Sales are the driver of all businesses. The faster you can close a deal the faster your business can grow and evolve into an industry leader, but of course it isn't always so easy. Talking with prospective clients can be tricky and work like both an art and a science--there are certain questions to ask and observations to make to help you be successful, and a little creativity on the part of the sales team can go a long way.

Below are 7 strategies to help your sales team identify the right prospects to close the deal quicker. In most situations it's actually a combination of these tips that will help create an overall successful strategy, but what you choose to focus on will depend on the client. Take a good look at your current practices and see if you can add or revise any of the following tips:

  1. Make sure you are talking to the right person.

Always make sure that the person you're talking to is the decision maker. If he/she is an influencer in the company that's also a good sign, but getting right to the person that can pull the trigger reduces time to sell. In many situations it takes a few sales calls before you are actually deemed "worthy" enough to talk to the decision maker, but oftentimes if you're firm in your stance and you ask to talk with a manager, etc., the phone will get handed over. It's sometimes as simple as that, and this is arguably the number one way to close deals faster.

  1. Ask as many questions as possible.

By finding out the right information, you can craft your message and determine whether or not what you are selling is something they are buying. Too many sales teams will leave all of the questions up to the potential customer, and while this is also a crucial part of the process, the sales employee should be asking just as many questions to get a feel for the potential client. Not only will this help you see whether or not you would actually be a good match, but it can help you tailor your message to that potential client to help the deal close faster. If you know what they're about, you'll know how to sell them on your product/ service.

  1. Make sure you have an authentic, effective digital presence.

This includes overall digital and social aspects of PPC, SEO, SEM, twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and a great website that's tagged appropriately for all they keywords of your buyers. People do their own research and many of them have made the decision to buy once they reach you. In other words, this will usually be crucial the in before aspect of sales and closing a deal. Even if they haven't done their research prior, this gives you a great outlet to send people to in order to learn more about what your company offers.

  1. Active listening is a tactic.

Active listening does not just mean simply hearing what a customer says to you, but repeating it back to them and getting them to nod yes repeatedly, which primes your customer for the final yes and gives them a sense you understand their pain. "Trust is a factor in closing, and being an active listener is huge. You have to make sure you find a good balance of asking questions and listening, but once you find that sweet spot you've mastered what so many sales teams work hard to achieve." says Doug Herring, Vice President of Telecom at Invenio Solutions.

  1. Be inclusive and be genuine.

Use words like "we" and "us" in the selling process implying you and your customer are both in this together. This sense of inclusion helps to establish rapport and build trust. On that same note, you should also not try to be someone you are not, so use words and phrases you are comfortable with. Customers will not close with someone they do not trust, and they will sniff out someone who is disingenuous on the phone.

  1. Ask for the Business.

Plain and simple, you have to ask for a customer's business when the time is right. Don't be afraid and don't wait too long to wrap up the sale. Many agree that the #1 issue with sales professionals is, in fact, that they fail to actually ask the customer for the business. Ask every time it makes sense. For example, if a customer agrees that the price is good, then ask them to sign and move forward. It's as easy as that.

  1. Eliminate Inefficiency.

You want to eliminate anything in your sales cycle that leads to inefficiency--an unresponsive prospect, getting dragged into consultation sessions, having a disproportionate percentage of time spent networking instead of prospecting, etc. If it's always going to be a no, then spend zero time on it. Conduct a time study on yourself and keep it 1000% accurate. Yes, you will have to measure what you or your team does and yes, it takes discipline, but the results and insights will eliminate inefficiency and pay dividends.

The Takeaway

In the end, it's really just important to put the spotlight on the customer, not the close. Provided you have uncovered objections and satisfied all aspects of the solution, the close will come naturally, and it will happen quicker than if you were to focus on making a sale.

Published on: May 5, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.