Closing the sale is a little like slow dancing. You have to guide your partner, pay attention to the beat, and know when it’s time to add a dramatic flourish — or not. Selling is part preparation, part intuition and a measure of moxie, but even though there’s latitude for personal style, some basics still apply.

Tips for Closing the Sale

Since the “close” is such an important part of the selling process, let’s go over a few important points to remember when you’re headed for the big finale.

A large part of selling is about making a connection. If a prospect feels you can identify with him, he’ll be more likely to embrace your pitch. Don’t attempt to close a sale until you’ve established a rapport. This isn’t about product; it’s about personality.

How will you know? Body language may tell you, or tone of voice, or a facial expression. At this stage of the game, you’ll probably be able to intuit whether a prospect is with you or not.

Guide, don’t drag. At the risk of exhausting the dancing metaphor, it’s much easier to waltz with a willing partner, and that can take time and patience. If you rush the proceedings, you’re risking the sale. Creating a sense of urgency is a great idea, but don’t do it too soon.

Encourage feedback. You won’t be able to address objections or clear up any confusion unless you can get a prospect to start a dialogue with you. The flip side of this very big coin is to listen passionately to what he has to say once he does start opening up.

Watch for the signal. Your ability to close a sale will improve dramatically when you learn to read these sometimes subtle clues that a customer is ready to buy.

Here are a few things to be on the lookout for:

  • Asking for an opinion – A prospect that turns to a companion or associate for an opinion or acknowledgment is often receptive and may be close to a buying decision.
  • Holding a product and asking very specific questions about its use – When a customer starts to speak about the product in the first person, it’s a very good sign. (E.g., “How do I . . .” or “When should I . . .”)
  • Stepping toward you during a non-combative exchange – This can signal acceptance or agreement. In body language, it’s tantamount to a nod of approval.
  • Asking ownership questions – When a prospect starts to ask questions about delivery dates, installation, freight charges, and warranties, it’s usually an indicator of strong interest or a desire to buy.
  • Turning away from the exit, toward a cash register or becoming more animated – Once a customer’s made a decision, his body language will change. This can be obvious or subtle. He may appear antsy or abrupt. He might do something obvious, like put his notes back in his pocket, or just make an unconscious hand pass over the pocket where he keeps his wallet. If the decision is favorable, he may turn toward what he believes is the next step in the process, like a cash register or sales desk.

Ask for the sale. This is an important step, but it can be tricky too. One big mistake inexperienced sales people make is continuing to push after the customer has made the purchase decision. If you continue to add new information at this point, you run the risk of inadvertently saying something that will change his mind. Stop talking. Be gracious. Offering a business card, a couple of tips, or a few friendly parting words can be a nice way to leave the customer with a favorable impression whether he buys your product today or not. Tomorrow is another day, and he may be back — and bring his friends along.

Closing the sale successfully isn’t always possible, but it is possible to conduct your presentation in a way that will maximize your chances of success. When you make a solid connection, encourage feedback and read a prospect’s buying signals correctly, you’ll close more sales and have a better grasp of when and how to use your selling talent most effectively.