Why Most Sales Closing Techniques Fail with B2B Deals
There is a misconception among some salespeople that with the right closing technique, they’ll get a reluctant buyer to say “yes.” Let’s take for example two sales closing techniques with colorful names, the Ben Franklin and the Something for Nothing close.
In the Ben Franklin close, you draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper and label the two columns “pro” and “con.” Apparently, this is what Ben Franklin did when making important decisions. The idea is to help the indecisive or analytical buyer make a purchase decision by listing the pros and cons of why they should buy.
Warning: don’t use this one unless you have lots of good reasons in the “pro” column!
In the Something for Nothing close, you nudge an indecisive buyer into buying by throwing in a last-minute freebie (e.g. “If you sign today, I’ll include a free…”).
The problem with these techniques is that they place a heavy emphasis on psychological tricks or tactics designed to “force” a buyer into making a purchase. They also ignore what happens immediately before and after you ask for a commitment.
While such tactics may work with individual buyers, they’re less effective with B2B buyers. In B2B deals the dollar amounts are high, the risk of making a mistake is great, and there are often multiple decision-makers. These buyers can’t be tricked or pressured into saying “yes.”
When the time is right to gain commitment from B2B buyers, it’s best to keep things simple and close the sale using the ASK process: Align priorities, Secure the commitment, and Keep the commitment alive.
Start by summarizing your understanding of their business needs and priorities. Make the summary short and to the point using their words if possible. For example, “You’ve said that efficiencies and streamlining processes are your top priorities.” Or, “Based on what you told me, it is important to …”
If the buyer has other needs, ask more questions about them and make sure that your proposed solution is addressing these needs. Then ask for feedback, “Did I understand that correctly?” Or, “Is there anything I’m missing?”
After summarizing their key priorities and getting feedback, proceed and ask for the sale.
Summarize the major ways your buyer will benefit by moving forward with the sale. Link the key features and benefits of your offering to their needs. If one or two benefits are of paramount importance, focus on them.
Next, go ahead and ask for a commitment. Here are three common, non-manipulative, ways of asking for a commitment:
- Direct: “Would you like to move forward with this?” Some salespeople are afraid to use this approach because it can put the buyer on the spot and lead to a no. However asking for a commitment in a straightforward manner is the most effective method to get your buyer off the fence and say yes.
- Assumptive: “Can we start you on the 15th?” This technique leverages the power of suggestion by assuming the buyer has already decided to buy. The decision then focuses on a secondary issue such as delivery date or quantity.
If this closing technique is difficult to use, you may have confidence issues. If that’s the case, ask yourself (1) what about your product is unique? And (2) how will your buyer benefit from this product? You must believe that your buyer will benefit. If you don’t, make a list of the ways your buyer will benefit
- Choice: “Would you prefer to set a follow-up meeting for Monday morning or Tuesday afternoon?” Offering a choice makes your buyer’s decision easier by giving a choice between “which” rather than “yes/no.” Decision making for some people is difficult because it forces them to assume responsibility and that’s risky. The least risky path is to say no. You’ll make it easier for your buyer to say yes because, in fact, they’ll benefit by saying yes.
Keep Commitment Alive
After your buyer says “yes,” you still have work to do. You should immediately clarify next steps and logistics. Does your buyer understand the contracting process? Do you need to schedule a delivery or an implementation meeting with another person or department from your buyer’s side? If there is some formal implementation process that involves another person or department from your company, you should personally make the hand-off, and then follow-up after implementation to confirm that everything went smoothly. There should be no ambiguity.
Also, confirm your buyer’s good decision as soon as possible. After your buyer decides, it’s human nature to start having doubts (i.e., “buyer’s remorse”). It’s important to reinforce your buyers’ decision almost immediately after they make it.
One more thing: This is incredibly obvious, but sometimes sales professionals forget. Send your buyers a follow-up thank-you note or email a few days after they have signed the agreement.
About David Jacoby
As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.