By Mitch Carson
If you were to ask, most people familiar with selling would say that the most important event in the sales cycle is the closing of a deal. And some people believe that a sales person is either a closer or they are not. Or there is the belief that the harder we work, the more aggressive we are, and the more times we call the prospect translates into more closed deals. While some of that may indeed be true and some may be false, what is true is that there are clear strategies that one can put into action to improve sales effectiveness and improve the ability to close deals. One of these tactics is to trial close throughout the sales cycle.
What Is a Trial Closing?
Trial closing is simply checking in with the prospect to get their opinion. This differs from actual closing as the goal is only to get feedback and information and is not intended to get their final decision. It's a way of checking how the sale is going without admitting that this is what you are doing. The goal of this tactic is to gather information to identify if the prospect is onboard and heading in the same direction as the sales person. Not only can this be used to see if the opportunity is tracking in the right direction, it is an effective way to identify if there are any challenges, objections, or concerns that need to be addressed.
When To Use This Tactic?
To improve sales effectiveness, it can be helpful to use this tactic throughout the sales cycle. If this can be viewed as a "check in" or opinion gathering technique, rather like taking a survey, then it is reasonable to use this tactic during and at the end of every meeting and conversation with a prospect.
Examples of a Trial Close
Below are some examples of trial closing questions:
• What do you think of what we have discussed so far?
• How would that feature help your operation?
• What are your feelings for what we have shown you?
• Do you agree with the return on investment analysis?
• Is this something you could see your employees using?
• Do you want to continue forward with these discussions?
• What direction do you want to go from here?
Benefits of Trial Closing
The main benefit of the trial closing is that it gives the sales person valuable information on what is going on on the prospect's side. This tactic can help a sales person to understand what the prospect's perception is and any challenges or opportunities that exist. By having this additional information, the sales person will be able to execute better in two key areas:
By having more information on the prospect's perception of the solution, the sales person will be better able to qualify, or disqualify, sales opportunities. Being able to execute in this area alone can help a sales person to spend valuable time in the right areas. He'll know if a little nudge in the right direction is all that is needed, or more of a great, big push.
By asking trial close questions and obtaining vital information from the prospect, a sales person will be able to better navigate the sales process and sales cycle in terms of focusing on the key areas where attention needs to be placed. This can help to ensure that the messaging and execution is tight and aligned with what is needed to stay ahead of the competition.
Cost of Not Using Trial Close Questions
The main risk from not trial closing during the sales cycle is that a sales person might not know exactly how the prospect feels and this could create the probability of wasting time on unqualified deals. In addition, the sales person might be focusing in areas or on messages that are not important to the prospect and this could be negatively impacting sales effectiveness.
Four Keys to Improve Your Sales Close Rate
In the world of sales, you often hear people talk about improving the ability to close a deal. But what is it that makes someone better able to close deals than another? Is it a better personality? Is it a higher level of intensity and aggressiveness? In the old school world of sales, the answers to those questions would be yes. In today's day and age of delivering sales effectiveness through technique and process, the answers to those questions could be yes or no as there are some very key things you can do to improve your close rate and those are below.
Improving your ability to effectively qualify opportunities will have an immediate impact on your close rate. This is an approach to weed out the deals that are not really going through, to eliminate time that could potentially be wasted and then refocus the time on finding other opportunities.
When qualifying opportunities work to get the prospect to answer three questions: 1) why do something; 2) why purchase from you; and 3) why do something now? Based on the answers to those questions, you will be able to determine whether you should spend time on the opportunity and this will impact your close rate.
2. Compelling Event
During your discovery with a prospect, try to identify a compelling event connected to their purchase. Examples of this could be that the system they are using is being discontinued or unsupported, they have a contract that is expiring, there is an organizational change, etc. When you identify this event and can help to improve your close rate.
There will be many occasions where there is not a clear compelling event and it is more a case of the sooner the better, but no defined date. In this case, you can manufacture a compelling event by building in a discount that is scheduled to expire on a very specific date.
3. Evaluation Plan
Once you have identified a compelling event and get the prospect to agree to work to get the purchase done by then, you can then build out an evaluation plan which will be a list of all the major steps that will need to be completed during the sales cycle. Each step will have an owner and data associated and essentially be a step-by-step list of what needs to be done to complete the purchase. By explaining and building the evaluation plan with the prospect and then sharing the updates throughout the sales cycle, you can improve your sales close rate.
It can be very common that we qualify real opportunities and invest time in them and then somewhere down the line they stall out and it seems like there is nothing we can do to close them. When this is the case, it can be a good technique to disqualify the opportunity by questioning the prospect if it makes sense to continue forward.
By doing this, you are likely to create two different events. If it is a real deal, the prospect will begin to sell you on why it makes sense and this could help to get momentum moving. Or, there is a chance that this pushes the prospect away and kills the deal, but if that happens it was likely not a qualified opportunity anyways and you might have just saved both you and the prospect time. Either way, this tactic can help to improve the close rate.
Trial Close During Presentations for Sales Effectiveness
You can deliver the best and most effective sales presentation, but if you do not trial close regularly during sales presentations, your sales effectiveness might not be at the highest level it could be. Trial closing refers to asking the prospect questions throughout the presentation to check in to see what their thoughts are so far and confirm the direction forward.
Trial closing is an effective and important sales tactic for the following reasons:
1. Gather Important Information
When you ask trial closing questions, you will get key information from the prospect. When you are delivering a presentation, you will be providing a lot of information and doing a lot of the talking. If you never check in and ask questions, you will be operating without important information from the prospect's side.
2. Confirm Current Direction
Trial closing will allow you to check in with a prospect to make sure that they are still following your presentation and that you all are currently on the same page.
3. Map Out Future Direction
While you are trial closing, you can ask questions to confirm and map out the future direction that the prospect wants to go.
Examples of Questions to Use To Trial Close During a Sales Presentation
1. What do you think of what we have discussed so far?
Check the temperature of the prospect during a presentation to see what their thoughts are. If you don't ask, you can assume but you will really have no idea what they are thinking. That could lead to a nasty surprise.
2. How would this solution benefit your organization?
As a sales person, you will know all of the business value that a customer will receive from buying from you. But does the prospect? Ask this question and the prospect will share their understanding of the value and benefits in their own words and this will help you to determine how on board the prospect is.
3. Is this something that you could see being used?
The product or service that you present may be fantastic, and the prospect may love it, but is it something they could see being used and adopted by their organization? If they love it but there is no way for it to get implemented, they may not be a qualified sales opportunity.
4. Is the value delivered in line with the investment required?
This question is a good way to test if the price is right without asking that directly. By asking about the value they will receive instead of the price they will pay, you can get close to knowing if you are in the right ballpark without creating an opportunity for them to ask for a lower price.
5. What direction do you want to go from here?
Most likely as the sales person, you are going to want to move forward and close the sale as soon as possible. But what direction does the prospect want to go? Getting them to explain and share in their own words can provide some valuable information on their buying process.
6. What is your decision making process?
Does the person you are presenting to have power? This question gets you to the answer of that question without directly asking and offending anyone and can help you to identify if you need executive sponsorship.