How to close deals faster

The answer is more complicated than it used to be

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If you want to know how to close a sales deal faster, the answer is more complicated than it used to be.

Today’s buyers want self-serve information, but not too much information. Personalized solutions are a given, sales cycles are getting longer and there’s a global pandemic shaking things up even more.

It’s safe to say, closing now takes a lot more than a few slick negotiation tactics and a confident final “ask.”

Instead, sellers should zoom out and focus on streamlining the entire sales process from data gathering and prospecting to nurturing leads until they cross the finish line.

In this article, I’ll explain how to close deals faster by making improvements across several different categories.

Know the buyer

According to Gallup researchers, companies leveraging behavioral insights outperform their competitors by 85% higher sales growth and 25%+ higher gross margins. Recent Salesforce data revealed that 65% of customers say new business models are changing the expectations they have for companies,

It’s not exactly a revelation; understanding how your customers think and feel is good for the bottom line.

Still, there’s a disconnect between what organizations know is good for business and their actual capabilities.

According to Forrester, 93% of brands believe that customers are more likely to buy from brands that connect with, while less than 60% say they “strongly agree” that they have a deep understanding of how buyers think and feel.

What’s more, the report found that just 38% “strongly agree” that they know what makes one buyer choose their brand while another goes with the competitor.

Figuring out what your customers want starts with well-defined buyer personas and ideal customer profiles (ICPs).

We cover persona creation in six steps here, but you’ll want to draw from as many relevant data points as you can, including:

  • CRM & internal data. Start with your internal records. Look at existing accounts to determine which characteristics your best customers share. What do they have in common? What technologies do they use? Where are they located? What problems do they typically face? What kinds of questions do they ask?
  • Firmographic & demographic data. Firmographic insights reveal company information like size, revenue, location, industry, etc. Demographics tell you more about individual buyers–age, gender, role, etc. Both help you identify “what” you’re looking for, though on their own, they don’t provide much context.
  • Intent data. Intent data tracks online behavior like website visits, downloads, views and content engagement. Organizations can use this information to reach buyers earlier in the journey and use it to refine lead scoring, targeting, and nurturing strategies over time. 
  • Voice of the Customer. Keep in mind; the right sales tech doesn’t replace conversations with real buyers. That same Forrester report also brings up a great point: overreliance on big data can backfire. Instead, you’ll want to bring in insights from social media posts, reviews and the conversations reps have with prospects.

Ultimately, your goal is to collect enough information so that you can create content, campaigns and messaging that takes on the buyer’s perspective and guides them through the sales process.

Get the lay of the competitive landscape

Okay, so you’ve defined your customers and learn more about what makes them tick. But you’ll also want to look beyond the walls of the ICP and find out what’s going on in the market.

According to Crayon’s 2020 State of Competitive Intelligence Report, 52% of businesses that have made intelligence a priority have seen an increase in revenue.

57% of purchasing decisions take place before buyers talk to a sales rep.

88% of buyers say they considered the content they encountered during their last successful purchase to be “high-quality,” but felt overwhelmed by the amount of information available.

At a basic level, competitive intelligence allows you to understand your target audience in a broader context. It helps you solidify brand messaging, identify what makes your offer unique and spot opportunities to cater to unmet needs.

Competitive intelligence, combined with a deep understanding of the customer, also holds the key to becoming a “trusted advisor.” For example, you might use insights to:

  • Generate relevant, open-ended discovery questions that allow them to learn more about prospect needs, challenges and pain points. 
  • Share a unique perspective on market trends, drawing a connection to prospects’ target use cases.
  • Provide actionable insights and valuable solutions that address key challenges & present new opportunities.
  • Create, curate & share relevant content that helps prospects arrive at a decision faster.

Bottom line: collecting information about your competitors, market trends and industry news, you’ll be in a better position for helping buyers find the information they need to make a decision–fast.

Eliminate inefficiencies in the sales process

CSO Insights’ Research Director, Tamara Schenk, says an inefficient sales process is the second biggest roadblock to achieving sales success (number one is inefficient internal operations).

Countless sales enablement stats point toward how much time sellers lose to non-sales activities like data entry or searching for collateral to send prospects.

If you’re looking for ways to speed up the sales process, engage your sales team in a discussion to learn more about what processes are slowing them down.

Do they have trouble finding the information they need? Are they spending too much time entering information in the CRM? Is data siloed across multiple programs and repositories?

From there, you’ll want to determine what technologies and processes can help them become more effective.

Rethink lead generation & nurturing

According to an April 2020 McKinsey study, revenue leaders say that digital sales interactions are twice as important now as pre-COVID. While April may seem like ages ago in “pandemic time,” it’s looking like digital interactions will define sales for the foreseeable future.

As such, you’ll want to make sure that your lead generation and nurturing strategies are working for you, not against you.

  • Make lead gen a joint effort. While lead generation typically falls to marketers who use pre-defined personas and ICPs to inform their actions, sales and marketing must continuously work together to refine those profiles. Additionally, you’ll want to do the same with your lead qualification and scoring criteria.  
  • Embrace proactive nurturing.  Even if you have “perfect” personas and a seamless lead generation strategy, reps must be proactive about engaging incoming prospects. Here, sellers can use marketing-style tactics like social selling and inbound to engage with prospects that match their ICP. The difference here is, sellers use 1:1 tactics, while marketers speak to a broader audience. 
  • Standardize & automate follow-ups. Like all sales activities, you’ll need an official follow-up process in place to keep deals moving forward. Whether you’re following up with a call or nurturing leads through complex email sequences, automated follow-up sequences can ensure that you’re reaching out at the right time, with the correct information.

Make life easy for the buyer

According to Gartner, if you want to close deals faster, you should focus on making the buying process as easy as possible.

The idea is, buyers have to wade through so much information that the competitive advantage is less about providing good information and more about leading buyers to the information they need.

  • Map the entire buyer’s journey. Figuring out how to simplify the buying process starts with understanding how your audience navigates this space. Map out the customer’s journey, documenting each touchpoint from the time they enter the funnel to the point of purchase. Look for specific touchpoints that indicate interest–think downloading a whitepaper, booking a demo, requesting a quote, etc. For each call-to-action, try to quantify the weight it carries with the customer, where/how it takes place and how you present solutions. Your goal is to identify all possible points of friction from the buyer perspective.
  • Create value messages around specific buyer roles. According to CSO Insights, organizations that provide sales reps with messages that align with buyer roles see 9% higher win rates than companies that leave this up to individual sellers. After you’ve mapped out your buyers’ journeys and touchpoints, you’ll want to create statements that address the needs and pain points from each stakeholder type’s point of view. Within one organization, you’ll find that the marketing director, the CFO and the sales team have different priorities–how can you adapt your messaging based on who you’re engaging?
  • Eliminate friction points & patch leaks in the funnel. Once you become aware of the friction points baked into the buying process, you’ll then want to focus on eliminating them. This means fixing UX issues that make it difficult for buyers to take action and addressing objections well before customers bring them up. Additionally, you’ll need to patch up any gaping holes in your funnel. Examine your current sales cycle and look for moments where you’re losing a disproportionate amount of leads. From there, sales and marketing can work together to improve content like blogs, ebooks, whitepapers, webinars, that better speak to customers’ needs.
  • Optimize all possible interactions. Interactions go beyond directly communicating with prospects through calls, emails or DMs. They also include indirect interactions that buyers have with your website–think interacting with a chatbot, filling out marketing forms, browsing your asset library or engaging with social content. All of these elements add up to create the overall customer experience. Even if your reps are great at interacting with prospects, indirect interactions could be undermining the broader brand experience.

How to close sales deals faster by pulling the right psychological levers

Of course, the buyer’s journey is often an emotional one. Audit your communications and content for opportunities to use emotions to move deals forward.

I’ve summarized Robert Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion, the “gold standard” for psychology in sales for a few examples of how this might work.

  • Likeability. Likeability operates on the idea that people are more inclined to say “yes” when they feel a personal connection to the person making a request. Sellers can build that connection with buyers by engaging in online communities, using storytelling to present solutions and forging authentic relationships. Make an effort to compliment your prospects–did they win an award, publish a great piece of content, do you use their solution yourself? 
  • Social proof. Social proof can help put customers at ease and generate new leads for your brand. 61% of B2B buyers say they rely on reviews, recommendations and referrals to evaluate technology purchases. Here, establishing social proof is a joint effort by marketing and sales. Marketing teams can focus on running influencer and affiliate programs, as well as create review generation campaigns. Sales teams can share case studies that highlight results from past engagements and ask customers to share reviews after a successful interaction. Ultimately, social proof can help close deals faster by taking some of the uncertainty out of the buying process.
  • Authority. Authority is incredibly powerful in B2B selling as people are hard-wired to respond to authority. When buyers see you as an expert in your industry, they’ll trust your solutions and recommendations more than competitors with less authority. What’s more, (millennial) buyers are looking toward online reviews and B2B influencers to guide the decision-making process. Keep in mind that establishing authority doesn’t happen overnight–sellers need to learn the market’s ins and outs, understand their buyers and demonstrate that knowledge on public-facing channels.
  • Reciprocity. As a sales tactic, reciprocity relies on this idea that when you give a buyer something valuable for free, they’ll feel compelled to return the favor. In B2B sales, you might provide a complimentary report using prospect data, original research, in-depth buying guides or tutorials that showcase how, exactly, your product works. Reciprocity can help you build trust with prospects, presenting your business as a trusted resource. 
  • Urgency. Urgency is a powerful tactic that gets buyers to commit to a deal by attaching an incentive to taking action ASAP. What feels “urgent” to the buyer depends on several factors: personality, market conditions and whether there’s a deal expiring. Keep in mind; you don’t want to rush the prospect; just gently remind them why it’s in their best interest to take action—monitor company news alerts to identify the best triggers for generating a sense of urgency. Regulatory deadlines, product launches or upcoming events are all excellent choices. 
  • Commitment & consistency. Commitment & consistency speaks to the human impulse to maintain consistency between their values and their words & actions. According to Cialdini, consistency is influential in sales because it’s tightly linked to our self-image. You can use this principle in sales by focusing on getting buyers to make a small commitment–like signing up for a newsletter or a webinar. Here, your goal is to get buyers to publicly commit to an action. For instance, if you invite prospects to an event, provide a one-click way to add it to their calendar. Long-term, the goal is to build trust through more low-key commitments so that down-the-road, they’ll see your brand as the logical solution provider.
  • Scarcity. Finally, scarcity plays on the idea that people are likely to want something more if they believe they won’t get it later. Sellers can use scarcity to tap into a fear of loss or regret, which is often more potent than the idea of gaining something.

Final thoughts

As you can see, there’s no definitive answer to the question, “how to close a deal faster.”

The reality is, you’ll need to look at your entire sales process, from your insights to your personalization tactics to the tools in your sales stack to get more wins in less time.