Posted 8th April 2010.
Mike Schultz's excellent free report “Selling Consulting Services: Forget Everything You Know About Sales and Begin to Sell Without Selling” has a great section in it on closing techniques.
At first I approached this chapter with trepidation. In my professional career I've never found closing techniques worked for me. Not only did they feel uncomfortably manipulative – the complete opposite of the relationship I was trying to build up – but clients didn't seem to respond to them as well as all the books suggested.
Maybe it was just me, I thought.
After all, all these sales gurus can't be wrong.
But as I grew in confidence and experience, I learned it wasn't just me.
The truth is that despite all the books you can buy and courses you can go on to learn “killer closing techniques”, when it comes to selling high value consulting and other professional services, they're actually counter productive. If people aren't yet convinced that they really need a service, and they're not sure that your particular one is right for them; then using closing techniques like asking if they'd like you to start on Tuesday or Thursday will push them further away.
So how do I recommend closing if it's not with techniques?
In my experience, closing is a three stage process which begins early on in your discussions with the client.
Initially, you set the stage for a positive close through the whole sales process by:
- Confirming agreements through the discussion.
- Addressing client concerns as they arise rather than “steamrollering” through to the next point.
- Ensuring you drill for impact – it's understanding the full implications of the issue which will motivate the client to buy.
Next, close at the Concept level (i.e. first get agreement on what the client wants to achieve):
- Summarise the client's priority needs, the impact of the issue and the outline of what they are looking for.
- Check for any outstanding concerns – and genuinely address them if there are any.
- Propose the next step – usually to move on to agreeing the practical details.
Finally, close at the Practical level (i.e. get agreement on what you will actually do together). This may need a second meeting and some further work from you to prepare an outline plan. But it's crucial that you and your potential client work together to finalise the scope and plan, for example:
- Jointly discussing and designing the approach to the project/engagement (while remembering that you are the expert).
- Checking for any final concerns – and addressing them.
- Proposing moving forward together.
The idea of being able to use a magic technique to increase your sales is a very alluring one. But in the case of selling consulting or other professional services, it's a misguided one. Clients will only buy when they feel comfortable they're getting what they need from someone who's capable and who they can work with. You establish this in the way you engage with them throughout the selling process – not by using some clever technique at the end.
So how did my approach fare vs Mike's recommendations?
It turns out we're in agreement (which shouldn't have really been a surprise given I know Mike quite well). As Mike says in the report:
Selling consulting is about trust, not tricks
I couldn't have put it better myself.
You can download a free copy of the Selling Consulting Services report here.
The reason Mike's giving away such a valuable report for free is simple: it's a bribe!
He and the team at Raintoday.com have just launched a new online training program on selling consulting services which they'd like you to try out: hence the “bribe” of the free report.
I chatted to Mike on the phone last week about the program and the content looks excellent. There are 6 modules, teleseminars, expert forums, and over 25 individual training sessions covering everything from developing your value proposition to starting sales conversations with rapport to getting in front of the economic buyer to crafting winning solutions to closing the deal.
Next to having your own personal business development coach or mentor, it's absolutely the best way to boost your selling skills.
They're limiting enrolment to the first 200 members who sign up and they're closing the doors on April 16.
This initial “Charter Membership” will be at only $97 per month. When they reopen the program the price will be at least double.
And as an added bonus, all Charter Members will get a free copy of the $345 “How Clients Buy Professional Services Benchmark Report” absolutely free. (As many of you know, I've been quoting the report and using it to guide a lot of my work over the last year).
You can find out more about the course here.
You should know, the Raintoday.com team have offered to pay me a small commission if any of my readers sign up for their course. I hope you know me well enough by now to know this has in no way influenced my recommendation. If you've been a reader of the blog for any time you'll know I've been a long-term supporter of Mike and the team and really respect the quality of their training.