According to a recent HubSpot survey, 71 percent of sales leaders say that their top priority is to close more deals.
To which every sales leader reading this post just responded: “No sh*t.”
Reps struggle to close deals for a number of reasons: they don’t know how to ask in a compelling way, match the right product with the prospect, or are dealing with an unqualified lead.
But another factor is timing. Many salespeople just don’t know when to go in for the close. And it’s dragging their win rates down.
Generally speaking, reps commit one of two cardinal sins when it comes to timing:
- Asking too early. They’re aggressive and pushy, and they haven’t provided enough value or earned the right to ask for the prospect’s business.
- Asking too late. They’re the “nice guys.” They’re courteous and polite. They would rather the prospect ask to buy the product then turn around and be the ones doing the asking.
So how do you help reps understand the perfect time to ask a prospect for their business?
There’s a science-backed tool that can help. It’s called the sales Impulse Curve.
The Impulse Curve applies to pretty much every decision in life: dating, hiring, recruiting, and, yes, sales. Like every curve, it has a beginning, middle, and end:
- At the beginning of the curve, the prospect hasn’t seen the value in what you have to offer. As you educate them on your product, they become more enthusiastic and likely to buy. But they may not be to the point of really wanting to buy the product. If you ask them now, they may very well say no.
- In the middle of the curve, you reach the point of maximum enthusiasm for that prospect. This is the moment where they’re most likely to buy. Naturally, it’s the perfect time to ask for their business.
- Toward the end of the curve, their enthusiasm starts to fall down. Once a prospect reaches this point, it’s going to be harder and harder to get them to an enthusiastic yes.
So there’s Goldilocks Zone of sorts: not too soon, but not too late. If you want to close more deals more often, your reps need to ask when the moment is “just right.”
Do this, and you’ll almost certainly see your win rate shoot up.
Here are some of our tips for coaching reps to better understand and leverage the sales Impulse Curve.
Coach reps on active listening.
Listening is probably 90 percent of a salesperson’s job.
Unfortunately, that fact is lost on a lot of sales reps — to their own detriment.
If a rep isn’t actively listening to their prospects, they’re going to have a hard time figuring out where they currently are situated on the Impulse Curve. They’ll also struggle to know how to move that prospect up the curve and closer to a purchasing decision.
There are plenty of reasons that reps don’t actively listen on calls:
- Lack of confidence and, thus, defensiveness
- Rushing through calls
- Talking too much
- Asking bad questions
- Trouble processing information quickly
- Not enough practice
- Tunnel vision
All of these are natural tendencies, but they do hold reps up from their ability to close more deals.
If you want to improve their ability to actively listen, you need to coach them on the specific areas they’re struggling with. Conversation intelligence (CI) technology can help you identify the gaps for each individual rep.
Once a rep is actively listening to prospects, they need something to listen for. While objections, challenges, pain points, etc. are super important, they should also listen for enthusiasm. This will help them figure out where a prospect lies on the Impulse Curve.
At that point, a rep can make strategic and informed decisions on how to pivot the conversation to drive that prospect toward the top of the curve.
Coach reps on driving prospects’ enthusiasm.
There’s a common saying: “sales is the transfer of enthusiasm.”
Is that absolutely true or what?
When a prospect is making a buying decision, there is an element of logic that comes into play. Yes, they have objections to overcome. Yes, they have to see the value of the product. Yes, there needs to be a clear business case to justify the investment.
But, ultimately, whether or not someone “takes the leap” depends on how much they emotionally resonate with your product.
It really just boils down to this: people only buy things that they’re excited to buy.
So as a sales manager, ask yourself this: does each salesperson in your organization know how to drive a prospect’s enthusiasm?
If not, prioritizing coaching efforts around enthusiasm could have a major impact on your success.
One way to get started is to help reps demonstrate their own genuine enthusiasm on their calls. Enthusiasm is contagious. So if they’re excited about the product, the prospect is more likely to get excited.
The word “genuine” is important here. Prospects have an innate ability to detect B.S. from salespeople. Your reps shouldn’t have to fake enthusiasm. If they do, it could backfire on you.
Another way to drive enthusiasm is to make it personal. Show the prospect how your product can help them do their job better. People always get excited when they see that something will improve their lives and work.
If you can drive a prospect’s enthusiasm, they’ll start to move up that Impulse Curve and toward a readiness to buy.
Coach reps on follow-up.
If you’re going to move prospects along the Impulse Curve, you have to get on the phone with them.
Let’s say a rep talks to a prospect and they seem fairly enthusiastic at the time, but not at that peak yet. Then they wait three months before following up.
At the end of Month #1, the prospect may have been on the verge of reaching that peak. But after Month #2 and #3 have passed, they’ve slipped down that slope, and now you’ve missed your chance to get them to buy.
This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how often sales reps put off having these conversations.There are a number of excuses a rep might give:
- They’re “too busy” to follow up with everyone
- They don’t want to come across as “pushy”
- They want to wait on the prospect to contact them
- They’re never been taught how to do proper follow-up
- They simply forget to do it
As a sales leader, one way that you can help your reps is by coaching them on how to improve this critical skill:
- Help them manage their time better
- Find a way to demonstrate value rather than push the prospect
- Establish a follow-up cadence for those prospects who won’t actively reach back out to them
- Teach them how to correctly follow-up with prospects
- Set reminders for when to follow-up
If the rep isn’t regularly talking to a prospect, you may miss your chance to get to the top of the Impulse Curve. This is a major coaching opportunity for your organization.
Coach reps on finding their “Goldilocks moment.”
Once you drive your prospects toward the top of the Impulse Curve, that’s when the clock starts ticking.
If you are persistent in your follow-up and use those opportunities to demonstrate the value of your product, a good-fit customer will naturally become more enthusiastic about it. There will come a point where a prospect’s demand and enthusiasm will meet, or even exceed, your own.
This is how you know you’ve reached the top of the Impulse Curve. And that’s the perfect moment to ask for their business.
Here are some things a salesperson may hear that could indicate that a prospect has reached this point:
- “Wow, our team really needs this!”
- “This would save us so much time!”
- “I can’t believe we didn’t know about this before!”
- “You’re offering all this for [price]?!”
You may think that it would be obvious to sales reps that this is the perfect time to ask for the business. But, unfortunately, so many reps will blow this incredibly important moment.
There could be many reasons for this. One reason could be fear of asking. The other could be that they’re missing this clear buying signal. Or, they may want to put the ball in the prospect’s court, and wait until they’re ready to ask to purchase the product.
No matter the reason, salespeople risk squandering an incredible opportunity by missing this moment.
Because as the prospect moves further along the Impulse Curve, they’re going to become less enthusiastic about the purchase. They’ll get distracted. They’ll start looking at the budget and getting antsy about the numbers. They’ll forget some of the key benefits of the product.
In any of these cases, your chances of selling to them could actually become worse than if you did a cold ask.
Make sure your salespeople are trained and coaching on recognizing this critical buying signal. That way, you’re taking advantage of every real, tangible opportunity that presents itself to you.