the-spot decisions, rather than passing along customer inquiries and complaints elsewhere.
- Measure the results of their customer service strategies and reward employees who excel in this area. In other words, they deliver customer service with a visible passion and commitment.
Survey your repeat customers. Consider distributing a quick, easy-to-complete survey to your most valued customers, seeking details on why they keep coming back, what they like about your business, what areas might be worth improving, and any other thoughts they might have. Be sure the format you choose for the survey (email, website, social media) makes it convenient for them to respond. Offering a discount on their next purchase is a good incentive for them to do so.
Where customer feedback results in actionable steps you can take to improve service, implement these strategies and let customers know that you're acting on their input.
Highlight customers in your communications. Customers often need to be politely reminded that your business exists. You can distribute an email newsletter that's short on self-promotion but long on customer-centric news and features. Or, you could interview a loyal customer and feature them on your website, in your newsletter, and in other promotional materials.
Say "thank you" and stay in touch. It's not always practical, but some business owners commit to replying to every email and call they receive. A brief, personalized response (even when no specific business issue or concern is involved) speaks volumes about the value you place on staying in touch with both customers and the people in your professional network. Another approach is having an automated "thank you" message appear with every product fulfillment or in a separate, follow-up email. Just be careful to word this message in a way that avoids coming off as generic or insincere.
Share tips, insights, and information you find online. Customers who receive informative updates and insights from a business may return when the time is right. In your social media activity, generously share helpful "how-to" articles and videos you come across. When you share content that solves a customer's pressing problems — without a pushy sales message — you can build tremendous goodwill for future interactions.
Making every new customer's first interaction with your business pleasant and helpful can be a great way to begin a new relationship. Proactively reaching out to these same people afterward can greatly increase the odds that they'll become regular customers.
Making every new customer's first interaction with your business pleasant and helpful can be a great way to begin a new relationship.
A word about net neutrality
If your business does much of its sales online, how could recent changes in net neutrality affect your future?
April 23, 2018, marked the beginning of the end of net neutrality. The Trump administration began rolling back rules directing internet service providers (ISPs) to allow equal access to all online content, regardless of the content's type or source.
Net neutrality rules, established in 2015 under the Obama presidency, prohibits ISPs from favoring or blocking products or websites based on online clout or level of brand awareness. Net neutrality created a level playing field, giving small and large companies the same opportunities in cyberspace.
As a result of the Federal Communication Commission's vote to repeal net neutrality, ISPs can factor corporate clout and brand awareness into speed and quality of service, potentially affecting users' ability to reach and use a company's website as effectively as they do today. The change could significantly impact small businesses seeking desirable online positioning and faster website loading speeds.
While the future of online equality hangs in the balance, it's important for business owners to control what they can control: evaluating their current business's online presence and ensuring that it's as optimized as possible for a quality user experience. Learn more about leading online marketing services available for businesses today.