What Is a Trial Close? 10 Trial Close Questions to Ask Prospects

Aug 10, 2022
Conducting a trial close

We all know about asking for the sale but knowing when you’re at that point in the conversation isn’t always easy. The trial close isn’t as widely understood or used as a regular sales approach but is the indicator of where you are in the discussion relative to the close. Using this diagnostic tool, you can assess the situation and better know how your client feels about the product or service you are selling. Incidentally, for those of you who sell software, don’t confuse the “Trial Close” with “closing for a trial.” They are two very different things. We are not talking about seeking to close the prospect for a trial engagement of the software.

Trial close strategies

Think of the trial close as a temperature gauge constantly telling you if the client is cold, warm, or hot in the sales process. Without the ability to make the assessments the trial close facilitates, the salesperson might be lost.

What is a Trial Close

A trial close is commonly posed as a question that engages the customer to see how they feel about the proposed solution and to further understand their needs. It is not the same as asking for the sale but a feeler. When asking for the buyer’s business, a closing question might sound like, “If I can get you the additional free training for the company, will you sign the deal?” a trial close would ask, “Do you feel the potential for some additional training for the company would add value to the solution?”

Benefits of Using Trial Closes

Using trial closes ultimately results in the biggest win of all, closing the sale, but what are the benefits of trial closes that get you there? Well, there are quite a few.

Identifies Location in the Sales Process

You’ve been working with this client for some time, answering questions, and guiding them through the demo, but where are you in the deal? Clients are all different, and one might require a sales process that is very long, whereas another closes right away. Knowing where you are in the deal process means knowing when to move to ask for the sale. 

Knowing your position in the process prevents you from overselling or underselling the product and time the close at the point where it is the most effective. 

Gauges Customer Sentiment

Is your customer very interested or less than impressed so far? Was that not the product feature that mattered? Trial close questions reveal the sentiment of the client, allowing the salesperson to adjust the direction of the sales process to fit the customer’s needs better and target what they are looking for in the product or service with trial closing.

Establishes a timeline

Knowing where you are in the sales process through trial closing also identifies an expected timeline for the actual close. Answers to questions might indicate that the salesperson should slow down and adjust their timeline appropriately. 

Streamline Sales Strategizing

Tracking the sales funnel

The buyer’s opinions and comments tell the salesperson what is needed to strengthen their sales strategy by fitting it to the specific perspective of the buyer. What is required in order to close the deal is known, and the strategy is adjusted to match or be more streamlined. 

Uncover Obstacles

Your buyer might indicate that they haven’t seen the benefit that solves their most pressing problem or doesn’t quite match what was envisioned. As we all know, obstacles just mean something to overcome through trial closing. Most likely, the product or service does just what they need and hasn’t been adequately presented. 

Knowing the obstacles through trial closing is an opportunity to adjust, address or re-address things the customer has not seen for what they are and the solutions brought to generate the ultimate buying decision. 

Discover Opportunities

Your buyer might have needs they haven’t identified for themselves yet. Getting to those needs presents an opportunity to show additional benefits and make the solution even more robust. When the client says, “I hadn’t thought of that. It is a big benefit.”, that’s a huge win for trial closing. 

How to Conduct a Trial Close

Conducting a trial close

Some observations, questions, and strategies are the critical components of your trial closing, all working together to provide as much information as possible. 

Observe the Customer’s behavior

Is your customer ambivalent, expressing some cautious excitement, taking time to think, or surprised by a benefit to their process? Probe, observe, and consider, are necessary to get the most accurate read in your sales process. That read tells you where to switch things up and what to do next. 

Ask Appropriate Open-ended Questions

Talented salesperson speaking to prospect

Yes and no questions are only a small help because they tell you very little. In fact, it’s easy for your customers to answer without real consideration of their needs or answer for the sake of making the question go away. 

An open-ended question makes them respond with concerns or successes and what is needed to move the conversation forward. “How do you feel this solution addresses that aspect of the business?” will provide a wealth of information on what might need to be clarified or that you’ve been very successful and can move on to the next problem and solution. 

The answers often tell you that there are additional problems or needs to address that your customer initially missed. 

Draw Conclusions About the Customer’s Perspective

All this information, your adjustments to the process, and the follow-up questions have provided you with a tremendous amount of information to draw accurate conclusions. Those conclusions tell you if it is time to close or if there are still concerns to discover and address. 

Shift Your Strategy to Accommodate the Customer’s Needs

The conclusions you’ve drawn, the answers to questions, and the ongoing behavioral clues feed your strategy, which needs to keep adjusting to fit customer needs. It doesn’t hurt to visualize the status and strategy changes on paper or with your computer to have a log to review as you go through the process. A robust sales CRM is an excellent tool for this visualization process. 

Handle Objections

Open-ended questions have identified initial objections and possible objections that could arise if the close is too early. When identified, track them and solve them. It’s ok to ask, “How do you feel about that solution now?” and get the customer to say, “I feel very positive about that.” 

Attempt a Final Close

Strategy adjusted, conclusions drawn, all concerns discovered and answered, and a positive behavioral assessment means it is time to attempt a final close if everything feels good. Everyone has a different way of asking for a sale. Still, you can now add the statement, “We’ve come to a positive conclusion for all of your needs and concerns,” as a reminder that every question has finally resulted in a solution. 

Remember, if the answer isn’t a firm yes, resort back to the trial close and ask what is yet to be addressed. 

Tips for Conducting Trial Closes

Salesperson giving a presentation before proceeding to a trial close

While not hard to do, some tips guide trial closes. 

Ask Relevant Questions

One of the biggest problems salespeople have with trial closes is how they ask the questions. Are they relevant, and are they open-ended? It’s so tempting to ask “yes” and “no” questions because they are easy, but they tell you almost nothing about the buyer’s state of mind, which means non-relevant questions might be asked afterward. Keep your prospect talking through an open-ended question to determine how the prospect feels. 

Relevant and open-ended questions take some thought. Slow down, consider what you’ve been told, the customer’s state of mind, and what is yet to be discovered, and structure your questions appropriately. Have you checked all the right boxes? Is the customer interested? Is it time to ask for the sale? 

Try to Understand the Customer’s Needs

Understanding the customer's needs before a trial close

Trial questions are how you understand the customer’s identified and unidentified needs. Structure them to increase your understanding with each subsequent question. If the buyer responds, “I think you’ve solved the main problem, and I am not aware of anything else we need to address.” That sounds positive, but you could still ask, “Solving the primary problem is excellent, but you have indicated that improving sales is a consideration beyond the initial problem. What sales increase would you like to see as a result?” 

That question identifies an additional need that has only had a tertiary mention and gives you another chance to head off a future issue with a solution. We all know that customers often change the priority of their problems at a close, so fully understanding the needs and solving them now head off a potential objection. 

Develop Strategies for Meeting Needs

All of those trial close questions mean nothing if answers don’t follow. Identifying needs and not developing a strategy to solve them can sour your customer on your product or service. A summary of all problems and solutions can be a powerful tool when you ask for the sale. 

A Few Examples of Trail Close Questions

To foster some ideas of trial close questions that can benefit you and open the door to even more, here are some great common trial close asks. 

  1. What date are you looking to get started?

  2. How do you feel this product/solution makes sense to you and the business?

  3. Considering the solutions we’ve discussed, how do you feel about the product/solution overall?

  4. What are your thoughts about {product feature/benefit}?

  5. What payment terms does the business require?

  6. What additional questions do you have about what we have discussed?

  7. What are your thoughts on the proposal?

  8. What do you see as the next step in the process?

  9. How do you feel about the implementation and training process?

  10. What needs have I left unaddressed or not covered to your satisfaction?

Those are just some trial-close examples. You’ll tailor common trial closing questions in varying ways that meet your sales activities approach to gauge how the customer feels and lead to a purchasing decision and the next steps.

What’s the Difference Between Trial Closes and Asking for the Sale?

Woman asking a trial closing question

Trial close questions are the questions that guide you to ask for the sale as you recognize a genuine interest. Notice both are questions, but successive trial close questions set up everything that needs to be answered or solved before that all-important final question will be answered. 

When you ask for the sale, “Should I get that paperwork together for your signature?” you’ve reached that point with the highest possible chance of success by successfully using trial questions and traditional closing techniques. Congratulations! That sale is in the bag. 

Why are Trial Closes Important

You wouldn’t get on the freeway and never look at the road signs or landmarks on a cross-country trip. Just guessing doesn’t get you to your location. 

A lawyer that doesn’t ask questions at trial before posing a closing argument is a lawyer you should fire. 

Sales professionals not establishing a strategy, knowing where they stand in the process, and figuring out the needs that need to be solved, aren’t developing their sales techniques. Going into a close, there is no assessment of the customer’s feelings, if the customer’s needs are met, where the sales professional is in the process, or the likelihood of getting a positive response. And if the answer from the buyer is a no (which it most likely will be), there is no adequate understanding of what questions need further resolution.

Man selling using a trial close

Sales professionals that have substantially employed trial closing questions answer the pressing problems and uncover hidden issues. They know how successful their independent solutions have been and if they have presented a total solution for customers.

Throughout the process, those trial closing questions have been their road signs identifying where they are in the process, how strategy needs to be adjusted, and what signals the customer is providing them. In the end, a point is identified when asking for the sale has the highest possible chance of resulting in a close.

Go get that sale closed.