Is closing really a process?

I hear people utter phrases like "She didn't close them" and "He did great until the close" and I wonder — what is this closing of which they speak? I try to recall when making a decent sized business purchase became a nanosecond transition for a buyer or some magical words that go with an equally magical slide in a sales presentation.

Both of the above phrases refer to that under-examined block at the end of consultative sales process diagrams. While some folks seem to do better in that block than say the "Needs Discovery" block, the fact is that most salespeople pretty much fly through their sales process until the dreaded "Close" block. For these salespeople, closing is their bottleneck. Closing is the single thing that most keeps them from selling more.

We often view this closing constraint as if it was pretty much a fixed number and we call it our conversion rate. And our conversion rate is what it is; it's historical, industrial, and folklore-ical.

What's missing in the closing discussion is this — the goal of sales is to help a prospect buy. Yes, a prospect can make a decision in a blink, but that's not the same as buying. Buying requires internal and/or external justifications for taking a decision and converting it into a buying action. Closing is how sales facilitates this conversion and also how it can assist (as needed) in the decision making itself.

As it turns out, buyers decide and justify in the same way often enough that we can build a closing process to support them. We don't have to "make it up as we go along." And to be the most effective, the closing process needs to begin before a prospect begins making their decision and extend through the entire action of buying. To do less is to risk a sale escaping or stalling.

Backing up a bit — a sales process details the decisions and actions we take as someone moves from suspect to customer. Closing is simply the subprocess, which sits inside of the sales process, where we nurture the decisions and actions of someone else who we feel needs to be a buyer. The sales process is about our actions, the closing process is about their decisions.

This may be sad news to those who see closing as a special event — but unless a prospect will normally instantly become a buyer, thinking of closing as a process simply serves us better. And closing isn't merely an important process, closing, as our constraint, is the process that matters the most to our results.

Agreed?

Transforming the relationship between sellers and buyers requires the formation of higher quality agreements. Gold star agreements are created by:

  • Making only agreements you intend to keep
  • Making no fuzzy agreements
  • If in spite of your best intentions you find you have to break an agreement, give the earliest possible notice, apologize sincerely and recommit with conviction

Stuff happens and people understand that you, as a salesperson, can’t control everything. But they’ll understand more when every step you’ve taken with them has been taken with integrity.

Thank you Doug Sullivan, for sharing this insight with me.