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Updated Oct 31, 2023

Sign on the Line: 5 Steps to Closing the Sale

The goal is not just to seal the deal but also to build an ongoing relationship with the customer.

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Written By: Jamie JohnsonSenior Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
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Table of Contents

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If you work in sales, you know how critical it is to improve your closing rate. Getting better at closing deals helps you increase sales and meet quotas, and it makes you more valuable to the company you work for. 

Learning how to close sales takes time effectively, but it’s possible to become a master salesperson with the right strategies. As a bonus, you won’t just seal a one-time deal but also develop better relationships with prospects and clients.

Did You Know?Did you know
Lessons from these fictional businesses can help you close more sales and run a more successful company.

5 steps to closing the sale

While the sales process itself has a fairly standard format, there’s no one way to close a sale. Your approach may need to vary depending on who you’re talking to. But if you’re new to sales, the following steps will get you started on the right closing path. 

1. Start with a preclose.

graphic of two people talking with Q and A word bubbles above their heads

The preclose approach allows you to develop rapport with your prospect and understand their needs better. It involves asking short, open-ended questions to get the prospect talking. The most critical part of the preclose approach is to do more listening than talking. After you ask a question, listen to everything the prospect has to say — don’t interrupt or comment. Your only goal is to engage with them and make them feel part of the process. 

2. Qualify the prospect.

The discovery stage is where you’ll qualify your prospect and determine whether they’re a good fit for your product or service. You’ll ask questions about them and determine what problem they’re trying to solve. This involves more back and forth between you and the prospect. You’re still asking questions, but you’re always trying to demonstrate your expertise and that you have a high-level understanding of their needs. The ultimate goal of this step is to show your prospect why they need your product and how it will benefit them.

3. Give your presentation.

graphic of a person standing in front of a presentation

Now that you’ve warmed up and qualified your prospect, you’ll move into the presentation stage. This could be a slide deck or a product demo. Whatever the format, make sure your presentation is compelling, informative and rooted in fact. You should print out and bring a copy of your slides for each person in the room, including every individual 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 when you present key points. Your objective is to show the prospect how your product or service is the answer to their problem without overselling it. It’s a tricky balance but one that’s possible to achieve. However, if you haven’t provided a clear solution by the end of your presentation, it was a failure. 

4. Handle 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 to the salesperson. Make sure to respond to these objections calmly and politely. 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 your 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 identify objections to prepare for similar situations.

5. Seal the deal.

graphic of two colleagues shaking hands

Your closing words to the prospect should be powerful and show you’re providing them with a solution to their problem. Be confident when you close without coming across as arrogant. Most crucially, make sure you ask for the sale — you want to receive a clear “yes” or “no” so you know what steps to take next. It’s OK if you can’t close the sale that day; that just means you need to follow up with the prospect at a later date.

This five-step sales process can help you cultivate a relationship with your prospect that will turn them into a client. The key to its success? You aren’t giving them a hard pitch from the jump. Instead, you’re taking the time to get to know the prospect and building toward the close. 

Give a great amount of attention to each of the above steps for every deal you attempt to close. Your prospects will appreciate your preparation and professionalism and want to do business with you.

FYIDid you know
You may need to try a variety of closing techniques to see what works best for you. Talk to colleagues and take ongoing sales training so you can continue to develop your skills. Using role-playing can help.

Tips for closing the sale

The specific product or service you’re selling could necessitate a tweak to the sales process or you may have to alter your closing technique to fit the prospect you’re dealing with. Even so, there are some general practices you should follow across the board:

  • Opt for in-person interactions: While a phone call can be a good way to initiate the sales process, the five-step sales approach outlined above tends to be more powerful when applied to in-person sales meetings and presentations.
  • Make eye contact: Look decision-makers directly in the eye to show you are speaking with them, not at them. Gauge their body language to determine whether they are engaged with your sales pitch.
  • Balance your needs with the prospect’s: Your goal is to make a sale and your prospect’s goal is to make something in their own lives better. Strike a balance between closing the deal and making the prospect aware of why they need your services. You both should be getting what you want.
  • Consider extra sales training: All salespeople, even those with high closing rates, should embrace a growth mindset and always work on refining their skills, especially when it comes to business-to-business (B2B) sales. Business owners are likely to see through common sales tactics, so B2B sales can be even more challenging to close than other types of sales. By continually sharpening your skills and staying up to date on sales and marketing trends, you can maintain momentum.
TipBottom line
You can generate more sales leads by asking prospects and customers for referrals. Even if the prospect doesn't feel your product or service is right for them, they may be able to recommend others who would be interested in what you're selling.

What not to do when closing the sale

Graphic of a person working at a desk near a clock

Here are some common mistakes to avoid when you’re trying to close a sale:

  • Not asking for the sale: Many salespeople will go through the entire sales process without ever asking for the sale. This is often because they’re nervous or don’t want to hear “no.” But asking for what you want brings clarity to the conversation and helps you know what to do next — start filling out the contract or schedule a follow-up.
  • Not creating urgency: As a salesperson, your goal is not only to show the prospect that they need your product or service but why they need it right now. Helping them identify their pain points isn’t enough; they need to understand why they must take action quickly. 
  • Trying to trick the prospect: There’s a reason why many people have negative impressions of salespeople — because too many sellers try to rely on tricks and manipulation to close deals. Strive to provide value to the prospect and build a relationship with them, not just meet your quota.
  • Not answering objections: You should address objections as they arise throughout your presentation. Don’t wait until the close to try to answer every question — at that point, it’s probably too late.
  • Not following up: It takes roughly six to eight touchpoints to close a sale, which is why following up is so important. The better you get at thoughtfully following up with prospects, the more deals you’ll close in the long run. The easiest way to make sure you’re following up with prospects is by collecting information about every interaction with them in a customer relationship management (CRM) tool. Check out our picks for the best CRM software, which are great tools for sales pipeline management.

Max Freedman and Doug Dvorak contributed to this article.

author image
Written By: Jamie JohnsonSenior Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
Jamie Johnson has spent more than five years providing invaluable financial guidance to business owners, leading them through the financial intricacies of entrepreneurship. From offering investment lessons to recommending funding options, business loans and insurance, Johnson distills complex financial matters into easily understandable and actionable advice, empowering entrepreneurs to make informed decisions for their companies. As a business owner herself, she continually tests and refines her business strategies and services. Johnson's expertise is evident in her contributions to various finance publications, including Rocket Mortgage, InvestorPlace, Insurify and Credit Karma. Moreover, she has showcased her command of other B2B topics, ranging from sales and payroll to marketing and social media, with insights featured in esteemed outlets such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, CNN, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report and Business Insider.
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