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The Killer Closing Technique

by David Brock on May 20th, 2015

Sales people continually looking for the killer close.  Somehow, there has to be something the sales person can say or do which causes the customer to immediately issue a PO.

Through my career, I’ve been “taught” and subjected to 100’s of different closes.  The assumptive close, the puppy dog close, the limited time close, and the list goes on and on and on.

As a customer, I think the best response these techniques have ever elicited is a quiet groan and eyeroll.  Usually, these techniques evoke an internal reacion, “I’ll buy when I’m damn ready to buy and from who I want to buy from!”

As a student of sales, I suppose I get some perverse fun out of hearing hopeless or manipulative techniques.

But, I’ve decided to be bold and declare the single, money back guaranteed, killer closing technique.

It’s something that applies in virtually every situation.

But there are some caveats about when and how it’s used that impact it’s effectiveness.  If you don’t leverage this technique correctly, it won’t produce the results you need.

The first critical element of this closing technique is the timing.

Most people “close” after all the proposals have been submitted, after all the objections have been handled, when the customer has no other questions—at the very end of the selling process.

The timing for this technique is very early in the qualifying process.  And we revisit and revalidate it through the customer buying process.  In the end, the customer probably has the close imprinted in their mind and, possibly, provide a PO before you expect.  If not, you can always remind and revalidate with the customer.  So use this technique early in  qualifying to have maximum impact!

The other key aspect of this closing technique is understanding the response this technique elicits–understanding it deeply, assuring the customer understands and owns the answer they will provide when you pose this closing question.

So here it is, the one, the only , the always reliable closing technique you will ever need.

More so, it’s a technique the customer will appreciate–sometimes painfully so–but it constantly refocuses the customer on why they are buying in the first place.  So it’s a closing technique that reinforces the value you create from your very first conversations and throughout their buying process.

I know you are eager in anticipation and preparing to run out and use this technique immediately, so I won’t taunt you further.

Drum roll please……

“What are the consequences to you and your organization of doing nothing?”

That it, there are some variations of this, but fundamentally that’s all you need.

We start this in the qualifying process.  We are talking to the customer about changing, about doing something new and different.  But there has to be a compelling reason to change, not just because it’s cool or fashionable  (everyone else is, so I should).

The beauty of doing this in qualifying, if there are no consequences, if there are no problems, lost opportunities, no need to change, then there is no reason to continue selling and trying to get the customer to buy.  We simply disqualify them and move on–no harm, no foul.

But exploring this with the customer, getting them to articulate and quantify the consequences of doing nothing, serves as the basis for creating urgency and a compelling need to change now!

The answer to this in qualifying, sets up much of the next steps in their buying process.  It sets up, the issue, “If the current state is unacceptable, where do we need to go?  What outcomes should we expect?  How do we get there?”

As the customer goes through their buying process, every once in a while, they get derailed and lose their way.  Revisiting this closing question, “What are the consequences of doing nothing?”  Something may have changed, understanding this is critical to both the customer and us.  But the customer may have gotten distracted, revisiting this reinvigorates and refocuses them in their buying process.

Helping the customer have great clarity on this helps them in their internal selling process.  Yes, they are going to have to sell this, getting support both up the food chain, but within the organization.  Doing this is critical to moving to the point where they take action.

In the end, there may be various reasons they slow down in making a decision.  There may be uncertainty, they may want to leverage witholding an order as a negotiating technique with you.

But we can always come back to this issue, reminding, and revalidating it with the customer.

For example, a number of years ago, a CEO was witholding signing a contract.  We were quibbling over a few $100K on our fees, I wouldn’t change, he knew I wanted the deal so was holding out, hoping I would cave.  After a week of going back and forth, I finally said:  “For every week we wait on starting this project, you are losing $10M in revenues.”  All of a sudden, the difference in our positions disappeared.  For a few moments, he had forgotten why he was doing this in the first place.  The, perhaps not so gentle, reminder immediately refocused him and we moved forward.

But this example, points out an important point in leveraging this technique appropriately.

When you are discussing the consequences of doing nothing, it’s critical to drill down and quantify the consequences of doing nothing.  You and the customer can not stop at, “We will lose competitiveness, our costs will be too high, we’ll miss some critical deadlines.”

Make sure you and your customer dig deep and understand what those mean.  If they are going to lose competitiveness, what’s that mean, how much share will the lose, how many customers will they lose, what is the revenue impact……?  If their costs are to high, what’s it mean, what will the costs be, what do the costs need to be?  If they will miss critical deadlines, what does the mean?  Will they fail to meet commitments to customers?  Will they fail to meet compliance or government regulations?  Will they lose a window of opportunity to create revenue?  Will competition overcome them and what is the impact of that?

So don’t clutter your mind with the hundreds of closing techniques.  Don’t worry about figuring out which one to use to manipulate the customer into issuing a PO.

This one closing technique is all you need, all the time!  Try it!

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  1. AS Usual David Brock nails it in one – great article!

  2. Great article! What do you think of using the “Negative Close”, as in challenging a prospect to reject the offer? For instance in that stalling stage, push back with a question of “hey, this project is never going to get funding, right?” The idea being to to get them to disagree with you and then you close. Too risky?

    • Taice: I don’t think any of the “techniques” create value for the customer. At their core they are manipulative. Take the negative close, just the way you’ve posed it is a manipulation of the customer. If they are stalling, isn’t it just better to address it head on to understand what’s causing the delay and why. By asking the question and engaging in the discussion, you learn so much more than playing stupid closing games.

      If you’ve done your homework and posed the question I suggest in the post, if a customer is stalling and doesn’t appear to have a reason, all you have to do is remind them of the real consequences of not making a decision.

      Customers are actually super smart people. We owe them the respect to be straightforward with them. We owe them the respect to make sure they don’t lose a tremendous opportunity for themselves and their company. Thanks for posing the question! Regards, Dave

  3. Rainer Pinto permalink

    David, great article! I love this closing question and how it really refocuses the prospect on the “why”: why are they meeting you? Why are they considering change? Why are they looking at alternatives?

    But I have a question: what if the solution you provide is so innovative, so revolutionary that the customer doesn’t even know what they’re missing? In that scenario, they don’t believe there are any consequences of doing nothing; meanwhile we, the seller, know that there are indeed consequences. How would you approach this one?

    Example: the old Henry Ford quote about “faster horses”. The customer in that scenario didn’t believe they had a problem when in fact they very clearly “needed” Ford’s solution. Thoughts?

    • Great question Rainier, before the customer can even consider the consequences of doing nothing, they have to have a compelling need to change. They have to recognize their current state is unacceptable and they must change. Regardless of the solution (revolutionary or not) until you get the customer to this point, they aren’t qualified. So as sales people we help them by looking at what they are doing right now, help them identify how it may be holding them back, paint a vision of what the future might be and the difference over their current state. Most of this has little to do with the product, it’s just the vehicle by which the customer achieves results.

      Even with something revolutionary, you know what it’s going to help the customer achieve. Focus on those things, not the product. Get the customer to see what they are missing, get them to say, “I have to change.” Then in the process you build the case for making the change.

      Several years ago, I was CEO of a start-up. We had a revolutionary software product. It involved AI and Analytic technologies that were very difficult for the customer to grasp. But we knew what it could do. In the case of one company, we could save them $100M a year. In the case of another company we could help them solve a manufacturing problem they had never been able to solve. We quantified the impact.

      See it’s ultimately not about your product but what your product enables.

  4. What, the behind-the-back, over-the-shoulder, slight of hand technique doesn’t work? I’m devastated! Thank you for taking a stand on this tactics, tricks and techniques nonsense that is still so pervasive in our field. The notion of quantifying the problem or opportunity up front is so fundamentally important yet so often neglected, as well as qualifying out the ones the buyer (in conjunction with the rep) cannot quantify. And that’s why folks think they need to engage in the disingenuous (and often thinly veiled) tactics. Great post!

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