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The five criteria you need to meet before asking for the close

asking for the close sales contract sign

by Marguerite Zimmerman

For most salespeople, the hardest part of the sales process is the close. Attempting to close too early will sabotage the relationship, while waiting too long to close means that your sales manager will be questioning your results.

Figuring out when to ask for the close is difficult, and there is a big difference between closing at an appropriate time and pushing for the close. There is a natural time in the sales call to close and it’s when the following criteria are met:

The prospect has trust in you and your company

Pushing for the close before trust and credibility has been established puts both you and the prospect in an uncomfortable position. Asking for a commitment from someone who doesn’t trust you, is foolish and inevitably ends in a ‘no.’ This is the type of behavior that gives salespeople a bad reputation.

The buyer’s process has been followed

Often, salespeople try to jump ahead in the buyer’s process to expedite the sale and meet their numbers. Although this can sometimes work, in most cases a buyer won’t (or can’t) sign off on the deal until their questions have been satisfied and they have confidence your solution meets their criteria.

The prospect has a defined need for your product/service

Have you had specific conversations about the problems your customer is facing, and the implications of those problems? Salespeople sometimes forget to move from general to specific – this is why SPIN Selling, Consultative Sales, and Challenger Sales methods were such breakthroughs. A well-defined problem, that the prospect is painfully aware of, makes asking for the close a natural progression of the conversation.

The prospect has a reasonable level of urgency to solve or address their problem

This one should be obvious – if there isn’t any urgency to the problem, attempting to close will lead to a prolonged chase. In this situation, it’s important to paint a picture of what the prospect stands to gain or avoid by moving forward now. When there is limited risks or rewards for the prospect, it’s important to differentiate between clients who need to be put into your “Keep Warm” file and tire-kickers.

The prospect sees you as the obvious answer to address the problem they have

When you are not certain that it is time to close, first of all ask yourself: At what point did the prospect make an emotional commitment to move forward? If you asked them if price was not an issue, is there any reason stopping them from moving forward? What would they say?

One effective way to close is to gain agreement for each step of the Customer Needs Analysis. Review with your prospect the need you both agreed to, get confirmation that this is what they need to accomplish. Repeat this for each step: Need, Want, Can Afford, Timing, and Buying/Success Criteria.

In essence you will have 5 trial closes, and have the prospect reaffirm for themselves they are ready to move forward. The only last move is to use an assumptive close.  It is frequently as easy as getting a date booked to get started and not at all pushy.


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About Marguerite
Marguerite Zimmerman is CEO of E=mz2 Inc. & Founder of Momentium. Her career has been dedicated to helping sales forces maximize their performance.
asking for the close sales contract sign
The five criteria you need to meet before asking for the close