There are many different types of sales reps. Here are just a few examples of the different types of sales reps- hunters, farmers, transactional, enterprise, inside sales, outside sales, technical sales, public sector, solution specialists, named account, etc. The type of sales rep that you need is based on what and to whom you are selling, the complexity of the sale, the price point and other variables. In fact, you may need different types of sales reps in your overall sales team composition as your market evolves and dictates. But the one thing that seems to always be in short supply is sales reps (regardless of type) that fundamentally know how to drive deals to closure. Closers are a special breed that will always be immortalized by the classic Alec Baldwin lines delivered in Glengarry Glen Ross when he admonishes Jack Lemmon to “Put that coffee down! Coffee’s for Closers.” And “A, B, C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing, always be closing.” The irony is that most sales reps are really uncomfortable with closing. Many sales reps are good at identifying pain, building value and credibility with the prospective customer. Yet, they either don’t know how to close well or are intimidated by the whole closing process. Closing skills are generally not something that you can teach, rather real closers are simply genetically wired to close and they do it quite naturally. Let’s face it, the most difficult aspect of sales is asking someone to commit to spending large amounts of money. Sales teams and publicly traded companies are quarterly driven beasts. You are beholden to the number and people lose their jobs if they don’t meet the number. Forecasting and sales visibility are dependent on the sales reps ability to accurately predict when the deals will close and for how much. Due to the fact that most sales reps are poor closers, you see a plethora of end of the quarter discounts to motivate the customer to make their purchase commitment. An unfortunate byproduct of this rampant end of quarter discounting process is that the customer’s procurement departments are conditioned to wait until the last possible second to negotiate the best possible price and terms. In essence, it has become an ironic self-fulfilling prophecy:-)
How many sales teams assess their sales people’s ability to close? I’ve seen countless examples of when too many deals “slip” from one quarter end to the next and the company doesn’t make their number, then the company institutes a “closure plan” process. The closure plan process is where sales reps are tasked with gathering details about the decision maker(s), timeline, business drivers related to the deal, etc. in hopes of having a better handle on when the deal will close and preventing more deal “slips”. The problem with this approach is that they are treating the symptoms but not the underlying ailment of having sales reps that aren’t good closers. Good closers are easy to spot and as a long time VP of Sales they are quite simply your favorite sales people because they make your life so much easier:-) Natural sales closers view closing as the most important part of the sales process and something that you start seeding in your initial conversations with the prospect. Closers are like great conductors of a symphony that know when to bring in the proper instruments and how to effectively leverage all of the instruments available to them to build to a crescendo that rouses the audience to a standing ovation at it’s conclusion. Great closers have conviction and intestinal fortitude. Their time and solution is valuable, as such you will never find them groveling with prospects. They insist on building mutually respectful relationships with customers. Closers are experts at getting incremental commitment throughout the sales process. Closers aren’t afraid of having conversations about price and terms; in fact they invite that dialog and are completely at ease with objections around price or terms. Not surprisingly, great closers are great forecasters and are never blind sided at the end of a quarter or fiscal year.
I once developed a guaranteed results program to assist an enterprise software start-up selling to F1000 companies. Essentially, the program was our sales process reverse engineered in to an evaluation plan from the prospective customer’s end complete with mutual resource commitments and milestone dates. The plan was aggressive as we needed to close a “proof point” F1000 customer in less than 120 days or we would run out of money. The program called for a 90-day evaluation engagement from both parties and either party was able to walk away at the end of each step in the process if they did not feel that the reality was living up to the promise. We successfully engaged with a F100 company and closed a mid six-figure deal in 89 days. They actually apologized for being a day or two late according to the program milestone dates during the sales process. This deal was the proof point that we needed to finally close over $8M in funding during one of the most challenging VC fund raising climates of all times. Closing is valuable!