Sales Closing Rate – 3 Ways to improve it

September 8th, 2018

As a fractional sales manager and trainer, the most frequent question salespeople ask me is this – “I have a lot of proposals out but I can’t seem to close them.  Help me improve my close rate.” My response is always the same – “I can definitely help you improve your close rate, but it’s likely you failed to close the deal in your first meeting.”  In other words, most salespeople win or lose a deal in their first meeting with the prospect.

This article provides information about three sales strategies to implement that will have a major positive impact on your close rate and sales performance.

Win or Lose the Deal in the 1st Meeting

Your first meeting, the “discovery meeting”, is one of the most crucial steps in the sales process.  It’s the time when you sell yourself and your capabilities. In most cases, you win or lose the deal in the first meeting.  

In most sales processes, the customer makes four important decisions in order as follows; 1) they decide to buy you, 2) they decide to buy your company, 3) they decide to buy your solution, and 4) they decide to buy your price.  First and foremost, they decide to buy you. If in that first meeting you fail to “sell yourself” as someone capable of solving their problem, you’ll fail to close the deal.

How can you “sell yourself”?  The first step is to position yourself as a trusted advisor – someone who is there to solve the problem in the most economical way possible.  You ask good questions and listen carefully to understand the problem. You don’t talk about yourself because it’s not about you – it’s about helping your prospect solve his/her problem.  Finally, you communicate that your relationship might not be a good fit, but if it is, the partnership can be very positive. This message is liberating for the prospect because he/she doesn’t feel threatened that you’ll try to sell something the prospect doesn’t need.

In that first meeting you have three primary objectives; 1) gain “trusted advisor” status with your prospect, 2) gain an understanding of the prospect’s problem, and 3) determine if and how your products and services can have a positive impact on solving that problem.   

You Failed to Qualify Effectively

Most deals aren’t lost because the prospect said “no”.  They’re lost because the prospect doesn’t make a decision to do anything.  A recent stat I read indicated that about one-third of sales proposals never get a decision, one way or the other.  The customer just doesn’t act.

The way to solve this is be better at qualifying the prospect.  Use the SMART qualifying process. S = will my service (or product) truly add value to the prospect.  M = does the prospect have the money to spend, A = does the person I am talking to have the authority to make the decision, R = is the revenue you can generate from the sale worth your time, and T = what is the prospect’s timing.  

Using the SMART qualifying process, you as the sales pro need to gain from the prospect the M – A – T elements.  Does the prospect have the money? Does the prospect have the authority? What is the prospect’s timing?

Most of the time no decision is made to a proposal you delivered, it’s because one of these qualifying elements failed.  Either the proposed solution was too expensive and the prospect was apprehensive to tell you, or you’ve been working with someone who doesn’t have the authority to make a decision, or the prospect has no sense of urgency to act.  

To avoid the frustration of developing and delivering a proposal to which you never get a response, make sure you’re talking to a decision maker, determine the budget, and know the prospect’s sense of urgency to act.

Don’t Lose Control of the Sale

The sales process should be collaborative between the salesperson and the prospect.  It should not be a situation in which the salesperson is subservient to the prospect, or the salesperson is constantly chasing the customer who always seems to be running away.  The salesperson-prospect relationship should be a partnership in which both parties are pursuing a solution together.

Getting micro-commitments throughout the sales process is critical.  Here are some examples of getting micro-commitments that enable you to keep control of the process…

  • At the end of the first meeting with a prospect you commit to doing some research and sharing your findings in the next meeting, which you get onto the prospect’s schedule before you leave the first meeting.
  • At the end of the first meeting the prospect agrees to pull together some information that the two of you will go over in the second meeting, which you get onto the prospect’s schedule before you leave the first meeting.
  • After a meeting with the prospect you commit to developing a proposal, and you schedule the next meeting to go over the details with the prospect
  • If after presenting a proposal the prospect wants to think about it, you schedule a follow up meeting with the prospect to discuss and resolve concerns so the plan is perfect for the prospect.

Do everything possible to avoid letting the prospect go off on his/her own to ponder things.  Too often this results in no decision because the collaboration process between you and the prospect has ended, and there’s no firm commitment to revisit it.  

Always push for a decision – one way or the other.  Tell the prospect, it’s ok to say “no”. If your solution isn’t the right one or the prospect isn’t confident it will work, it’s always better to know it and work with the prospect to resolve concerns.  


Delivering proposals and being told “no” by the prospect is frustrating.  Even more frustrating is delivering proposals and no decision is made by the prospect, one way or the other.  You’ll get decisions and more closed deals if you achieve “trusted advisor” status and truly understand the customer’s problem.  Use the SMART qualifying process to ensure you are working with a qualified prospect. Finally, keep control of the sale by getting micro-commitments from your prospect so the collaboration process can continue.  

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