Once you have identified the right solution for your client, one that will alleviate the pain they are experiencing by solving a real business or personal problem, you are ready to make the deal. “Making the deal” might consist of presenting a formal proposal with an offer, resolving objections, negotiating terms, and closing.
Many salespeople and business owners struggle with one or several of these components, and one of the main reasons why closing can be hard, is that we haven’t adequately identified what the customer values, whether or not our solution is aligned with their strategy, and whether or not we can solve real pain. If you’ve done all of these things, closing the deal should be nothing more than a formality.
In this article, you will learn more about:
- Recognizing the value of objections
- Considering important factors for successful negotiation
- Practicing the art of asking, a.k.a. “closing”
Catch all the articles in The Multiplier Sale© Series!
When you create a strong bond with your customer through the way you handle their objections, and there is clear alignment between their business goals and your solution, closing should be as easy as simply asking for the business. And yet, too often, we don’t ask. Why is this?
Sometimes, we don’t ask because we make an assumption that the “ask” is implied and don’t recognize the need to make it explicit. Other times, we don’t ask out of fear. Fear of rejection is real, and if we don’t ask, we can’t be turned down, so we are subconsciously protecting ourselves from the assumed pain of rejection by not asking. Something in us would rather not win the business than run the risk of rejection.
The Multiplier Sale© Step 5: OFFER
In order to make the deal, you must present a compelling offer. The offer should show clear alignment with the customer’s strategic goals and the solution you will provide to a specific problem or pain point. There must be an explicit value proposition that reflects what the customer values, and how your offer is aligned with those values.
Consider the products or services you offer today:
- What challenges do they solve?
- What specific solutions do you offer?
- What terms and conditions are included?
- What kind of contract do you use?
Think about the last proposal you submitted to a client. What did you like about it? If you could make your current offering more attractive or compelling, what would it look like? In the end, a good offer always comes down to value. Give your client a reason to buy from you, beyond price.
If the only reason someone buys from you is your price, you are only as good as the next offer.
Bond over Objections
What exactly is an “objection” anyway?
We hear the term “overcoming objections” thrown around a lot in sales. It is usually with the implicit understanding that an objection is a barrier, something to be pushed through and conquered, and that we, the seller, must somehow prove the validity or superiority of our product by showing the customer their objection is unfounded, invalid, null, void.
When a prospect gives you pushback, there are many reasons that could be behind the hesitation. These hesitations, what we tend to refer to as objections, may be based in some underlying fear, uncertainty or doubt, and can be a powerful way for you to connect on a genuine level and build a deeper bond with your client.
Every human being has an overarching need to feel seen, heard, and understood.
An objection is simply an opportunity to show your client that you see why they may be doubtful, you hear their underlying uncertainty, and you understand their fear. When you acknowledge where they are coming from, mirror their concern, and ask questions to further understand the issue, rather than invalidating their response, you validate it.
The key is to not jump to conclusions, nor to responses. Typical objections involve price, competitors, timing, fit, or they may simply be brush-offs. Recognize that there could be real concerns or fears that drive the objections and use this as an opportunity to express empathy by showing you care and are truly listening.
Show Some Love, a.k.a. AMAR
Rather than arguing your point and putting the client on edge, the Acknowledge, Mirror, Ask and Respond (AMAR) process is an effective way to handle hesitations in a way that builds a stronger bond.
AMAR is empathy in action. It is showing a prospective client you see, hear and understand their perspective, and it allows you to connect on a human level, rather than compete with them to win some argument.
A – acknowledge
M – mirror
A – ask
R – respond
Before even attempting a response, it is important to acknowledge, mirror and ask clarifying questions multiple times. Peel back the layers of the onion, go a step further. Genuinely listen. Acknowledge verbally that you truly heard the other person. Mirror their expression and the words they use. Explore the issue by asking follow-up questions. Then, listen to their response. Acknowledge it. Mirror again. Ask some more. Repeat.
Going through the A-M-A stages multiple times before you even attempt the R, your response, allows you to dig deeper into the issue to make sure you fully understand it before jumping to conclusions. This can feel very counterintuitive, because our human brains are problem-solving machines. We instinctively want to respond when we are asked a question or presented with a problem. We want to be helpful, and we feel that the faster we provide a response, the more helpful we are.
This isn’t necessarily true. What people often need more than anything else, is to feel that we truly listened. That we heard them. That we understood where they are coming from, and validated their concern. Slow down the response. Before jumping into “fix-it” mode, allow yourself to remain in listening and empathy mode for a while.
The temptation for most salespeople is to jump right to the response after listening to the concern. The ask step is the one most often ignored or glossed over in a sales conversation.
Only when you have fully explored the issue by mirroring and asking probing questions multiple times is it time to respond.
Negotiate the Terms
Think about a time you participated in or witnessed a negotiation (buying a car, salary negotiation, dealing with a difficult client or situation). What was positive about the experience? What do you wish would have happened differently?
Below are three important considerations when negotiating with a client:
Make it Win-Win
Create a win-win proposition. In a successful negotiation, both parties should walk away satisfied with the result.
What does win-win mean to you, and how do you achieve this?
Focus on Value
We are willing to pay the price when we perceive the value.
- Price concerns are tied to a prospect’s perception of value. And value has to do with fit. Qualify fit up front.
- During the discovery and qualification stages of the deal, what was most valuable to the client?
- How well were you able to tie your solution to their business challenges, i.e. effective value proposition?
- How can you make the negotiation a value exchange?
Know Your Concessions
Be clear on what you are willing to concede before meeting with the client.
In chess, one strategy is to use a “gambit” – an opening move that sacrifices a piece to gain an advantage or concession from the opponent. Consider non-price related gambits you can offer to gain an advantageous position in a contract negotiation.
What are gambits you can offer to create a favorable advantage or concession from your customer?
Always come to a negotiation prepared with knowing what you are willing and able to concede ahead of time rather than offering a discount or giving in to a demand on the spot.
Close It Up, Baby
Ask, and ye shall receive.– The Bible
Why is it so hard for many people to simply ask for the business?
As discussed in the introduction, fear of rejection is real. Rejection hurts. To the human brain, social pain like that of rejection, registers in the same way as physical pain. To the brain, all pain, both social and physical, is the same. All too often, we subconsciously protect ourselves from the anticipation of painful by not asking. When we don’t ask, we can’t be turned down, and we falsely believe if we don’t get officially turned down, we won’t feel pain.
Something in us would rather not win the business than run the risk of rejection. Simply being aware of this dynamic can help us be more mindful when we are in a position to close. Don’t sabotage a perfectly positioned deal by fumbling the ask.
Other times, we don’t ask simply because we assumed the “ask” was implied in the process. Don’t assume! Be explicit, and ask for the business.
Always ask – but consider the timing!
Don’t ask for the sale during the first encounter with a prospect. That’s a little bit like asking someone to marry you on the first date or worse, during a random encounter at a bar. However, when you have carefully followed the sales process – done your due diligence and discovery, learned what the client values, qualified the fit, engaged effectively, presented a powerful proposal, addressed all concerns or objections, and negotiated the terms – you MUST ASK for the business.
Further Reading – if you would like to dig deeper, consider these books:
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
- Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, Bruce Patton
- Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It by Chris Voss