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It’s Not Your Close That Causes You To Win!

by David Brock on August 9th, 2010

We spend a lot of time talking about closing.  We focus on doing a great final presentation or proposal.  We worry about finding the right way to close–how to ask for the order in a compelling way.  Frankly, it’s too late–sales are not won or lost at the close, they are won or lost much earlier in the sales process–and– unfortunately, where we probably spend the least time.

Sales are won and lost during qualification and discovery.  Yet these are probably the areas we focus on least.

Qualification—or as I prefer to look at it, “vicious disqualification.”  Too often we chase bad deals, that is deals that aren’t good for us.  They may be real deals, money the customer intends to spend on solving a problem or addressing an opportunity.  But they are the wrong deals for us.  They are a bad fit for our capabilities.  Others can satisfy the needs in a far better fashion than we can.  We chase them though—our funnels are empty, so we chase deals we know we can’t win.  We know through force of personality, persuasion that we can convince the customer they don’t get it.  We wast our time and the customers’ on bad deals.  Winning starts by getting the right deals into your funnel and competing vigorously!

Discovery—understanding what the customer is trying to do.  Learning about their problems, needs, desires.  Understanding the priorities of each person involved in the decision.  Learning about how they will buy, who will be involved, how they will make a decision.  Understanding the alternatives they are considering.  Beginning to facilitate their buying process.  We rush through the discovery phase, we want to get to talking about our products and solutions.  We look for those few trigger words  or phrases that enable us to leap from discovery into presentation and closing.  “Need a new software system?  Stop right there, I’ve got just what you want!”  “New manufacturing control system?  Have I got a deal for you….”

The discovery phase is where the customer lays out the road map for us.  This is where they tell us, “This is what you need to do, this is what we need to understand, follow this path, present the most compelling solution and you will earn the business.” Our job as sales people is to keep asking questions, to keep probing, discovering, until the customer has laid out what it takes to win.  I’ve over simplified it, it’s iterative, there’s a lot of back and forth, there’s a lot we can do in guiding them.  If we do the right job of discovery, the customer lays out what it takes to win, focusing our efforts in presenting the right solution and closing.  We don’t have to guess, we don’t waste our time and theirs pitching features and functions that aren’t important to them.  We focus just on what they need to make a decision.  We use their time on what they want and don’t waste our time. 

Presenting our solutions, closing are important.  It’s important to present a compelling solution and to make sure the customer sees it as superior to other alternatives.  But if we haven’t done the right job qualifying–we may be chasing the wrong deal.  If we haven’t done the right job in discovery, we have no idea what the customer wants to do.

Are you spending enough time — up front — to win the deal?

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  1. You make a solid point Dave and I completely agree.
    I often have written about the prospecting and needs analysis fazes in the sales process.
    To me they are the most important as you gain the trust, build the report and learn what it is they need from you.

    You also learn what phrases the customer uses to describe their problems and what points they find are the most important.

    All this will help a lot later in the process and lets you use their own reasoning when asking for the order.

    Like I said, great article and thanks for sharing it with us.

    • Thanks for your kind comments Daniel. Connecting with the customer throughout the process, focusing on their needs, using their terms is critical. Regards, Dave

  2. Dave,

    I heartily agree that much more focus on qualification and discovery is in order. Closing, in my view, should become a lost art. (I honestly can’t remember the last time I actually asked for an order.)

    Qualification and discovery executed as you suggest can and should lead to a “Recommendation Summary” that’s jointly created and “owned” by rep and decision-maker/influencers. That, as opposed to the presentation of a solution via a sales-rep-only developed “Proposal.”

    Reluctance on the part of the customer to do so is most likely an indicator of inadequate qualification and discovery.


  3. David,

    Couldn’t agree more. In fact I would go even further and suggest that sales are in fact made in the first three minutes of any personal interaction. It is during that time that a person makes a huge subconscious and conscious judgment call on you and what you represent to them mentally. Your competence, demeanor, credibility, like-ability, professionalism and a myriad of other impressions set the stage and influence whether the prospect receives your message favorably or unfavorably. Most sales are made or lost before the salesperson even knows it.


  4. Could not agree with you more David and you hit the failure bull’s-eye with this post. Every time someone asks me, “How do you close a deal” I reply, “It’s all in the open.”

    Working on low percentage opportunities displays a hatred for prospecting and masochism.

  5. Pete Wilkinson permalink

    Wow! I preach this all of the time. It’s like asking your wife to marry you. I was sure she would say yes before I dropped to a knee! Thanks for the re-inforce me t.

    • Hmmm Pete……. Maybe that’s the problem I had getting my wife to accept my proposal 😉 Thanks for the comment.

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