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Closing Fears and the Sales Performance Cycle: Facing the Challenges of Consultive Selling
By Jack R. Snader

In real-life selling situations, the fear of closing has many faces.

Freddie walks into a customer's office, creates great rapport, delivers a superb presentation, and then walks out-without a sale-because he's afraid of being seen as pushy or overly assertive.

Marie approaches a customer after careful call planning, answers customer concerns to the best of her ability, then gets sweaty palms and stops short of asking for the order. Her fear? She's anxious because she's afraid something is missing and she's not sure what that is.

Bob displays his vast product knowledge to a customer, pushes for the close as soon as possible, and gets a big fat rejection. His fear? He's afraid from the start that he will lose control of the sale if he gives his customer too much time to think about it, so he talks fast and tries to control everything.

Salespeople in the past have relied on high-pressure tactics so much that stereotypical salespeople are seen by society as obnoxiously pushy. While a few pushy salespeople still exist, the reaction to this perception within selling circles in general has been to attempt to reverse the trend, resulting in a certain amount pressure-phobia. And to add to the confusion, contradictory forces are still at work.

Contradictory Forces

On one hand, sales managers warn their salespeople to avoid pressuring customers because pressure has been proven to have a negative effect on closing sales. But on the other hand, sales managers encourage their team to reach selling goals and break records, in effect pressuring them to perform at peak levels. The message is, "Don't pressure your customers, but I still need to pressure you!"

Ultimately, whether a salesperson uses too much pressure or insufficient assertiveness, the fear behind all these selling behaviors is a factor that can be overcome through an understanding of consultative selling. With consultative selling, the close becomes simply a natural outgrowth of the seller-customer dialogue.

Consultative Selling

The entire sales process involves a sophisticated ability to relate to customers professionally by asking the right questions at the right times, listening carefully to answers, and perceiving all the implications of the conversation. It includes having a realistic understanding of the customer's business problems, perhaps even better than the customer has, and gently guiding the customer to think through problems and develop solutions that include the seller's products and services. Beyond planning and investigation prior to a call, salespeople have to engage their mental faculties totally throughout the sales call-without relying on canned responses or control tactics-in order to be perceived as truly consultative and therefore valuable resources.

But until these general processes are translated into specific skills, they cannot help a salesperson close more sales. There is, in fact, a detailed, intricate and flexible procedure that needs to be followed in the proper sequence to lead to the successful close. That's why Systema defines a model for effective sales performance.

Systema's Sales Performance Model

In this model of good selling, the four phases of the performance cycle are:

  • Establishing Rapport
  • Identifying and Analyzing Needs
  • Responding to Needs
  • Facilitating Decisions

Different organizations use different terms to describe these phases, but a sales process by any other name is still the same. The "upfront skills" used in the Establishing Rapport phase lay a groundwork for the rest of the process. Often when an attempted close is unsuccessful, the upfront skills were not thoroughly employed.

Identifying and Analyzing Needs is the phase in which probing and listening skills are heavily engaged, although Responding to Needs also involves carefully positioned questioning along with the presentation of product and service information. In some instances, a close fails because the salesperson asked the wrong question, failed to ask the right question at the right time, or simply didn't listen carefully during the second or third phase of the process.

The close is found in the last phase, Facilitating Decisions. The good news is that, once a salesperson is able to walk successfully through the entire selling process in an orderly way, negotiating all its possible sidebars, detours, and hurdles, the close itself becomes a non-issue.

Our research shows that, contrary to the "Ugly Salesperson" image of the past, a successful salesperson is helpful, trustworthy, knowledgeable, and smart. Successful salespeople today close by focusing on their desire to aid customers in solving clearly defined business problems, and when they do this, the money follows.

For information on Systema® onTrack® sales performance enhancement system, e-mail us at

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