5 Sales Closing Techniques That Take a Human-Centric Approach (And Work)
Are you worried you can’t hit this year’s sales targets? Are your revenue streams declining? Are your customers becoming savvier to your sales closing techniques?
Maybe the thought of closing a sale amidst all this pressure means you’ve searched How to Close a Sale? millions of times. But with the future of remote selling at your doorstep, it’s time to rethink your typical Always Be Closing (ABC).
While having knowledge of traditional sales closing techniques is important, the close comes at the end of a lasting relationship you’ve built across the entire customer journey. It’s just as much about the entire sales process as the close itself.
Instead of asking “how to close a sale” you should ask “how to move forward with a sale?” Which begs the next question,
How do you close a sale in the most human-centric way?
This article will show you five sales closing techniques that leverage a human-centric approach and have been proven to work. It’s positive thinking (putting the customer first) that will get you ahead of the sales curve.
Your ABC search ends now. So stop searching and let’s get closing.
Start Leveraging a Human-Centric Approach to Your Sales Closing Techniques
In the TV show White Gold, the 1980s salesmen sell windows by spouting platitudes like, “science tells us these window frames will be around long after the human race is extinct” or, “President Reagan has a fallout shelter made from these windows”.
Big eye-roll moment for the audience. With equal comic relief, of course.
The thing is, consumer culture isn’t the same as it was in the ‘80s. Today, your customers are digitally aware, have many choices at their disposal, and crave personal connections with people, brands, or businesses they buy from.
Which is why you have to start catering to the human side of your buyers. Cut-throat, aggressive sales closing techniques don’t fit the bill anymore.
Instead, you should hinge your sales process on positive thinking. It’s about understanding the psychology of your customers. To put the human back in sales.
Closing a Sales Hinges on Positive Psychology
“Happiness is no longer merely a utopian notion with uncertain practical utility. I believe it is now poised to unleash a massive surge in the potential of sales professionals and provide a powerful edge to propel any organization to new heights.” - Joe Brocato writing for Forbes
The idea of positive psychology is self-explanatory. To give you an idea, positive psychology suggests that having an optimistic outlook will actually change the end behavior.
And not just change, but improve:
- Optimists are more likely than pessimists to experience better financial health (HBR)
- Optimistic employees are 103% more inspired to give their best effort at work (Forbes)
- Optimists are more likely to get a promotion (HBR)
- Optimistic sales reps outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56% (Forbes)
For your sales closing techniques, applying positive psychology means being optimistic you will succeed. Studies have found that the more optimistic, determined, hopeful, and resilient you are, the more likely you’ll be to close a sale.
Here’s a common example you sales reps may be familiar with. Your customer has a complaint and is unhappy about your service, product, or solution. Which scenario do you imagine working best?
- You get defensive, confrontational, and end the relationship.
- You face the customer with a smile, and understand their pain points in order to solve them.
Optimism is infectious. Harnessing the power of a positive attitude will be your make-it factor not just when closing a sale, but throughout the entire sales funnel, and to hone the skills of your sales team.
Positive psychology is an important behavioral change your sales team should adopt, but its a habit-breaker. Meaning, to really create behavior change you need:
- Practical real-play (building scenarios to see your habits in real life)
- Application in real life (continued practice will lead to real behavior change)
Why is this for you? Well, professionals who use a positive outlook are more likely to:
- Create contingency plans
- Identify multiple pathways to success
- Enhance overall performance
Makes sense, doesn’t it?
With positive thinking top-of-mind, let’s go through some sales closing techniques. As a sales rep, you may have heard of traditional techniques like the Columbo Close, the Takeaway Close, or the Sharp Angle Close.
But let’s continue with the idea of a human-centric approach coupled with optimistic selling. Throwing the aggressive sales closing techniques out the window, we want to show you ones that have a timeless feel in the future of sales.
Get these right and you’ll have yourself a win-win: a closed sale and happy customers.
5 Sales Closing Techniques That Take a Human-Centric Approach
Closing technique #1: The Assumptive Close
Here’s what you know. At Starbucks, the sales rep will ask if you want your coffee “Medium or Grande?”, without mentioning a “Small” option.
Starbucks sales reps have obviously been trained in the Assumptive Closing strategy, a sales coaching technique that contributes to their success as one of the most successful companies in the world. Not to mention one with an unparalleled customer experience.
However, using the assumptive close in this way can feel deceitful and cause resistance in your customers. You’re not here to trick your consumers into buying your product. Taking the Starbucks example, your customers are already at your counter about to complete their transaction.
Instead, Starbucks reps would do better to frame the assumptive close like,
“I know that the Small option is not for you, so would you be interested in Medium or Grande?”
Here, you’re still making a presumption the client wants to buy something without forcing a choice on them. That’s the crux of a human-centric assumptive close: It’s about presuming a customer wants to buy something in the first place but changing this expectation to fit their needs.
As a sales rep, using the Assumptive Closing technique means having this mindset:
- Be helpful
- Provide real information
- Know your product well
- Make a presumption about your customer’s buying intention based on their needs and desires
- Take into account your customer’s feelings and limits
- Focus on the benefits of what you’re providing
These steps will help you close a sale, but also help your customers reconsider abandoning a purchase. But to do this, you need to create that positive behavior change so that your presumption of a close doesn’t come across as pushy.
In this way, you should apply positive psychology to:
- Boost your self-confidence
- Create positive expectations
- Be reassuring
- Neutralize unfounded negative messages
- Help alleviate incorrect assumptions
Get this right and you can change the assumption from pushy to tactful. Which is how you’ll close a sale using this traditional closing technique every time.
Closing technique #2: Puppy Dog Close
Ever wondered how brands can afford to hand out free samples? The profit here is paid for in psychology:
Once a buyer tests something out, they will be more inclined to buy it. This is the crux of the Puppy Dog Close. The name comes from the idea of taking a puppy home for a few days to see if you actually want to buy it.
And who would give a puppy away?
When closing a sale, this technique works because you are feeding into the imagination of the purchase in your customers’ life, and making it concrete. It provides a human approach too because you are, in effect, giving up your service, solution, or products for free.
While trust is fostered, your customers are also guaranteed a low-pressure environment in which to make their eventual purchase decision. Plus, buyers can see how the eventual sale will provide real benefits in their day-to-day life.
The more a consumer can interact with what you’re selling in a tactile way, the more they’ll feel a sense of ownership even before the financial transaction.
The Puppy Dog Close employs positive psychology by:
- Making the customer experience interactive and delightful
- Allowing customers to feel the joy of ownership
- Allow customers to experience the product free of charge
- Leverages emotions to finally close the sale
Depending on your service vertical, leveraging the Puppy Dog closing technique will look a bit different. But here are a couple of examples you can use for inspiration.
Examples of Puppy Dog Closing techniques:
- Free trials/ samples/ demos
- Leverage VR (for try-on or to show how a product fits in the customer’s life)
- Trial periods (or test drives)
- Free content around a product offering (blogs, newsletters, informational content)
- Leverage the “IKEA Effect”, to let customers assemble products themselves (creating a tactile experience)
- Free additions with products that have been purchased
Closing technique #3: The Question Close
A Question Close looks something like this:
“Now that you understand how the [features] of this [product] lead to [benefits], would you agree that it solves your problem?”
If the answer is no, then you can ask why it fails to solve the problem. If it’s YES, then you have yourself a winner. Answering YES means it’ll be harder for someone to find arguments as to why they wouldn’t buy your product (like a rhetorical question).
Think of The Question Close like a funnel: The broader questions identify who you’re talking to, including their problems or friction points. Then, you filter down to their true desires and needs so you can really identify how to sell with these in mind.
The Question Close is so effective because it draws out more information based on how customers answer the questions. Leveraging this across your sales funnel will help you sell valuable solutions to the customer, rather than simply pushing your products.
In the future of sales, the Question Close technique will only work if you connect with your customers by:
- Learning more about who you’re selling too
- Eliminating hesitation little by little
- Creating a deeper understanding of your customers’ goals and pain points
This sales closing technique leverages positive psychology because it helps you see things from your customer’s perspective.
So how do you do it?
Like all good behavior changes, you first need to check in with your current habits. Old habits - like asking pushy questions to get your customers to say YES - die hard. Introduce new habits with positive psychology in mind, by asking if your question takes into account:
- The initial buying intention of the customer?
- All the other questions they’ve answered throughout the sales process?
- The customer’s profile and persona?
- Their limitations and expectations at the final buying moment?
Your Question Close will ultimately provide the most customer-specific value proposition if you can tailor the question based on your customers’ responses and reactions throughout the sales funnel.
Only then will you have yourself a unique Question Closing technique.
Closing technique #4: Now or never
In consumer psychology, the idea of promoting scarcity, exclusivity, or rarity has proved to drive purchase behavior. This is particularly true for closing a sale. But to future-proof this sales closing technique, you need to put the human back.
The Now or Never sales closing technique prompts the idea of buying something immediately - or else. This may seem a little pushy, but the “or else” in this case could mean:
- The discount/offer/promotion will end soon
- The stock is nearly finished
- It’s a one-off deal
These will actually help your customers overcome inertia by getting them to act. For many consumers who have trouble making decisions, the Now or Never closing technique actually takes a humane angle by saying, “This is why you should make a decision”, rather than shouting, “Make a decision now!”
Which means you need to already have established a special kind of trust with your customers.
Examples of the Now or Never closing phrases:
- “Hurry! This offer ends now”
- “These items are going fast.”
- “Sign up today for a 20% discount”
- “We only have one item left at this price”
- “This might be your last chance to buy with this deal/offer!”
An important thing to keep in mind is not to be pushy. With Now or Never closes, it’s easy to fall into a common scenario where customers may resist your message.
Remember, it’s all about framing your phrasing, and keeping your customers happy, engaged, to facilitate their decision-making.
Closing technique #5: The Backwards Close
The idea of working backward from the end experience to the product is part of the Backwards Close strategy.
This sales closing technique aims to talk about the destination and work backward through the sales process to show how you’ll get the customer there.
It leverages positive psychology because it,
- Describes a journey you take together with the customer
- Puts the customer at ease without being pushy or aggressive
- Describes your product/service benefits and features to finally close the sale
- Provides information tailored to the customer
- Is stress-free for both the sales rep and the customer
Examples of the Backwards Close phrases:
- Start with referrals: “Do you know anyone who would benefit from having this? I would love to discuss how we can help them boost their business. Our product has [features] to achieve [benefit].”
- Start with describing the overall experience: “Your life looks like [X] now that you have [product/serivce]. With [product] you can achieve these goals. Our [feature] helps you become [benefit].”
Sales Closing Techniques: Best practices to keep the human at the forefront at all times
- Never use statements over questions
- Sell customer-specific value propositions
- Know your product or service inside-out so you can provide the most tailored information
- Understand your customer’s goals and get buy-in based on them
- Create a sense of urgency to facilitate decision-making
- Understand your customer’s purchasing process
- Take a solution-oriented approach
- Handle objections and pitch problem-solving
- Sell benefits over attributes (remembering that benefits change per individual)
Throw out your aggressive sales closing habits in favor of these five robust techniques. But remember, these are simply part of your toolset. It’s by crafting your mindset that your sales closing will have the most impact.
So while keeping these sales closing techniques best practices in mind at all times will get you to achieve a sales-efficient organization, having a positive mindset throughout the funnel is a lesson in behavior change.
Invest in the right kind of training, and you’ll be on your way to leveraging the traditional sales closing techniques in the most human way, to the advantage of your sales targets and revenue streams.
Both you and your team will reap the benefits of a mindset shift from selling products to selling value. But to do this, you need to encourage a conversation with your customers throughout their entire sales process.
Only then can you effectively close a sale, by listening to your customers and giving them specifically what they need at the close.