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The most common goal that sales leaders come to me with is that they want their salespeople to close more. This seems obvious of course as more sales equals increased profitability for the company. And the main reason organizations invest in a sales trainer/coach/consultant is to increase sales. There are many different training focus areas that can help increase sales, but one that often gets missed, is simply learning how (and why) to close FASTER.

Why it's crucial to close faster?

1. Closing faster means that a strong and consistent follow-up (and other) process is in place which ALWAYS equals a higher win rate over time.

2. How many prospects can one properly handle at a time? Let’s just say for example that the average is 10 prospects (likely more) over a two-month period. If we can learn to strategically close (or find out that it’s a no) twice as fast (in one month), we can now handle 20 prospects, or double in the same amount (2 months) of time. If effectively done, that WOULD equate to at least double the sales, but likely more. A secret of many elite salespeople is that they effectively handle many more prospects than the average salesperson, which equates to many more sales.

3. Closing faster with the right skills and strategies, also increases our win percentage. A common misconception is that giving prospects space and time to decide is the best approach. Although it sounds nice, it’s untrue. Time and space only gives them more time to lose momentum and enthusiasm for your product or service. It also gives them more time to potentially talk with your competitors or other options. The old clichés are true. Strike while the iron is hot, smell blood in the water, etc.

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In the Psychology For Sales Success section of our A-Z Elite Salesperson Workshop, we dive deep into a number of traits that salespeople can improve upon for greater success. But having traveled the country for years, working with companies across virtually all industries, I have found that almost all elite salespeople share this one important trait.

Virtually all elite salespeople are self-starters and can succeed with little support. They in effect support themselves and never blame the company or those in charge for their sales numbers. The mindset is that regardless of what others are or are not doing, they are going to succeed.

Salespeople sometimes complain about not getting enough support. And sometimes, they might be right. More strategy and support from the company can certainly increase sales company-wide. However, I believe that one of the most important questions to the complaint is, “Are there currently salespeople in the company that are performing at a high level?” There almost always are. And if so, the next question is, “What is unique about that individual(s) that is performing at a high level with the same amount of support?” The level of support is always subjective and opinions often vary. But, if there are salespeople succeeding, there is at least enough support and infrastructure for individual sales success to occur.

Don’t get me wrong. As someone who has sold for other companies prior to starting my own, I understand the feeling that more can often be done to help a sales team. As a sales team trainer/coach/consultant I have seen firsthand how the added support can help salespeople get to that next level of success. But most elite salespeople have figured out that focusing on what they can do differently or improve upon, is the biggest key to their success. Management is focused on many things and a bigger picture, and hoping and waiting for them to do what one believes that they should do, is not a good recipe for success.

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Two of the currently most debated sales methods pits relationship sales vs challenging the prospect. The good news is, they both have some merit. The bad news is, big picture, both are highly flawed and there is a much better method.

The biggest issue with most sales methods is that they live and breathe in the extremes. For instance, arming salespeople with the idea that they need to challenge their prospects, can go very bad. Also, telling salespeople that they need to take the time to build a strong relationship before closing, can push them in another extreme direction. One can come off as adversarial and the other can move much slower than it needs to. Since I regularly get asked my opinion on this subject, here it is.

1. The good and the bad of relationship building as a sales method. Building strong relationships with our prospects and clients is certainly always the right idea. That’s what is most likely to keep them as clients over the long-term. But that doesn’t mean that we have to get extremely close, before creating some commitments and starting a business relationship. Our pre and post close processes should include continually fostering and growing the relationship. But our approach shouldn’t slow buyer momentum or lengthen our sales cycle. If the goal is more sales, the goal should also be to shorten our sales cycle. If we take twice as long to develop initial relationships before closing, we will meet with half as many prospects. And although we may believe that meeting with someone more times will increase our chances of closing, it can also get us ghosted before we get to asking for the sale. Prospects no longer have time (or want) for extra relationship building conversations. There is a very fine line here.

2. The good and the bad of challenging a prospect. As someone who provides sales training/coaching for a living, when someone sells to me, I often think to myself, “They are using the x method.” For the record, the Challenger Method is the worst experience for me (and many others) as a buyer. Especially as a B2B buyer. And although one might argue that the salespeople are doing it wrong, I would argue that the title and the message tell them to do exactly what many buyers take issue with.

Let’s start with what’s good. The idea of learning about your prospect’s business and being an advisor and consultant is dead on. All good sales methods should do that. And providing new ideas and ways for people to think about utilizing our product or service, also good. The problem lies with “challenging” a buyer about their buying decisions for their company. First, as salespeople, we are the expert on our product or service. That is our job. But no matter how much we try to learn about a prospect’s organization, the prospect will remain the (big picture) expert on it. Period. Speaking to or acting otherwise, is a very bad look. So, when a salesperson advises me on their product/service (their expertise), I listen intently and then frame it into how it will affect my company (my expertise) if I purchase it. Challenging me on making the right decision for my company is a really bad idea and only means that they will never have the opportunity to sell to me again. I am not alone in my feelings. This is one of the major flaws with this method. A strong argument for instituting this method is based on the idea that it will help a salesperson “take control” of sales conversations and stop being so passive. Right idea, wrong approach. There is a better way.

3. The Harney Method. What’s a better method in reference to the above?

A. Build relationships and trust quickly, without slowing any buyer momentum toward close. Some prospects might need more relationship development time and some won’t. Learn each individual prospect and deliver. It’s not about how much time WE feel they need to be comfortable enough to move forward.

B. Create equal relationships with prospects. People connect with and trust people that they see as their equal. Coming in too soft makes us look like we aren’t their equal. Challenging prospects comes off as arrogant and unequal in the other direction. Enter the relationship with the prospect as partners, each with expertise and both focused on a great end result for the team.

C. Understand that each prospect is unique. Ask the right questions to identify their unique wants, needs and problems to solve. This is how you properly guide and control the conversation as their partner. Listen! Advise in line with what the PROSPECT has identified as to how you can help them, based on your expertise. Listen again. Deliver on THEIR needs in YOUR expert way. We can and should be strongly engaged and assertive without coming off as arrogant or adversarial.

Happy Holidays!

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