Closing the Deal: Critical Steps for Getting Clients to Say 'Yes'

04/23/2015 11:01 am ET | Updated Jun 23, 2015

Sales can be a long and arduous process. After dozens of back-and-forth emails, a handful of phone conferences and two in-person meetings, it can be fairly disappointing when potential clients decide, "this isn't quite right for us at this time." Walking prospective buyers through the sales funnel can be enriching as you learn more about their business needs and identify ways you can help fulfill their long-term goals.

But when a "sure thing" falls through, the question then is: How can you effectively persuade prospects to say "yes"?

To secure new business and convert a greater percentage of leads into sales, here are a few critical steps you need to take when selling.

Target Influential People In Your Buyers' Lives

People follow the wisdom of the crowd. It is easier for someone to come to a conclusion if their peers or their role models have made the same decision. Salespeople use this to their advantage by targeting marketing efforts at people prospects know and trust, including friends, managers and industry influencers.

For buyers, it can feel like a no-brainer to purchase a product or retain a vendor if others in their professional and social circles have done the same and would recommend doing so. This helps establish social proof around your brand and provides potential customers with the reassurance they need to say 'yes.'

Make It Their Decision

Clients hate to feel deceived and are generally unreceptive to pushy salespeople. But there is a subtle way of framing the situation to give your buyer agency in his or her decision making process.

In an article for Lifehacker, Melanie Pinola suggests using the "But You Are Free" method to double the likelihood someone may say 'yes' to you. The process is twofold:

  1. Make your request
  2. Acknowledge their freedom of choice

It is as simple as that. You empower them with free will while secretly encouraging them to pursue your recommendation. The technique is not foolproof, but you may be surprised by how often it works.

Create Scarcity

Limited availability and time-sensitive offers trigger a potential buyer's impulses and force them to make a purchase now or never.

For customers, scarcity can signal exclusivity or high demand for a business' offerings. If a client believes you have only opened up your service to a handful of companies, they will feel you made a conscious decision not to overextend your resources and that you are committed to their success as long as they retain your firm. If a shopper thinks there are only six other units available of your product, she might jump at the opportunity to buy it now instead of waiting for the next restocking cycle.

Serious buyers will likely make the commitment while less enthusiastic prospects will politely withdraw their interest.

Start Big, Sell Small

By instinct, prospects are inclined turn down your first offer. Getting anyone to sign up for your product or service is arguably the biggest hurdle to overcome within the sales process. But scientists have identified a way for sellers to generate buy-in with leads.

Author and entrepreneur Brad Aronson explains that social psychologists at UCLA "found that the negotiators who got the most from another party started with an offer that was a bit extreme and then conceded to something more reasonable." Aronson adds, "If the first ask is a big commitment, the second request made right afterwards seems small in comparison." Salespeople using this process might start off proposing a high-budget project. Upon receiving rejection, they suggest a lower-risk way of working together, such as a smaller, paid-trial which allows both parties to safely test drive the relationship and then scale it accordingly.

What does your sales playbook look like?

This post originally appeared on the PandaDoc blog and is republished with permission.