Top 10 Tips for Improving Closing Rates in 2021

There is no time more fitting than the start of the new year to reflect on the wins and losses of the past year and set new goals for the upcoming one. 

I sat down with ASLAN CEO, Tom Stanfill, to review his top tips for ratcheting up those closing numbers for all salespeople out there, especially given the ongoing virtual environment we are selling in, even into this new year.  

If you prefer to take this on-the-go and listen to our conversation on this topic, feel free to check out sALES with ASLAN podcast episode 88:

We’ll cover these in reverse order of importance (David Letterman style), starting with #10 and working our way up to the most important, tip #1. We can debate the ranking of numbers 2 through 10, but number one is without a doubt, the crown jewel of this list – the number one driver of success for top performers across all careers and industries, not just for sellers like us.

Let’s get started.


Tip #10 – “Chill”

So many of us are feeling anxious and negative thanks to the chaos, change and uncertainty of the past  (almost) year. The problem here is that when we get anxious, we don’t think clearly, we underperform, we get self-centered.

We need to take a step back and put things in perspective. We go through a downturn in the economy almost every 10 years. Of course this time around it looks quite different, like the others, we will make it to the other side. This is not to say that we shouldn’t care about the state of our world… we should be cautious and smart and empathetic, but we also need to step back and do what we can do.

Getting too worked up about hitting our number or closing a deal will only cause us to become self-centered and underperform in our job. Enjoy your role – which is to be of service to your customers.   


Tip #9 – Improve Your Virtual IQ

Step up your virtual selling game. Make sure you are equipping yourself for success with the right virtual tools and technology (think camera and headset). 

You should know how to use your virtual platform, be it Zoom, Teams, or Webex.       

Here is an in-depth article we have on how to differentiate yourself in virtual sales and build your personal virtual brand.

This virtual environment is here to stay, albeit at lower rates post pandemic. Many industry people that we have talked with estimate conducting 35% of meetings virtually, well into the foreseeable future.     

Check out this quick video from speaker and author, Jon Acuff, The 10 Worst Zoom Habits.

Get good at virtual – it’s here to stay.


Tip #8 – Examine Your Sales Process

For all reps, field and inside sales alike, now is a good time to examine your sales process. Ask yourself the following about your process:

“Is it customer centric?”

Does your process serve you or does it serve your customer? The virtual buying process and the new challenges it presents have led to huge changes for many of our prospects and customers. Be sure your process is designed to help them make the best decision for their organization.


Tip #7 – Create 3 “Word Pictures”

What are word pictures?

Word Pictures are analogies to simplify the complex – they help our customer “see” something they don’t understand and elicit an emotion by drawing on a past experience. Essentially, you leverage something they do understand to explain something that they don’t.    

Tom uses a great personal story to illustrate this:

He was talking to a participant in one of his workshops, during a break, when the man pulled out a vape. Tom asked, “So what’s up with vaping? Is it the same as smoking a cig?”

The participant explained it to him: “Ever tried turkey bacon?” 

“Yeah, sure,” Tom answered. 

He said, “Not as good, right?”

Agreeing, Tom said, “Yeah, it’s kind of like bacon, but I would much rather have the real thing.” 

He nodded. 

This is a key example of how Word Pictures can have an instant impact on our emotions and understanding. It drives the point home with a visual, tangible, real-world example that our customer can relate to, comprehend and remember.   

Take the time to create a few Word Pictures, about your solution, that you can (eventually) memorize, and pull out of your selling tools arsenal to use during meetings and virtual presentations with your prospects. Think about what you need to quickly explain to your customer, and how you can simplify this complicated idea by using an analogy, a Word Picture. 

These will help your customer emotionally experience the benefit of your solution, in an easy-to-understand, and memorable way. 


Tip #6 – Build a Discovery Roadmap

This is a basic selling fundamental, that most people have not developed. All sellers have a list of questions, but that’s not what we’re referring to here. A roadmap is a framework for leading Discovery. 

It has 2 categories:

  • Understanding the customer’s POV

Think about a bridge between the customer’s current state and where they want to be (i.e. the goals and objectives). What do they think that bridge looks like? How do they plan to get there? What are their problems along the path to their “destination?”

  • Our recommendation

What do I, as the rep, need to know to determine what I recommend? It’s important to build a roadmap that is built around categories, and objectives within those categories, and come up with the questions we need to ask to uncover that information. 

Discovery meetings should be fluid conversations, so focus on the objectives and not on a canned list of rapid-fire questions. You need to talk about what the customer wants to talk about, but you need a framework to guide that.

Oftentimes, the customer doesn’t know the best way to solve their problem  –  our role is to lead them to the best way to solve their problem(s).

Review your roadmap before every meeting. 


Tip #5 – Develop a Formula to Solve the Customer’s Problem

This is another obvious one that is rarely used by salespeople. Most of the time, your solution will solve only a portion of the customer’s problem.  You have a piece of the “bridge” (between the customer’s current and desired state) that we mentioned above. 

Develop your recipe or formula for success. How are you going to bridge that gap? Study your customer’s problems. How are other people solving those issues and what is common practice? 

Even if you only provide a piece of the puzzle, show them what the other pieces look like to get to the whole picture. Even if you can’t solve their entire problem, be a trusted partner to your customer by having the information on how to do so (and how your solution fits into that formula).


Tip #4 – Lead the Decision-Making Process

Another way to say this to challenge the decision-making process, especially in this virtual environment. Customers are using new ways to choose solution-providers and partners. But their process may not be the most useful, efficient or beneficial one. Most reps have the knowledge and information to best guide this process, but are letting customers take the lead.

Reps are simply saying  “yes” to whatever the customer thinks is best. This is where sellers need to take a step back and define the process (see tip #8) prospects need to go through to effectively evaluate your solution.

When they deviate from that process, guide your customer by letting them know why it’s in their best interest to follow the course. As students of the industry, salespeople know (inside and out) the problems that they regularly help their customers solve, as well as the best way to reach a decision.

This may not work every time, but it will stop you, and your client, from wasting valuable time. Being OtherCentered(R) means communicating why it is truly in your customer’s best interest to  follow your lead in this process.


Tip #3 –  Don’t Accept Defeat

There are 2 kinds of people: those who say “can” and those who say ”can’t.” Either you’ll work to figure it out, or you won’t even try. It’s like Henry Ford once said:

“Whether you think you can or can’t, you are right.” 

At the beginning of the pandemic, many salespeople were saying, “There’s no way to get meetings and keep selling, we can’t sell well in a virtual world!” Others said the opposite. Both types have been right.

It’s just like this clip from The Blind Side, when Michael doesn’t understand the material in his tutoring session. Miss Sue (his tutor) tells him, “Yet. You don’t understand this yet.

At the risk of sounding like a motivational speaker… don’t say it is impossible, don’t give up, don’t accept defeat.


Tip #2 – Become a Student of the Decision-Maker’s Whiteboard

The whiteboard is the customer’s point of view, the things they care about. In every interaction, lead with your customer’s whiteboard.

What do they want? What are the challenges in their role? What are their responsibilities?

Doing this well allows you so many opportunities. You’ll get more meetings because you can position your solution in a way that is meaningful to the decision-maker. It creates engagement in meetings because you can start your sentences with: because you… 

Learn about their role and use your knowledge to connect and better serve.


Tip #1 – Find a Coach or Mentor

The most common characteristic among successful people is that they seek feedback. Coaches and mentors can do this for you. Feedback feels much better when solicited. Having someone in your life/ career who can see what you do well, point out gaps, and also help you bridge those gaps, is invaluable.

Pick someone who has achieved what you want to achieve, someone you trust. 

The information that we need to get to where we want to go is available to us, if we seek it.

– Tom Stanfill



Upping Your Game

With these tips, we hope you continue to find fulfillment in your role as a sales rep and serve your customers the way they deserve.  Be a pro. 


What Now?

As VP of Marketing at ASLAN Training & Development, Scott’s passion is to share our solution with those in need and those who seek sales transformation. Find him on: Facebook | LinkedIn | Instagram

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