The signing of a contract is a salesperson’s Holy Grail, the prize at the end of the race. It’s many salespeople’s favourite stage of the sale because of the adrenaline rush that comes with the sight of the signature on the dotted line.
All salespeople believe themselves capable of closing a deal and negotiating the terms of a contract. But it is a task that requires a lot of finesse, experience and quite some technique.
Here is some advice that will help you to perform better.
Understand the client risk
Straightaway it is important to understand the risk involved. During the whole period leading up to the signing of the contract – whether the sale takes 3 weeks or 6 months - the risk is the salesperson’s. The client can feel calm. The client studies the market and tries to get an idea about the best offer available.
For his/her part the salesperson tirelessly works away trying to convince the client and at the same time he/she must handle the pressure coming from managers wanting the deal signed as soon as possible. Throughout the process you risk losing everything: your commission, your time and your bosses’ trust.
It is important to understand that the closer you get to the all important signature, the closer this balance of risk gets to being inverted. Once the contract is signed, the risk passes to the buyer who must take responsibility for the commitments and costs that he/she has agreed to take on. The salesperson can savour their victory…
The linchpin of the sales cycle
It is also important when closing a deal to be able help the client along. This is done by achieving a subtle balance between support and pressure. On the one hand it is key to reassure the client with regards to the risks that he/she will be taking on. On the other it is necessary to be firm and have the strength of conviction required to put the client in the position of unease, which precedes the signing of a contract.
A skilled salesperson will be able to change his/her behaviour and discourse as the final step nears. It is necessary to an extent to engage personally to pass on confidence:
- “Trust me, I’m positive that this product meets all of your needs.”
- “I can vouch for the quality of my product.”
- “I’ll be with you throughout the setup and, of course, in the event that any problems arise.”
On the other hand it is necessary to be able to keep your distance to oblige the client to make a decision. The relationship between the salesperson and buyer changes. You become tougher with them, which helps to push things along:
- “I’m sorry but I won’t be able to maintain my offer beyond X date.”
- “We must meet this week so you can make a final decision.”
- “We’ve been discussing this for 3 months, you need to come to a decision…”
I’ve met countless good salespeople who work hard, constantly look for new clients and are able to identify new opportunities. Unfortunately, they were not very effective because they’re afraid of hearing a “no” from the client. However, this part of the sale is key and the seller must find the right moment to get the client to decide. Even getting a “no” can be a positive as it allows you to put your limited time and energy into making a new deal. Without this final pressure the sales cycle can be endless.
Your preparation must be thorough
The secret to closing a deal is preparation.
To be able to get the client to sign you have to see the closing as a natural end to the sales process.
- Define from the very beginning, with your client, the timetable for the decision (this year, this trimester, before Christmas, before the launch of your website). This should come up during your first meeting.
- Arrange a final negotiation to take place in person. Make clear to the client what the goal of this meeting is.
- Send the contract ahead of the final meeting to help him/her understand that the sales cycle is nearing its end.
- All objections must be resolved prior to the final negotiation.
- Be sure that the actual signatory will be present even if this is the first occasion during the process that you will meet him/her. This is indispensable.
- Prepare your margins of negotiation in advance.
- Don’t hesitate to make “special” offers, which last for a limited amount of time. It’s a simple tactic but it works.
- Be ready to insist and hard sell.
- Always have a plan B ready in the event your client isn’t able to sign the offer you’ve been working on.
Remember, just one final meeting, it won’t happen often that you’ll have two. It’s the moment of truth – be ready.
You are now at the moment of taking a final decision. All that is left is to negotiate skilfully to get the contract signed. But don’t forget, signing a contract and bringing in a deal in positive conditions are different things.
By Olivier Piscart, CEO of Salezeo, Sales Prospecting reinvented. Salezeo is the first free European crowdsourced database with contact details of 1.8 million B2B decision makers. 20 000 salespeople exchange business contacts on the platform thus updating the database in real time. The contacts are verified and enriched by powerful search engines which collect available business information from the web.