Is your sales team seeing certain sales opportunities that keep showing up in the sales forecast month after month, but without ever moving closer to closing a deal? These sales leads that linger for months are drifting along in “sales purgatory,” neither alive nor dead. If you’ve already invested time and effort into appointment setting and other lead generation services to start these sales conversations, it’s important to take the next step and focus on your sales closing questions to get out of sales purgatory and bring more of your prospects to the finish line.
You need to get your sales team to start asking what I call, “Sales Smoke Out Questions.” These are sales closing questions that can help you generate some action and infuse some urgency into the sales process.
By asking closing questions for sales, you can get a clearer idea of where you stand in the prospect’s mind. These sales closing questions are not just for top sales performers; your entire team can easily work them into their sales call scripts and talk tracks.
Asking smart sales closing questions can support your business goals in several ways:
Here are the top 6 closing sales questions to help move your sales process forward:
When you’re asking sales closing questions, you don’t have to pretend that you’re the only company contacting the prospect. Go ahead and ask if they are talking to your competitors. If so, fine – that means you can try to dig deeper and uncover some business intelligence by asking follow-up questions like, “What do you think about the other competitors and their offerings?” If the prospect says that they are not considering other vendors, this could be a sign that they are not really serious about buying. (Or, if you’re really lucky, it means that you’re the first company to get to them.)
Asking about other vendors is not only useful for sales closing questions, but it can also be part of the early stages of a new sales prospect relationship. For example, at SSM, we use this question often as part of our inbound lead qualification services to help our clients assess new inbound sales leads, sort out and rank the highest priority leads, and nurture the rest.
Don’t wait too long to find out where you stand. If one of your competitors has already convinced the prospect on the merits of their solution, it helps to know that before you waste a lot of time. If you’re a close second, it helps to know so you can strategize about how to get to #1. Or even if the prospect doesn’t have a clearly ordered list, asking these follow-up sales closing questions gives you a chance to gain business intelligence and find out what concerns you need to alleviate to build more credibility with the prospect. It might be that the prospect has been misinformed or needs to be further educated about what your solution can do. Your competitors might be making promises that they can’t keep. The best way to find out where you stand is to ask – and then respond accordingly.
Many salespeople are reluctant to pin down a prospect with such specific sales closing questions as this, but the prospect’s answer gives you all the information you need as to how serious they are about making a deal.
Even if you don’t want to use a 1 to 5 ranking, your closing questions for sales don’t always have to be focused on making a sale; instead, you can find subtle, nuanced ways to get business intelligence from your conversations with prospects. Keep pushing for details to see where you stand with each prospect. Take precise notes on every sales call and keep ranking (and re-ranking) your sales leads in priority order, based on who seems most likely to buy.
This question helps clarify the prospect’s timetable, and it also gives your sales team an opportunity to offer helpful information to build credibility with the prospect. For example, if the prospect says that they want to purchase in April and then implement in July, your sales team needs to think about whether this is a realistic implementation timeframe for your solution. This is a chance to help guide the prospect and manage expectations. Don’t make promises you can’t keep – instead, show the prospect that you are a conscientious professional who has the prospect’s best interests at heart. It may be that one of your competitors is over-promising about the speed of implementation, which can ultimately be more costly and harmful to the prospect’s business.
One of the unpleasant side effects of “sales purgatory” is that it skews your organization’s sales forecasting, as deals stay clogged up in the pipeline for month after month. Part of this process of asking sales smoke out questions involves increasing your sales team’s forecasting accuracy. If your sales team feels uncomfortable putting prospects on the spot with this question, modify the question slightly by saying, “Our management team is trying to improve our forecasting and they want to know whether we can expect to move forward with you on this business.”
Sometimes a great way to make sales closing questions is to frame them as part of a helpful conversation where you share relevant industry news. Find a news article or piece of content that you can put in front of the prospect, showing them why the industry is shifting, why they need urgency, how their competitors are innovating, and why now is the right time to invest in your solution.
As always, come at this question from a perspective of helping the customer. Remind them of the biggest problems that should be keeping them up at night, and then show how you can help solve that problem – by reducing their costs, boosting their productivity, increasing their revenues, and improving their business. Don’t just be a sales rep, be a problem solver.
Sales purgatory doesn’t have to last forever. By asking pointed “sales smoke out” questions (while being prepared to address any confusion or misconceptions along the way), your sales team can take “half-dead” sales leads and breathe new life into them.