The Closing Competency – Why Most Sellers Score So Low

The Closing Competency – Why Most Sellers Score So Low

By Joe DiDonato | Chief of Staff | Baker Communications, Inc.

Most sellers record a very low ‘closer’ score when we assess the closing competency – even the great ones.  That seems like a contradictory statement, except that’s what the data is telling us.  So, I thought I spend a little time explaining how that might happen, as well as cover the 10 components or attributes we look for in the closing competency.  Together, those will provide you with a better understanding of how we interpret this competency in the overall data we gather on a seller.

The short answer to why so many great sellers fail to score well in the closing competency is that it’s often a “non-event” for them.  The best sellers will have done a skillful job with the steps that precede the closing step in the sales process.

We’ve discussed some of the skills that are involved in those earlier stages in my previous posts:

If the sales rep hadn’t done a good job with those preceding steps, then all the pressure is going to come to a head during the closing process. And this is where the closing skill will make or break a deal.  When we look at the closing skill in isolation, we’re forced to evaluate the following abilities and attributes:

  1. Get’s Prospect to Agree to Make a Decision;
  2. Will Meet with the Decision Maker;
  3. Will Find a Way to Close;
  4. Not Likely to Take “Think it Overs;”
  5. Unlikely to be Derailed by Put-Offs;
  6. Displays the ‘Appropriate’ Amount of Patience;
  7. Establishes a Closing Urgency;
  8. Isn’t Hoping to be Liked;
  9. Will Stay in the Moment at Closing Time; and
  10. Won’t Make Inappropriate Quotes.

If the rep had done a great job of understanding the requirements of his or her customer – and had done a great job of getting buy-in on the steps and tasks required – most of the client’s hesitancy would have disappeared.  That’s how great sellers make ‘closing’ a non-event.

But when those preceding steps haven’t been properly handled, now the seller is going to be put on the spot.  The client isn’t going to be fully bought-in on your company’s solutions, and basically the client must do the work that you as a seller should have done. And hopefully, he or she will have enough insight into your offerings to come to a decision to buy your products or services.  At this point, in my estimation, your chances just dropped to 50%, and you’re likely facing having “to give away part of the farm.”

Sometimes, you get into these situations with certain types of deals, through no fault of your own.  Maybe it’s a formal RFP processes that prohibits a lot of client interactions to avoid the perception of favoritism.  Or maybe it’s an unsolicited RFP that came in the door and you have no relationship at all with the organization.  Or maybe it’s a commodity product and you didn’t have the time to do all the necessary front-end pieces in the person’s “drive-by” buying style.  When these situations happen, you must now be very good at the 10 attributes that I laid out above, if you’re going to succeed at closing the deal.  It’s as simple as that.

You might ask, “Should I even look at a new hire whose data shows a weakness in closing?”

When we look at new hires, and we see that they really excel at the preceding competencies that lead up to the closing stage, the data might still signal a ‘hire’ recommendation from us, even if this competency comes back in the lower percentile.  That’s because the person you’re dealing with may be excellent at getting the deals closed because of his or her thoroughness in the preceding stages.  The data will show us that.

However, when the data shows us that those preceding competencies are also weak, the data is probably going to give you a more cautious or even a “not recommended” signal when the closing score is low.  That’s just recognition that these sets of competencies tend to impact one another.

So, what’s the bottom line?

By doing a great job in the earlier stages of the sales cycle, it will help you from having to be so “heavy-handed” in the closing stage.  When you do those preceding steps well, your closing statements are going to be a lot softer:

  • “Is there anything else that we need to address before I present you with the final proposal this Friday?”
  • “Is there anyone else we need to loop in before we present the final proposal on the 15th?”
  • “Is there anything that you can think of that might keep us from getting a signature next week?”

Contrast those “soft closes” to the types of things you’ll need to say when those preceding steps are missed or mishandled:

  • “I’m not sure I’ll be able to hold these prices for you past the end of the month!”
  • Or worse yet, “How about if I knock off another 10% if you sign today?”

You get the point.

Hope this helps you understand this unique and very important competency a little better.  If you would like to learn more about using competency data to drive your hiring, training, and coaching efforts, we invite you to watch a recent webinar: How to Implement Data-Driven Sales Enablement. View the webinar for free here: