What It Means to Close a Sale
In sales terms, closing is generally defined as the moment when a prospect or customer decides to make the purchase. Very few prospects will self close, making it necessary for the salesperson to instigate the close. This can be unnerving, especially for new salespeople, as it leaves the salesperson open to the chance of rejection from the prospect.
While closing the sale is necessary, it doesn't have to be a big deal. A salesperson who has done a good job in the early stages of the sales process will only need to give a simple nudge to the prospect to start the close. It might be as simple as saying, "Sign here to make it yours," while handing the prospect a pen and a contract.
When to Use a Trial Close
Closing becomes more complicated when the prospect isn't ready to buy at the end of your sales presentation. You can generally tell how ready the prospect is feeling by watching for buying signals. If your prospect's body language is tense or resistant as you're winding up your presentation, they're probably not ready to break out their wallet.
In that case, closing becomes far more complicated. It's often a good idea to try a trial close before you commit to a final close. A trial close is a way to test how ready the prospect is to buy, by asking a question such as "How do you feel about what we've discussed so far?". A prospect who in fact is not ready will often react to a trial close by bringing up an objection. If you respond appropriately to the objection, they'll come up with another one and possibly yet another one. Remember that objections are actually a good sign because if the prospect is completely uninterested, they'd just say "no thanks" and show you the door.
Once you've responded to all of the prospect's objections, you can either float another trial close or move to a final close, depending on how confident you feel at that point. This is generally a make it or break it point for the sale. Once the prospect has run out of objections, they have to either give you a final yes or a final no.
A no from a prospect at this point is not necessarily the end of the sale. Depending on their reasons for saying no, you may still be able to change their mind and complete the close. Even if they stick to their no, you can thank them for their time and make a note to reach out to them at a later date. After all, things will be different for the prospect in a week, a month, and a year, so they may become eager to buy if you just give them a little time.
Salespeople have come up with a number of closing techniques to help soften prospect resistance and put them in a buying mood. These closing techniques can be quite powerful and should be used only as appropriate. A salesperson should never use a closing technique to bludgeon a prospect in the buying something that they don't really want or need. Closing techniques are best used when the prospect is close to buying but is held back by an unreasonable concern.
The salesperson's attitude towards closing has changed quite a bit since the days of Glengarry Glen Ross. Most salespeople view closing as the opportunity to provide a prospect with something that will be of benefit to him. As a result, hard closes are a lot less popular these days. Unfortunately, some salespeople have moved so far on this spectrum that they believe ALL closing is inappropriate.
In a perfect world this might be the case, but in reality, some form of closing is necessary for almost every sales situation. Fear of change holds back prospects for making the final leap into buying, so salespeople need to offer them that little push to move them beyond that fear. If you don't abuse the close, it's a perfectly valid and necessary sales tool.