By: Jeff Hoffman
The age of “Always Be Closing” is dead. Or is it?
Sleazy sales tactics and aggressive closing techniques don’t work on modern buyers, so reps must embrace a different kind of closing mindset. That’s why I train salespeople to “close” at the end of every interaction with their prospects. You shouldn’t ask for the order until the time is right — but you should ask for incremental commitments.
Why Incremental Closing Works
Incremental closing is effective for three reasons.
First, as psychologist Robert Cialdini explains in his best-selling book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, people instinctively act in ways consistent with their past behavior.
That means getting prospects in the habit of saying “yes” makes them far likelier to commit at the end of the negotiation process.
Second, this technique takes advantage of another cognitive bias: The sunk cost fallacy, which states that investing time or energy into an activity or decision dramatically increases your likelihood of finishing it. Once the buyer has made a series of small commitments for the rep, they won’t want to abandon the work they’ve put into the deal — so sticking with the status quo becomes less appealing.
Third, incremental closing creates momentum. Sales isn’t about convincing people to do things they don’t want to. It’s about inspiring urgency. Asking someone to make a small decision in the moment speeds up their journey to the ultimate decision: Whether they’ll buy or not.
How to Use the Incremental Close
To get started, you should map out the requests you’ll make at every stage of the sales process. These requests should gradually increase in size or importance as you spend more time with your prospect and earn their trust.
Here’s a sample sequence:
- First email interaction: Ask for the prospect’s cell phone number
- First call: Ask the prospect to review a piece of content (and use HubSpot Sales Pro to track if they actually open it and how they interact with it)
- Second call: Ask for access to power or insight into the decision maker
- Demo: Ask them to set up a call with their company’s procurement team
- Post-call with procurement: Close
- You should adapt their asks to the length of your sales process. The longer the process, the more requests you can reasonably make.
Not only does incremental closing give reps valuable information and resources, it also tells you how the deal is progressing. For instance, it’s a red flag if the buyer refuses to connect you with the signing authority.
Why Reps Struggle to Incrementally Close
If incremental closing is so effective, why isn’t every salesperson doing it? Many incorrectly believe their prospects will be turned off by their “demands.” But if you consistently provide value to buyers, making a small request won’t seem unreasonable or selfish. On the contrary, prospects typically recognize it’s in their best interests to work with you.
Some reps struggle to incrementally close because they don’t have the requisite closing vocabulary. People aren’t born knowing how to close: It’s something you must learn. The good news is that practicing incremental closing simultaneously improves your traditional closing skills.
Here are a few resources you can check out to improve your ability to close:
- The Rookie Sales Mistake That Kills Done Deals
- 3 Effective Sales Closing Techniques for Modern Sales Reps
- 13 Closing Phrases That Seal a Sales Deal
Measuring Your Success With This Technique
Once you’ve built incremental closes into your sales process, it’s simple to track success. Simply record how many times you follow your new closing plan.
For instance, if a rep has 15 discovery calls in one month, and she asks 14 of those prospects for access to procurement, her success rate is 14 out of 15.
Some salespeople are tempted to gauge success by how many “yes’s” they get. I advise against this — you can’t control your prospect’s response, you can only control your own behavior.
If you’re consistently asking for things from the buyer and not getting them, you should stop working that account. The buyer is sending a clear signal they’re not truly invested in the opportunity.
Incremental closing won’t turn non-buyers into buyers. It’ll make buyers purchase more quickly. And the sooner your prospects make decisions, the more opportunities you can focus on.