Sales Craft – Stop Trying to Close

During a conversation that a good friend of mine and I were having about selling, he started explaining that he was the only guy in his company who consistently does deals. He’s a entrepreneur who has created a highly successful consulting business over the last several years… and evidently has become the defacto chief salesperson. His team is comprised of highly competent, intelligent contributors who consistently deliver on behalf of their customers, but they can’t close.


Closing.  It’s front and center in a salesperson’s mind. It’s inextricably linked to Alec Baldwin’s now-cliché film rant in Glengarry Glen Ross.  It’s the commission, the finish line, and the affirmation that you’re worthy of the title.  And if you’re selling, it’s worth thinking about.


Oftentimes, the solution to a problem lies in how you define the problem, and my point is that you need to think differently about the notion of closing. The traditional definition of ‘closing a sale’ doesn’t help to solve the problem. It’s an artificial goal, temporary in nature, and disconnected from the customer.  (It also creates unproductive, alienating pressure and tension that compromise customer relationships and create obstacles to solving the objective that your product or service address, but we’ll save the obvious stuff for another day.) In fact, It probably wouldn’t hurt to excise the term from the salesperson’s vocabulary.


Instead, think about selling as integral to the solution process, and an intermediate step in the process. The customer can’t really start solving the problem until they make a decision to buy(or not buy) and then move forward from that point. The decision, the negotiations and contract signature are simply steps along that process, and the real goal should be to effectively compress the time(more on this in a future post) it takes to get to the successful implementation of what you’re selling and the achievement of business goals that can be directly or indirectly attributed to the sale.


It’s a slight but important shift in perspective because it helps keep the focus where it belongs: On the customer and on the solution. It also creates a sense of momentum, a glide path that helps you transition smoothly past the awkward ‘getting the deal done’ phase. It is critical to define the goal in more meaningful and tangible terms. Seth Godin calls delivery of the result ‘shipping’. I happen to like ‘project kickoff’ but the point is the same: to focus sales momentum on the authentic end result. And in the world we now sell in, the end result needs to be about more than closing. It needs to be about creating tangible, referenceable and measurable customer successes.*


*I find myself constantly n the lookout for atypical situations that somehow reinforce sales philosophy. And as a an occasional Two and a Half Men watcher, I try to read the closing comments in the end credits of each show(only possible with DVR)…and I noticed this episode recently, and in a very oblique way it has a sales philosophy that might resonate.