When Is a Close a Close?

Riddle: Four frogs are sitting on a log. Two decide to jump off. How many are left on the log?

Answer: Four, because deciding to do something is not the same as actually doing it.

The same riddle is applicable to everyone feeling good about a closing at the end of a sales meeting — it does not mean the deal is closed. Closure happens only when the client agrees to do something, which only then advances the sales process.

Research shows that one of the top reasons salespeople don’t close on a deal is because they have not clearly thought out their “objective” for the call and the desired, appropriate “action step” they want the client to take at the end of the meeting (assuming a successful visit/call). Instead, many reps simply go to “see” advertisers. Then they wonder why a sales relationship isn’t moving forward!

In Practice

What’s an objective? An objective is a goal. For example, I want my client “to understand the power of my site/service, to understand the nature of his long-term online strategy.”

Action steps are specific actions your client agrees to take that indicate you have achieved your objective. For example:

  • Scheduling a second meeting

  • Signing a contract
  • Adding your site to a media list
  • Giving you permission to say to a decision-maker you are seeing later that the client endorses your site/service

Appropriate Action Steps

If you’ve just met the client for the first time to introduce your site/service and to get a sense of the client’s goals and challenges, the appropriate next step might be for the client to entertain a specific proposal at a second meeting. It might be the client agrees to a test. However, it is not likely to be the client agrees to a $25 million commitment.

Likewise, if you have had several contacts with the client in person, on the phone, and via email, the appropriate action step could very well be that the client agrees to that $25 million commitment.

Test Yourself

What would you say in the following scenarios to close the call? Assume the conversation is winding down.

  1. Your client says, “Can we do a sponsorship?”

  2. The discussion has covered many topics for more than an hour.
  3. Your advertiser seems undecided between giving you the business and staying with his current media plan.
  4. Your advertiser has just said, “This sounds great. I had no idea you had this kind of reach and responsiveness!”

Answers:

  1. If you simply said, “Yes,” that would not have been a close, because there is no client action step. Appropriate, specific action steps could be, “If that is available, do you want to book that?” or “Would you like to do that?” Your client then has to commit or decline.

  2. If you simply moved to the next step, “So, should I put you down for X?” you might get a positive response. However, given that the conversation has been wandering all over for more than an hour, a more natural close would be to a) summarize; b) get agreement from the advertiser; and then c) close. For example, a) “We’ve covered a lot of ground here. Sounds like you’re interested in X, Y, and Z; b) Is that right?” (Client: “Absolutely.”); and c) “Great. Then the next step would be for you to send us [X], and then we’ll have your ad up and running by Friday. OK?” (Client: “Let’s do it.”)
  3. One way to help a client decide in your favor and move forward is to acknowledge the positives of staying with her current media plan and then to enumerate the longer list of positives for adding your site to the plan. Your delivery should be very matter-of-fact. “On the one hand, you like X and Y with your current plan. On the other hand, you said you liked A, B, and C with our site. Right?” (Client: “Yes.”) “So, doesn’t it make sense to add us to the plan?” (Client: “That does make sense. OK, yes I will.”)
  4. If you simply said, “Great,” then you didn’t close. You only affirmed her enthusiasm. When someone is obviously positive about your site and your proposal, then you can be direct or assumptive in closing. For example, “Great. Does this mean you would like to advertise?” or “Great. When do you want to begin?”

He Who Says It, Owns It

The above notwithstanding, here’s a very powerful and respectful way to close out a sales call. Ask your clients what they liked about what you both discussed as it applies to their site. Expect some silences as your clients reflect on the recent conversation. Typically, advertisers will say they liked some number of features and benefits of your site. Whatever they say, their remarks tell you how broadly your message was communicated and accepted.

If they omit what you think are key selling points, gently remind, or ask, them about those. Often, they will agree or indicate that those are not the most meaningful for them, which can lead to a deeper discussion. When clients state the value of your site, they believe what they say far more than what you say the value is for them.

It is then very simple to say, “Great. Then, when would you like to start?” or “Terrific. What’s our next step?” If they raise objections, that will be disappointing, but the good news is that you are still there to deal with those last lingering doubts, which, if you can neutralize them, allows you to move the call forward to the next step.

Summary

A closing step is not a trick. It is the natural outcome of a good client-centered sales conversation. Remember, nothing happens until the client agrees to do something.

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