In theory, learning how to close a sale is actually pretty simple: show up prepared, give your pitch, answer your prospect’s objections, ask for the sale, and if needed, follow up until you get a definitive answer.
In practice however, selling is a bit more complicated than that—a hard fact I’ve come to learn through countless hours of closing (and attempting to close sales) throughout my career. It’s not so easy to avoid sales closing sins—especially if you’re new to the game.
While there is an underlying formula behind the process of closing a sale, it’s as much an art form as it is a scientific process. Because the two are inextricably intertwined together, we’re going to examine both the art and science of closing sales. In this article, we’ll cover the following topics:
- The science behind how to close a sale
- 12 sales closing techniques to win every sale
- 6 tips to close a sale quickly and effectively
- 15 sales closing questions to turn a “no” into a “yes”
- Bonus sales closing phrases
- Final thoughts on closing sales
If you’re ready, let’s get started with some of the basic science behind why sales don’t close, and where you might be wasting your energy.
Let’s start with a surprisingly insightful sales statistic:
A whopping 92% of salespeople report giving up on a prospect after hearing “no” four times. Conversely, 80% of prospects report saying “no” four times before they finally say “yes.”
Did you get that?
An overwhelming majority of people (80%) give a salesperson at least four “no’s” before they change their minds and decide to try out a new solution. Yet, at the same time, virtually all salespeople (92%) don’t ever make it that far. And this doesn’t even take into account how many salespeople and founders linger in the dangerous sales maybe zone forever, without ever getting a definitive answer from their prospects!
This statistic doesn’t mean every lead is just four “no’s” away from turning into a “yes,” but the clear takeaway is that sales is often a long game, and the majority of leads aren’t going to close right there on your first call.
By the simple act of committing to follow up with leads, building a relationship, and staying in touch with your best prospects (that stand to benefit most from your solution), you’re going to rise above the vast majority of the competition.
That being said, all of the tools in the world can’t help you close a sale if you don’t have a step-by-step formula to follow and fall back on—one that’s been tweaked and perfected over time.
Luckily, building out sales techniques isn’t a new concept, and there are many tried and true methods that you can add to your repertoire. These are 12 of the best sales closing techniques that can help you evaluate any situation, and stop those firm “no” answers with your own great response.
1. The Assumptive Close
The Assumptive Close is based on the concept that you firmly believe you will make this sale from the moment you put effort into it. The language you use throughout would indicate that you believe the sale is a “done deal.” The key is checking frequently on your prospect, gauging their level of interest, objections, and determining if they’re on the same page as you.
Why this works: Your confidence and positive thinking is contagious, and makes the prospect think the answer should be as obvious to them as it is to you.
When it works best: When you’re working with familiar leads, and know the product is a perfect fit.
When not to use it: When you have no relationship with your prospect, and hear repeated feedback that the solution doesn’t make sense for them.
2. The Now or Never Close
Offer your prospect something that they can only get if they commit within a certain period of time (including today). This can include:
- This is the last [product] we have remaining
- Anyone who commits today gets a 15% discount
- If you sign up today, you can take priority in the implementation queue
- This price is only for a limited time until 2023
Why this works: The prospect now feels that they are losing out on something, so if they are probably going to say yes eventually, it just makes sense to do it now.
When it works best: When you have the freedom to offer discounts, and you’re dealing with people whose main objection is that they don’t have time to decide now.
When not to use it: When the prospect has made it clear your product would never implement at their company, or you can’t offer a significant incentive.
3. The Takeaway Close
This concept is simple: if you’ve already laid the benefits on them, and they don’t seem interested in certain aspects, take them off the table. Offer cost savings by removing features that they might not need, and see if they’re more inclined to take the offer.
Why this works: Many people object simply because of price. If you can counter that objection by removing things they don’t need, everybody wins.
When it works best: When your platform is multi-tiered, and the prospect has made it clear that they have no use for certain features.
When not to use it: When the prospect doesn’t seem to be objecting to price.
4. The Hard Close
Also known as the “Nothing to Lose Close,” this tactic involves you letting your potential customer become very aware of the fact that you are selling to them. You ask for firm commitments, when you can sign contracts, when you can set up implementation—and anything else that gets them to actually sign now.
Why this works: Making what you want clear helps the person feel a little more at ease, and though they may not say yes, at least they will give you a firm answer so you now longer have to spend time following up.
When it works best: When you know you won’t be getting the yes, and have no other options.
When not to use it: When you are still in early stages of following up with your leads.
5. The Columbo Close
Remember the TV detective Columbo? His famous one-liner “Just one more thing…” has become a mantra for many talented sales people. After a suspect thought Columbo was done with them, he would put them on the spot while walking away by turning around and asking for ‘one more thing.’ Once you think the customer is ready to leave, this last-ditch hail mary can make them stick around.
Why this works: Whether you’re demoing a predictive dialer for sales teams or selling consulting services, hit them with the most enticing part of your pitch once they’ve indicated they don’t want to listen much longer.
When it works best: When you haven’t shown the main highlight yet, and you’re pretty sure the prospect is on their way out.
When not to use it: When you’ve already bombarded and overwhelmed them with a long list of the benefits of your product.
6. The Summary Close
Take some time to summarize all the benefits of your product, and the main value points it would bring to your prospect. You can also use this to make distinctions between two or three possible options you’re offering, to help remind your lead of what all their options are.
Why this works: Hearing all the benefits at once can seem more impactful than the 30 minutes you already spent going over them.
When it works best: When you know your product is a good fit, and your lead just needs a quick reminder of all the things they agreed would work for them.
When not to use it: When your conversation has not been particularly long, or your main value points didn’t seem impactful on your prospect.
7. The Puppy Dog Close
Based on the concept that people who walk into pet stores and hold puppies are more likely to buy them (due to their unbearable cuteness), you make your sale by letting your prospect try it out. Test drive a car, use a free trial, keep a product for a month, and so on
Why this works: If they start using the product, the benefits you talk them they would get become real, and ideally, something they realize they can no longer live without.
When it works best: When you have a product that allows for a trial period, and has features that aren’t always easy to quantify over the phone/by email.
When not to use it: When your product can’t be ‘test driven’ or it doesn’t have a great variety of features and benefits.
8. The Option Close
This sales tactic falls in line with hard or assumptive closes, in that you are offering your prospect a choice between two or more options, hoping that they will choose one rather than saying no. Offering two pricing plans that suit their needs, tiered levels of service with different features, or implementation earlier vs later, for example.
Why this works: With two viable options in front of them, a person is more likely to choose one, or even choose the cheaper option of two choices because it feels like they are saving money.
When it works best: When you have tiered service levels, and know your prospect would benefit from both of them.
When not to use it: When your offering is static, and you don’t already have confirmed interest in unique features your product offers.
9. The Sharp Angle Close
Some people hear sales pitches all the time, so they understand they they have the upper hand in the discussion; they may ask for add-ons or discounts, knowing you expect them to. To deal with these seasoned negotiators, take them by surprise with the Sharp Angle Close. If you have approval, give them what they want—but at a price: “Yes, I can offer you three months of service for 10% off—but only is you sign the contract today.”
Why this works: You give them something you were already willing to, and in exchange, receive a firm commitment and make the sale instantly.
When it works best: When you’re dealing with people who get sold to a lot, or who ask for incentives to sign.
When not to use it: When your prospect is not familiar with sales nuances, and isn’t asking for anything special or unique from you.
10. The Question Close
We cover this tactic in detail below (with examples), but the concept is that asking your lead probing questions can force them to actually explain why something does or doesn’t work for them. Ask them why you can’t proceed with a shipment, why [x feature] wouldn’t solve their problem, and so on.
Why this works: These questions give you a far better opportunity to explain why your product meets their needs.
When it works best: When your lead seems perpetually on the fence, but isn’t really explaining why they aren’t interested.
When not to use it: When the prospect has clearly stated reasons for why aspects of your product doesn’t work for them.
11. The Suggestion Close
Another ‘hard close’ tactic, in this conversation, you offer your opinion about what would work best. Offer firm statements that explain how “a shipment on Friday would solve that problem” or “if you sign a contract by 2023, your onboarding would be well before the quarter end.”
Why this works: Your opinion enters their mind like facts do, and you offer firm solutions for some of their problems.
When it works best: When you have a great (personal) relationship with your prospect, or you think they can be easily influenced.
When not to use it: When you don’t know your lead well at all, or they are more of an expert in the field than you are.
12. The Backwards Close
This technique goes against almost all sales cycle training, but it has been known to work with certain types of leads. The method involves starting at the end—ask your lead for referrals rather than trying to sell something to them at the onset of the relationship.
Why this works: By recognizing that you aren’t trying to sell to them, the potential customer will fell more at ease, and will be more open to listening to what you have to say.
When it works best: When you know the person, found their information through referral, or already have an indication from them that they have no interest in what you’re selling.
When not to use it: When you’re early in the sales cycle and have no reason to doubt your ability to make the sale.
Now that you know the top methods of closing sales, you’ve got the basic techniques down, and know when to use them, let’s talk about building and modifying these formulas for sales in a way that works for your business.
As a salesperson (or founder driving sales), your sole purpose is to create clear outcomes: a “yes” or a “no”—but never a “maybe.” Follow these steps to get your prospects to a definitive outcome as quickly as possible.
1. Identify the decision-maker and start a conversation
Qualifying is all about asking the right questions and getting insightful information from your prospect—to verify beyond a reasonable doubt that they’d be successful after purchasing your solution. Therefore, the quality of information you get from your prospect is extremely important in helping them make the decision to buy (or not to buy).
To effectively gather that right information, you need to be speaking with the right person—a decision-maker. Let’s walk through an example:
If you’re selling a tool for content marketers and experience tells you that the ultimate decision-maker on purchasing new tools like yours goes to a Head of Content Marketing or Director of Marketing, it does you no good spending time talking to an entry-level marketing person, copywriter, assistant, or member of another team entirely.
If I wanted to reach out to a decision-maker in content marketing at the digital agency Web Profits, I’d choose to start my outreach with Catherine (and not Diesel) based on the job title of my ideal decision-maker.
Is Catherine guaranteed to be my sales decision-maker that has unilateral authority to purchase my tool? No, there are no guarantees, but experience gives me reasonable confidence—and that’s enough information to go off of at this stage.
When you start your conversation with the person who’s most likely to be the decision-maker regarding your solution in your prospect’s organization, your chances of making meaningful progress towards closing the sale increase significantly.
The next step is actually starting the conversation with your decision-maker. If you have a formal sales process for your organization, then you’ll know which communication medium tends to be most effective for actually reaching your decision-maker to talk about your product with them. Should you start with sending a cold email asking to book an exploratory call, or go directly to calling the company and asking for your decision-maker?
While 75% (or more) of adults in countries like the U.S. and U.K. own a smartphone, over a quarter of them report rarely using it for making—or receiving phone calls. This trend of preferring digital communication that’s less interruptive, especially with those not closest to them, is only picking up pace with Millennials.
Depending upon who your decision-maker is, reaching them the way they want to be reached, is half of the battle. For most sales reps today, this means leaning on email as the initial communication medium, with the typical goal of scheduling a phone (or video) call to discuss the solution in more depth if there’s interest.
Next, you’ll need to quickly find (and verify) your decision-maker’s email address using a tool like LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator Lite, Rocket Reach, or Hunter, so that you know you’re sending your cold email to a real human. Like so:
Once you’ve confirmed the right email address for your decision-maker, it’s time to write a very short, straight to the point, cold email that has one very clear call-to-action in it: usually booking a call to discuss your solution in more depth.
Here’s a cold email template you can use:
Hey [first name],
I hope this email finds you well! I wanted to reach out because [explain how we got their contact information and how we relate to them: talked to a colleague, saw your company online, etc.].
[Name of company] has a new platform that will help (your team at) [organization name]. [One sentence pitch of benefits].
I know that [our product] will be able to help [name of your company] [insert high level benefit here].
Are you available for a quick call [time and date]?
Notice how the emphasis of this email is on getting your prospect to either book a call or reply back with a clear yes or no to the question of, “are you available for a quick call on this day, at this time?”
The last thing you want to do is ask your prospect multiple questions within your first email—leaving them open to the possibility of decision paralysis, where they feel overwhelmed or unable to answer multiple questions (and thus write off ever replying to you in the first place).
For most SaaS products, before you can hope to close a sale with a prospect, you have to get them on the phone and sell them on the benefits of the solution beyond just what’s possible over email. Keep your eye on the next goal right in front of you (booking a call)—not on the three steps ahead. Once you’ve booked them for a call or a demo, it’s time to prepare your pitch.
2. Accurately qualify your prospects
Much of the real work in closing a sale is actually done in preliminary research and early conversations where you qualify your prospect, and determine whether or not they stand to benefit from your solution. If your prospect doesn’t fit your ideal customer profile, then you shouldn’t waste your time picking up the phone or queueing up further email outreach campaigns.
Before following up with a potential prospect, make sure you (or someone on your team) starts by answering crucial qualifying questions like:
- How well do they match your ideal customer profile?
- How big is their company?
- Which industry are they in?
- Where is this company located?
- What’s the ideal use case?
- Which tools have they used in the past?
- What kind of ecosystem are they playing in?
If the answers to these questions support what you know about your ideal customer profile, then they’re a qualified lead that could likely benefit from using your solution. Most prospects that will waste your time are actually easy to spot.
That’s internal qualification—the steps you personally take to research the prospect and make your best guess about whether or not they’re an ideal customer. Once you’ve done this, and know you’ve already connected with the correct decision-maker, it’s time to prepare your pitch.
3. Pitch your solution (not just the product)
Good salespeople know their product inside and out. Great salespeople transcend their understanding of the product by intimately comprehending all the ways it will have a positive impact on both their prospect’s business, and in their daily lives.
When you’re trying to sell your prospect on the basis of features, you’re telling (not selling) and you’re most certainly not speaking their language—your product can’t sell itself! Never forget that your prospects care about real tangible results, and how your product will create a solution to a problem their business has. That’s selling, and should be the focal point of a great sales pitch.
Here’s an example of telling vs selling.
Telling: “Our platform measures over 100 different metrics, charts, and graphs for your website including this, this, and this. Let me explain how each one works!”
Selling: “We have over 100 different metrics, charts, and graphs for your website on our platform. Which types of metrics are most important to you? What do you want to see?”
The difference between these two approaches is astounding, and more than anything, will signal to your prospect that you care about helping them solve their unique challenges, rather than signing up another customer to hit your quota. Solving your prospect’s most pressing problems (as related to your product) requires a partnership that goes far beyond just a transactional conversation.
4. Create a sense of urgency
Offer your prospect something time-sensitive—that they actually want—that might incentivize them to commit to you sooner rather than later. This could be a discount on your service, something free, or anything else that lowers the bottom line or level of commitment.
This makes them feel like they have the upper hand, and that they have something to lose if they say no. Don’t confuse this sales tactic with rushing your prospect—the last thing you want to do is pressure them into saying a firm “no.” Instead, provide them with another reason why your product is the right choice for them—and it’s the right choice right now.
5. Overcome their objections
Along the path to closing any sale, you’re going to field difficult questions, objections to certain features, push back on pricing, and any number of other sales objections.
Here are some of the most common objections you’ll face:
- I don’t have the time
- I don’t have the money
- Your product is too expensive
- Please just email me more information
- We don’t need this at the moment
- […and a number of industry-specific challenges/questions]
You need solid answers to these objections before getting on a sales call.
Anticipating and dealing with these objections is a natural part of your journey to close a sale, but it requires adequate preparation ahead of time—otherwise you’re leaving your deal up to chance.
When you improvise and try to answer your prospect’s objections on-the-spot without a clear foundation, the quality of your answer will depend heavily upon your mental state in the moment. Plus, you run the risk of appearing like you don’t know what you’re talking about—not a good situation to be in as a salesperson.
If you’re on a sales call with a prospect, and they’re clearly expressing interest in your product, but when you get to pricing, they tell you it’s too expensive, you could respond with any of these answers:
- “I understand. You know what, I actually had two other customers like you recently who were unsure about the price at first. But what they found was… ”
- “Oh really? If you don’t mind me asking, how are you coming to the conclusion that the product is too expensive?”
- “Is the price point a cash flow issue, or a budget issue?”
- “Let’s explore some creative strategies for fitting this into your budget.”
- “Ok, I understand. Is there a part of the product you don’t need?”
All of these answers to the general pricing objection will probe at different underlying reasons for that objection bubbling up to the surface.
To prepare yourself for every major sales objection in your space, start by building a list of all the most common objections you’re facing. Write down concise answers to them, get feedback from others on your team until they feel strong enough to walk into any conversation with them, and rehearse the responses until you know them by heart.
In addition, note down objections that your prospects present you with that you wren’t prepared for, and work on responses to them for future prospects. If one person brought them up to you, chances are another person will in the future as well.
6. Ask for the sale
Perfecting how (and when) you ask the question, “are you ready to buy?” is at the core of how to close a deal in sales, and yes, you’ll need to get comfortable asking it. As Steli Efti often shares when delivering talks and sales trainings around the world, “The biggest mistake salespeople and founders can make, is not asking for the sale.”
On the surface this sounds obvious, right? Then why does it happen so frequently in the sales world?
If you’re not a naturally gifted salesperson—and haven’t been through the right sales training to equip yourself for success in this field, it’s easy to think your prospects will come knocking your door down to hand over their credit cards after seeing all the benefits and features you have to offer.
But this is a common misconception of sales rookies, and to those who’ve ever closed a sale, you know this is rarely the case (if ever). Even salespeople who’ve been actively selling often wait too long to ask for the sale, and for that reason, they miss out on opportunities to close more sales every day.
How much do you love rejection? Not very much, I’m guessing.
It’s tempting to want to avoid the possibility of rejection, because we’re hard-wired to fear rejection. Even in a selling context, sales rejection is hard to deal with, and this often translates into waiting until we feel there’s a guaranteed yes, before we propose the question of whether they’re ready to buy.
Instead, the default for many people is to provide more information and reasons to buy, assuming that they’re eventually going to close themselves. So, when is the right time to ask for the sale? The answer: before you think they’re ready.
If you’ve done your job qualifying your prospect, delivering your pitch, and still believe they’d be a good fit for using your product, ask for the sale.
Expect an initial no from most prospects, but build this into your selling process. You’ll often catch a prospect off guard, and they won’t immediately have a clear reason not to buy when you’re both on the same page about the value they’re getting.
Say something like, “Hey, it seems like you guys are a great fit. I’ve shown you how we’re going to solve your problems effectively. Are you ready to buy?” Like we said, at this point they’re probably going to say no, but be okay with that.
Immediately follow up their no with the question, “What’s the process we need to go through in order to get you ready to buy?” This shows your prospect that you don’t fear rejection, it exudes confidence, and illustrates that you have a willingness to work with them to get to a place where saying yes makes sense. Remember, closing a sale is always a two-way conversation.
In addition, any objections they were harboring will immediately come to the surface, giving you leeway to toss out your carefully prepared counters to their objections. If you still can’t close, there may be a few more questions you can throw out there to get the sale.
Exactly how you ask for the sale may differ depending on what type of potential sale you’re dealing with. You also may want to start with more general B2B sales questions to better quantify your lead earlier in the sales process.
However, if you know you’re close to closing, try out these questions that force your prospect to explain why they’re holding back, so you can lead them to the line of reasoning that gets them to say yes.
- “What are all the steps we have to take to help make this deal happen?”
- “Are there any obstacles that could prevent this deal from happening?”
- “Based on what we’ve discussed, do you think our solution is a good fit for your needs? Why?”
- “When do you want to make a decision and begin implementing a solution?”
- “If I was able to throw in [incentive], would you consider committing today?”
- “When is the best date and time to schedule our next meeting?”
- “Is there any reason that you wouldn’t do business with us at this point?”
- “If we could find a way to deal with [objection], would you be ready to make this deal happen next week?”
- “Taking everything into consideration, I think one of these two plans would work best for you. Would you like to go with [X] or [Y]?”
- “You mentioned needing a solution by [X date]. If you signed up by [Y date], I can guarantee we have enough time for training and implementation. How does that sound?”
- “Do you feel ready to move forward? I can send over the contract right now.”
- “What do you think a good next step would be to solving your current problems?”
- “Unless you have any more questions or concerns, I think we’re ready to get started.”
- “Based on what you’ve said, it seems like our product is a good fit for you today. What do you think?”
- “On a scale of 1-10, how confident are you that our product will meet your needs?”
The key difference between the questions above and the sales phrases to help get you to close are that these don’t require your prospect to answer in such a way that you can lead them to realize they want your product; these phrases are better used when you’re quite sure you’re close to making the sale, and ready to ask for it.
Here are some sales close phrases to help get you the final, firm, “yes:”
- “Unless you have further concerns, I think we can get started with the arrangements.”
- “Let’s discuss the costs involved.”
- “This call is scheduled to end in [X] minutes. Please, take as long as you like, but it you’re ready, perhaps we should move along to the agreement.”
- “Are you ready to implement [the product] at your company?”
- “If you can commit to buying today, I can also give you [incentive].”
- “It seems like this solution would work for you, but I understand you need a bit more time. Let’s schedule a meeting for next week when you’ve had some more time to think about this.”
- “It’s fine that you can’t commit today. Unfortunately, this particular offer is only available for [period of time], so I would need a signed contract by 2023 to maintain this price.”
So, you read this article and have become an instant sales master…what’s next? How do you turn all this knowledge you’ve learned about the types of sales closes into actual sales? The best way is to put these effective sales closing techniques into practice by trying them out. Go back to some cold leads and heat them up with these sales closing strategies!
You’ll want to carefully choose your interaction style based on the individual qualities of your prospect. Never fail to remember that you’re dealing with real humans—the less they feel like a generic lead follow-up, the more likely you are to land the sale.
Everything in your interaction style from tone of voice to how well you can perceive what your prospect is thinking will play into your ability to close a sale quickly and effectively. If you waste time droning on about product features your prospect clearly couldn’t care less about, or spend ten minutes talking about the weather, you’re wasting their time—and that puts you on the fast-track to never hearing back again after an initial call.
One of the most underappreciated and often subconscious aspects of sales is carefully choosing your interaction style with your prospects. Let’s talk through a few of them:
Hostile + Strong: Reminiscent of the movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, this strong-armed selling style is all about doing and saying whatever you need to, just to get a prospect to buy your product—regardless of whether or not they’d stand to actually benefit.
Friendly + Strong: This is your sweet spot. Be on your prospect’s team and have the mentality that you’re here to help them with the best possible solution to their problems. When you believe your product is that best solution, you’ll hold steady on your recommendation—and don’t cave into throwing out discounts right and left, but if your product isn’t the best fit, you’ll help guide them in the right direction. Choosing to embrace a Friendly + Strong selling style will help you build stronger connections with your prospects in the long run.
Hostile + Weak: The worst selling style that combines a negative energy and mentality, with the willingness to go in whichever direction the wind is blowing that day. Suffice it to say, this isn’t the approach you want to take when you’re trying to close a sale.
Friendly + Weak: With this selling style, you’ll get a couple of points for being friendly, but at the end of the day, you’ll run the risk of being thought of as too nice (even a pushover). Have the conviction to confidently ask for the sale when it’s time, and don’t make major sacrifices just to take the customer on.
Live in the friendly and strong zone and your energy will be infectious, (yes, even through video demos and on phone calls with prospects—hoorah inside sales). Your prospects will be able to feel your confidence, which when it’s coupled with being friendly (not overly confident), builds their trust in you. And like in any relationship, nothing is sexier than trust and confidence.
Now take these sales closing skills and go out and make some sales!