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How to close a sale

As with many things in life: preparation is key. When you’re involved in negotiations for a sale, being prepared can help back up strong and persuasive arguments to help both sides come to an agreement.

When a quotation is rejected, it means you’ll inevitably lack the next steps: invoicing and getting paid. Arguably crucial, what you’ll find in this article is a collection of tips to help to turn your proposals into action (read: quote accepted, invoice issued, and payment on the way).

Secure a handshake like this one over a desk with some tips from Debitoor invoicing software's Small Business Guide

The process: from quote to sale

Securing a sale is not necessarily about convincing the other party that you are right. In fact, that sounds a little bit more along the lines of something that belongs in the court of law, so leave it to the barristers.

In sales, the part that involves persuasion is in illustrating to the other party how and why your particular product or service (above and beyond any competitors) satisfies their needs - meets or exceeds the requirements they’re looking for in a purchase.

For this reason, each interaction you have with a potential customer is crucial. From the first meeting to the final handshake, no matter if it’s face-to-face or digital. How you come across might just be a major factor in whether you make it to the next step in the sales process.

For example: a customer contacts you with an inquiry about your pricing. You respond quickly and professionally with a catalogue or detailed outline of your products/services. This response will likely have an impact on whether the customer then requests a quote for selected products/services. And it continues from there to invoicing, payment receipt, and even future business and word-of-mouth.

When you come across as professional in every interaction, it not only reassures the customer that you are a real company (for example, if you’re just getting started in your industry and don’t yet have a wide customer base), but also that you will follow through with the sale and provide quality products or services.

What to keep in mind when closing a sale

As with any sale, it’s important to ensure that you’re always including the basics, namely, a detailed description of the products/services being provided, as well as the costs and any additional costs or discounts discussed. Your customer should be able to see clearly what their costs will be before and after tax.

There might also be cases when a customer comes back requesting certain changes to a quote before they will be willing to accept. This is when it’s important that you be willing to renegotiate and to potentially edit the quotation to make some changes that will be reflected in the invoice.

In some situations, a proforma invoice can be a useful document as it plays a slightly different purpose than a quotation and is not a binding fiscal agreement. Take a look at our dictionary if you’re wondering ‘What is a proforma invoice?’.

One of the main situations that a proforma invoice is used in is when the full details of the invoice have not yet been finalised. They’re also often used for orders that go through customs, as well as for business proposals in international trade.

If you’re using invoicing software, creating a proforma invoice is essentially the same as creating a draft invoice, and it can be converted to a completed invoice with a click.

What to do if the sale is turned down

Throughout negotiations in a sale, it’s not uncommon that the other party might reject a quote or suggest a counter-offer. When the party rejects the quote, many businesses (especially those just starting out) might view this as the end of the negotiations.

However, there are many possible reasons for the rejection of a quote and therefore many options for potentially turning the situation around.

The customer’s needs aren’t met

The interests of the other party might seem obvious, however, there are some cases in which you need to dig a little deeper to better understand what they are looking for - what problem are they trying to solve with your product or service? Is there something additional that can be done at little cost to you that could have a positive impact on the sale?

Being able to determine what the customer is looking for and explain how your particular product/service aligns with that will certainly give you a leg up on the competition, and can be a large element in securing the ‘yes’ that was previously a ‘no’.

Make a new proposal seem like the customer’s idea

Most people do not enjoy being told what to do. The same goes for people being told that they are wrong. While it might seem the case to you, it’s important to communicate these thoughts in a way that is more appealing to your potential customer.

In other words, you want to find a way to create an alternative proposal if the original is rejected. By asking the customer for their thoughts and ideas to be included in the new proposal, you involve them while still opening up the opportunity for a new quotation to be created.

If it’s about cost, refocus the sale

Cost is perhaps the most common reason that a customer will have objections about a quotation or potential sale. There are a few ways that this can be handled differently to make the amount more palatable.

For example, you can break down the prices by unit and show this amount, which from a psychological standpoint is easier to understand and accept.

If they say “It’s just not for me”

Although it can happen, it’s rare to encounter a customer who begins the sales process only to say they actually don’t need or want your product or service. However, it is more common that a customer believes it’s not needed.

In these cases, it’s more likely that the value of your product or service was not well-communicated to the customer. When this occurs, a new approach such as graphs or diagrams, success stories from other customers, or relevant data can serve to show the usefulness of your product/service.

If they say they need “...more time to think about it”

A phrase that likely makes you wince slightly. Many of these cases can become more and more delayed and eventually forgotten over time. However, this is when it’s important to be a little more persistent than you would in sales that are progressing without hesitation.

Ask the customer what information they would need in order to make a decision. Then work to provide it as thoroughly as possible. You can also follow up after a few days and let them know that their business is important to you.

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