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Sign on the Line: 5 Steps to Closing the Sale

Max Freedman
Max Freedman

Closing a sale is an art. With these five steps, you can close any sale and build an ongoing relationship with a prospect or client.

If you are hoping to close an important sale, then you know that your final sales presentation is of the utmost importance in the cycle. Closing the right sale can not only earn you and your company a great deal of money, but it can help advance your professional career as well. You need to remember that the act of actually closing the sale is very different from any other part of the sales process.

The five-step sales process is a common sales methodology that experts say eliminates guesswork and allows a salesperson to quickly identify where in the sales funnel their strategy is failing. The process starts at contact with a potential customer or client and ends with sale closure. [Read related article: Sales Tips 101: How to Sell Anything to Anybody]

What are the different steps in the sales process?

These are the five steps in the sales process, which we'll discuss in detail below:

  1. The pre-closing approach
  2. The discovery stage
  3. The presentation
  4. Handling objections
  5. Closing

Step 1: The pre-closing approach 

During the pre-closing approach, a good salesperson will make ample time to introduce the sales pitch. The selling pre-approach will help you engage the potential customer or client, making them feel like part of the process. Always begin the sales pitch in a friendly manner with a smile on your face and questions for the client.

After asking a question, close your mouth! You want them to engage with you, and the only way to do this is to give them a chance to talk.

Step 2: The discovery stage

The second step in the sales cycle is often called the approach or the discovery stage. Here, you will foster a good customer experience for your potential new client by asking questions designed to gather facts about the client's company (if they have one); uncover their feelings, problems or motivations; and determine their problem so you can provide them with a solution.

If you have previously met with them and determined their problems, then you will want to take this time to review the issue. The overall goal in step two of the sales funnel is to balance your need for selling your services with showing your buyer why they need your product and how they will benefit from it.

Step 3: The presentation

The presentation part of closing your sale is extremely important. Once you have taken the time to warm up your prospective buyer and get them ready for your sales pitch, it's time to deliver. Make sure that your presentation is effective, efficient and rooted in fact. You should print out and bring a copy of this factual presentation for each person in the room, including every person present for interactive portions of your pitch. This is vital to sales methodology because it provides a better customer experience right from the presentation phase.

Make eye contact with every decision-maker or influencer in the room when you present your key points. Your goal is to show the prospect how your product or solution can provide be the answer to their problem without overpromising or overselling – a tricky balance, but one that many sales leaders have mastered. If you do not provide the decision-maker with a clear solution, you have failed. [Read related article: 7 Secrets to Becoming a Great Presenter]

Step 4: Handling objections

One of the most common issues with closing a sale is handling objections. Most people will not buy a product or service without at least asking some questions or voicing some concerns or protests to the salesperson.

Make sure to answer these objections calmly and politely. Sales and business leaders know to address objections head-on and provide facts that show the prospect their objection should not be a concern.

You can prepare for this by going over the presentation with a colleague or friend beforehand. Any objections or problems they raise are areas you need to prepare answers and solutions for. You can also look at past presentations, whether yours or someone else's on your sales team, and see what objections have been voiced in the past to prepare for your upcoming sales presentation.

Step 5: Closing 

Your closing words to your prospects should be powerful and show them again that you are providing them with a solution to their problem, and a valuable product or service. State these closing words with confidence but not arrogance – the key balance that every good salesperson learns to strike – while removing any doubts or objections in the prospect's mind.

If you are unable to close the sale at that moment, it is very important to set a follow-up date or give the prospect your contact information. While trying to close the sale with a phone call instead of another in-person presentation may be tempting, it is always better to make sales face-to-face with a prospective buyer.

This five-step sales process can help you cultivate a relationship with your prospect that will turn them into a client. Give a great amount of attention to each of the steps for every deal you attempt to close. Your clients will appreciate your preparation and professionalism and surely want to do more business with you.

What actions should you and your reps take throughout each step of the sales process?

While each step of the sales process is different, some general advice is equally useful for each step:

  • Make eye contact. Look decision-makers directly in the eye often to show that you are speaking with them, not at them. Gauge their body language to determine whether they are engaged with your sales pitch.

  • Opt for in-person sales. While a phone call can be a good way to initiate the sales process, the five-step sales approach tends to be more powerful when applied to in-person sales meetings and presentations.

  • Balance your needs with the client's. Your goal is to make a sale, and your client's goal is to streamline their business operations however possible. Strike a balance between closing a deal and making the client aware of why they need your services.

  • Consider extra sales training. Even before starting the sale process, consider taking extra sales training, especially for B2B sales. Business owners are likely to know a professional, trustworthy salesperson when they see one, so B2B sales can be even more challenging than other types of sales.

Salespeople and entrepreneurs who incorporate these actions during the sales process should be well on their way to success.

Doug Dvorak contributed to the writing in this article.

Image Credit: jacoblund / Getty Images
Max Freedman
Max Freedman,
business.com Writer
Max Freedman is a freelance writer who covers best business practices for business.com and culture for publications including The A.V. Club, MTV, Paste, FLOOD, and Bandcamp. He lives in Philly and doesn't miss his native New York.