Why isn’t your company making more sales? Is it the economy? Is it your product? Or is it a pricing issue?

After more than 15 years of training, coaching and consulting, I can safely say that it often boils down to one cause — your sales staff are not effectively closing sales.

Closing a sale is defined as moving the transaction forward. Many salesmen know that selling takes four steps: you need to find the prospect, present to him, answer his questions and follow up until the sale is closed. At every step, the salesman is either closing the sale or closing the file.

If you own the company or lead a sales team, coach your staff on the ways to close every sale:

Make sure you have a very solid prospect

A high quality prospect is one who is very keen to buy as soon as possible. Do the right thing and you can count on closing the sale with him. Usually, this happens when the prospect looks for you and you are the only one who has what he is looking for. Monopolies usually enjoy this privilege. A real estate agent who is marketing a property with a great location, for example, will enjoy a similar advantage.

Follow up with every prospect until you get a sale

Statistics show that if a salesman does a follow-up diligently with prospects seven to nine times over the course of six to 12 months, he will close a sale.

Convert every prospect into a referral source

Yes, a salesman should ask for a referral each and every time he does a presentation. If you cannot close on your prospect because he currently cannot buy your product although he likes it, ask him for a referral instead. Most people would be more than happy to give referrals, especially if you have developed a rapport with them. If you convert the referred lead into a client, getting the referral was as good as having “closed” on your prospect.

Make your prospect an irresistible offer

Give him an offer he can’t refuse. Often, it is an attractive price, but many times it is about extra things that your prospect cannot get elsewhere. An example is limited-edition free gifts with a credit card application.

An irresistible offer can also be one where you break down your pricing into monthly or even daily amounts, and that amount will look attractive compared to other daily expenses like a cup of coffee.

For instance, many insurance agents break down a yearly premium of $3,285 into a daily expense of $7.50, which is cheaper than two cups of brand-name coffee.

Change your offer to suit the prospect’s needs and wants

All successful salesmen know that nothing is cast in stone. So if you cannot close the prospect with your current offer, you can change your offer to one that suits him.

In fact, many retailers do this by having a sale, and customers usually fall for it. A salesman who is accommodating and flexible will generally have no problem closing a sale.

Think about it — a “sale” also takes place during courtship when one person changes his or her lifestyle (for example, gives up smoking or drinking) to be more acceptable to the other in the hope of “closing the deal”, that is, becoming life partners.

Offer a written guarantee to remove doubts or fears

Sometimes, customers hesitate to say yes to the salesman’s proposal for fear that they will not be satisfied with the product or service. If you think that this is the case, confirm by asking your prospects what is really holding them back.

If your analysis is correct, then offer them a guarantee in writing to remove that fear. For example, sellers of electronics products from a less well-known brand often offer extended warranty certificates to reassure customers that they have nothing to fear.

Move the sale forward

Even though you may not win the contract or tender the first time round, you are moving the sale forward because the prospect now has a more favourable opinion of what you have to offer.

The next time, the prospect may give you the business and that is why people in the sales industry define this as closing the sale. In big projects with long sales cycles, it could mean getting clearance from the relevant authorities.

The points above summarise common ways to close every sale. Ensure that your staff practise them and they will get better at closing sales and increasing the bottom line.

Remember, if they don’t close the sale for your company, they are closing the sale for your competitor.