Strong sales means a strong sales process: Your close rate is directly dependent upon your up-front investment.

I received a call last week from Charles, a referral. Charles told me that he and his team needed help closing business. Because their solution was so well known, his company had no problem securing an initial meeting. However, the sales process fell apart after that, and their close ratio was dismal.

I’m direct about my referral-sales process and No More Cold Calling philosophy, so I was direct with Charles, and told him: It’s never about closing.

Then I asked a series of questions—going back to the beginning of the sales process:

  • How did the so-called leads come to them in the first place?
  • Were these leads qualified?
  • Was the prospect interested or just tire kicking?
  • What questions were they asking the sales prospect?
  • How soon did they launch a demo?
  • What was the marketing plan to follow up?

What I learned about Charles’ sales process confirmed my suspicions: The initial contact meeting was unqualified, the sales team wasn’t asking discovery questions, and the sales meeting follow-up consisted of a series of emails. (A strong sales relationship is based on an authentic interest in your clients and their success (it’s really not about you): read, “Attention Salespeople, Your Clients Don’t Care”.)

Identify the Problem, Not the Symptom

It’s never about closing. Never. Troubled closes are the symptom. The problem is the neglect salespeople give to all the activities during the early parts of the sales process.

It’s like back pain. You can stretch and put heat on an aching back, but unless you treat the cause of the pain (the problem)—a pulled muscle or degenerating disc—you will still have back pain.

Smart Questions Lead to Strong Sales Revenue

Once a sales lead is sourced, you can enhance your close rate by understanding what your client really needs. Many salespeople ask just one or two questions and then assume that they have zeroed in on the client’s need and appropriate solution. This is rarely the case. These salespeople don’t take the time to really evaluate the client’s situation, significant problem, or need. This disinterested sales strategy is doomed to fail.

Thoughtful and provocative questioning delivers a huge impact on your close rate, and your sales revenues.

When you ask smart, probing questions to understand the real problem, very often the scale of the project increases (more money), and the client gets a solution that will actually solve his problem and create demonstrable business results. Your client looks good, the company is successful, and you are poised for additional business.

If you hear “My salespeople can’t close,” it’s a symptom and not the cause of the problem. Selling is never about closing.

Seal the Deal Here

Which part of your sales process needs the most work? Which part do you most enjoy (or not)? Collectively, our No More Cold Calling sales community continues to thrive: Share your insights here.