Recently, in a conversation with a colleague, I used the word “closing”, relative to Sales. This person, literally, cringed, in response to my use of the word. I’ve had that sort of reaction numerous times before. Maybe you have too. Every time it happens, I silently wish that I could do something to have this topic viewed in a more favorable light.
It seems that there are negative connotations that go along with the word “closing” that are similar to what I addressed in an earlier posting entitled “The Pride and Prejudice of Sales“. That article dealt with a commonly found bias in our culture, equating the title “Sales Person” with the label “Huckster”. With those who hold that view, I suppose they envision “closing” as the time when “the Huckster springs his or her trap.”
One publication I’ve found, that does a good job of tackling this issue is “10 Steps To Sales Success“, by Tim Breithaupt. Here, the ideal Sales process is described as “… a mutual journey of honesty, trust and respect as you and your Customer work in harmony …”. In this context, the Author presents “closing” as “… confirming the sale using a non-manipulative, straightforward approach and presenting a practical, value-added solution.” I think that is an excellent way of expressing what I’ve longed to be able to do in the situation I mentioned earlier when I said, ”I silently wish that I could do something to have this topic viewed in a more favorable light.”
Since Breithaupt does a good and thorough job on this theme, I won’t bore you with a rehash here. However, I do want to add a bit to one facet of the matter that Breithaupt touches on. Its where he says, “You need to be engineering commitment throughout the entire sales call because anything you do or say, at any step, will either erode or enhance the sale.” I agree with that and I just want to emphasize that this doesn’t apply to just an individual sales call. Though that’s not what Breithaupt is saying, I think this point can be overlooked. Failing to see this leads to another of the biggest misconceptions about “closing” – i.e., that it is the terminus, the final act of a sale. However, “closing” shouldn’t be regarded as a finishing point. Rather, the “engineering commitment” should be taking place throughout the entire Sales process. The best definition I’ve learned for “closing”, in this respect is “a commitment to positive action” on the part of both parties. In other words, a “quid pro quo”. In the early phases of a Sale it might be something like, “If I’ll put together a 30 minute presentation showing how we can help your company save X cost over your current method, will you set aside that much time on your Calendar and have your CFO attend with you?” Unlike “springing a trap”, these sort of calls for “commitment to positive action” on the part of both parties is really just a way to determine if and how the Sales process is ready to move forward. This, too, hearkens back to what I spoke to in “The Pride and Prejudice of Sales” – i.e., “There is a legitimacy to the Sales function in business. It isn’t ‘palming off.’ That is hucksterism. “
So, as always, let me ask you, what are your views on this topic? What have you read that you think does a better and/or more thorough job of discussing this issue? Please share any and all input. The goal here is to share the richness of our experience for the mutual benefit of the group.
Justin Hitt Says:
February 5, 2009 at 8:25 am edit
Thank you for pointing out the use of the word “closing” doesn’t mean the END of the sales process.
I’ve always considered and thought clients that “closing” is like you do in accounting at the end of a month — then you “open” again into the next part of the selling process which is “service.”
Too many still associate “closing” with hard sell tactics that never really worded. By shedding light on the after sale service necessary to keep customers, you are helping change this misconception. Thanks.