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This year has brought unexpected challenges for all business owners. From the onset of a global pandemic, followed by an economic downturn, many businesses have struggled. Decreased sales can threaten all companies, but small companies can be particularly vulnerable.

As we approach the end of a year filled with unexpected challenges and adaptation, it’s important to look for ways to close the year strong. Since it’s still unclear what lies ahead, it will be crucial to adapt your sales tactics to match the current environment’s needs while staying agile as the world continues to shift.

Whether you’re worried about your future or you want to increase your closing ratio, learning how to put your prospects’ needs first can help you weather this storm and grow your revenue. Here are four simple tactics you can add to your sales process.

1) Set you and your team up for success

Entrepreneur meeting with sales team to increase closing rate

There is no doubt about it; COVID-19 has changed the landscape for which we conduct our businesses. And in today’s virtual business climate, there is a high probability that you will be performing most of your sales over the phone or through video conferencing, especially now that the weather gets colder.

Selling virtually has its own set of challenges to consider, the biggest of which is to ensure you keep your prospect actively engaged. Here are a few things you can do to keep people engaged and set yourself up for success:

  • Turn on your camera: Keep your video on for all conference calls and encourage your prospects to do the same. Using the camera feature not only helps to keep your prospects engaged, but it allows you to build trust and pick up on those non-verbal cues. In fact, according to Zoom, the simple act of turning on your camera can increase your closing rate by nearly 10%.
  • Leverage Meeting Prep: Even though we’re living in a digital world, not everyone will be tech-savvy. Avoid spending time dealing with technical issues by adding details on operating your video conferencing platform in the meeting prep.
  • Create an agenda: Keep yourself on track and keep your prospects focused and engaged by creating a strong agenda for each meeting. Feel free to share this agenda with your prospect, so they know what to expect.
  • Send a Summary: After each meeting, send out a summary of what was covered. Having a summary of your conversation, or even a video recording, will keep your conversation top of mind and will allow you an opportunity to highlight key takeaways.
  • Set up your home studio: Whether you’re working from your office or home, do your best to set up your workspace. At a minimum, ensure it is well lit and quiet with a powerful internet connection. 

In uncertain times it can be more challenging for people to make decisions. By stepping back at reviewing your process, you allow yourself the space to see it differently, and you can build in room for your prospect to make a decision.

2) Provide solutions that match your prospect’s needs

Entrepreneur having a virtual meeting with client

No two sales should ever be the same. It’s important to remember that while your needs have shifted over the past year, so too have the needs of your potential customers. You must tailor each new deal to the individual you’re selling to, meaning that you need to take the time to understand and uncover what’s important to them so you can sell to their specific needs. 

Defining the need is about helping your prospect figure out what they truly want. It’s about getting clear on where they are now and where they are trying to go so that you can help bridge a gap to their desired outcome. 

By establishing a need, you can partner with your prospect to find a solution. If you can align your product/service with their needs, the odds of making a sale skyrockets. So the solution is simple: Be genuine, ask the right questions, listen to their responses, and validate what you’ve heard. 

To uncover someone’s needs, use open-ended questions and dig deeper with at least three additional questions to find the why behind that need. Ask at least three additional questions to understand the motivations that are driving their initial response. This technique is called probing. Use specific follow-up questions based on The Five W’s: “why,” “what,” “who,” “where,” and “when.”

Allow your prospect to do 80% of the talking as they will use that time to open up and reveal pain points you can help solve. Once you’ve uncovered the root, ensure you’re asking your prospects validating questions to give them a break in thought. It allows them to visualize and walk through a decision, then communicate these thoughts to you. Allowing them to think out loud or dig deeper into their thought process can uncover needs and preferences they didn’t even know they had.

3) Identify the most common objections

Frustrated client on Zoom call

When heading toward the close of a sale, nothing can kill your momentum faster than an objection.

An objection is a statement or question that causes doubt and indicates a hesitation or unwillingness to buy. The two main reasons for sales objections are a lack of need or a lack of trust.

Think of objections as an opportunity. Objections are simply a request for more information. It signals the buyer is engaged. It means they’re listening, but they need to gather more data to determine a fit.

When a customer objects to the sale, don’t stop there without offering a chance to dig deeper and find the root problem. Once armed with the root, you will have an opportunity to work through your prospect’s objection to solve their needs.

Another trick is to prepare for objections ahead of time. Although every sales process is different, there are a handful of sales objections that you will see pop up time and time again. The best way to handle objections is to prepare for them. Have a plan in place to identify common sales objections and build the right arguments to overcome them.

As a reminder, objections are often based around “need” or “trust.” List out some of the objections or questions you hear (if you have a team pull from them) and try to solve them with 2-3 separate statements for each. Pull testimonials and examples of past success to fuel your responses.

4) Be patient and sell to the next step

Happy entrepreneur on business call

Most sales funnels are broken into several steps. While each organization and industry will have its own process, these are the common stages: lead, qualify, initial meeting, proposal, close sale.

Lead – In any business, the first step of your sales process will be sourcing new, early-stage leads to begin working through the sales process.

Qualify – The qualification step generally involves initiating contact with those early-stage leads to gather information to decide whether or not they are likely to move forward in the buyer’s journey.

Initial Meeting –Depending on your business, you can include a presentation or demonstration of your product or service as a step. This meeting should be tailored and personalized to meet the needs of your prospect. This meeting is where you will ask probing questions, identify pain points, uncover objections, and match benefits.

Proposal – The proposal will depend on your business. Some will be based on standard rates and prices, while others will require more research to develop. During this step, a final decision is reached, and negotiation begins.

Sale – The final step in the sales process is closing when the contract or order is signed and the sale is implemented.

These steps can be seen in the sales staircase. Growing the excitement with the customer as each step is completed helps to build momentum. Selling to the next step is so simple but often very hard to follow.

Step 1: Ensure your sales process is designed in a way that moves at the prospective clients’ pace.

Step 2: Identify the next step (not the end product or goal of service) with how to tactfully explain or pitch that and at what time of each step.

Step 3: How to appropriately divert or be flexible to do what is best for that person to keep “moving the ball forward” and keep them in the sales process. Sales are all about timing, have the lowest entry barrier in place for them to go to the next step, and they will. When it’s not perfect, be flexible and creative to help them identify the value of why continuing in any step is the right decision.

Your sales funnel steps must be laid out and adhered to during your sales process. However, while being clear on the end goals, you need to be flexible on the path based on your client’s needs. There will be cases where the client is throwing an objection that was unplanned for. You can still keep in regular communication and bring them back on track with your funnel. Alternatively, the client might be ready to close sooner than your process calls for. Track activity and make adjustments to your process as needed.

Used separately, or combined, adding these tactics to your sales process will help you tailor your sales process and close deals more consistently.

You don’t need to be a sales expert to have a successful closing rate, but having a better understanding of your process can help you increase revenue and build a strong foundation for your business. If sales aren’t your strong suit, and you don’t know where to start, you don’t have to go at it alone. Schedule a free two-hour session to dig into your business and develop a plan.

Have any more thoughts on how to boost sales and increase your closing ratio? Let us know down in the comments.

This article originally published on GREY Journal.