One challenge that many professionals face is not knowing when to close an engagement. Some tell us their sales process goes on and on because they are not sure of the right time to close the deal. Often, it’s a fear of rejection that causes professionals to delay asking for the approval to proceed. Most professionals eschew the word “NO” when asking for the client’s business and view it as a failure. Often “No” is not truly “No”, but rather an objection that requires more information and perhaps a little more selling. President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”, which may be apropos for closing business as well. So, let’s take a quick closer look.
When is the right time to close the engagement?
The answer… it depends. There are many ways to determine when and if the time is right for closing an engagement. The provider must take into account a number of situational dependencies such as the type of service or product being offered, the seniority of the person with whom you are working, the length of the typical “sales” process, any lead-times required, and time required to complete the engagement.
Try Trial Closing
A great way to determine readiness is to regularly validate your approach throughout the process. This is called “trial closing.” Trial closing is not necessarily asking for the business but rather engaging with the prospect throughout the process to determine progress, validate your approach, discuss the merits of your solution, address questions, and handle objections. Plus, it is also important to determine any “deal breakers” as early as possible which may stop the client from awarding the engagement to you.
As deal progress slows down, or perhaps stops completely, the timing may be right to begin closing. Start by reviewing all of your notes to be sure everything discussed along the way has been thoroughly handled. After you have assured yourself that all open items and every question has been addressed, it’s time to ask for the order. So go ahead, ask for the business, and don’t fear the prospect’s answer. The worst thing they can say is “No”, which only means you still have more work to do.
Bill Taylor is president of Corporate Ladders, a business development consulting and coaching firm specializing in top line revenue growth for accounting, legal, and other professional services firms. You can reach him with your questions or comments by phone at +1 201 825 8296 or email at [email protected].