Why Old-School Closing Still Rules

Dan Smaida – Wednesday, October 29, 2016

In a previous post I suggested that millennial sellers aren’t closing as much as they could be because they’re over-relying on text and email. Comments on this post flew in all directions, but not many disputed the fact that more than ever, we’re using screens to do what we used to do in person. And I think screen-first selling is a mistake when it comes to closing.

Closing = Proposing
Here’s my thesis in a nutshell: Closing means gaining authentic commitment that’s SMART for the customer. SMART commitments are Specific, Measurable customer Actions that are both Realistic and Timely – in other words, customers see the need to commit.

So you’re proposing that you take your commitment to the next level together. Wait, are we talking about selling…or love? Answer: We’re talking about both! Closing and proposing are essentially the same thing!

How Customers Want to be Asked
I’m no scientist, and this is an essay, but I have a data point or two. For instance, I always ask my workshop participants, “How would you prefer to be proposed to, either a date or marriage?”

Here’s the most common response: “It depends on whether I want to go out with them or not.” If the answer is “yes,” most of us tend to prefer the in-person proposal. If the answer is “no,” most of us would prefer to receive it in writing – it’s so much easier to say no via text, or even via silence!

Old-School is More Productive
Back to selling: In either case, it pays to propose in person. First, if the customer is ready to go forward, face-to-face or voice-to-voice proposals help you maximize the opportunity. When they hear a “yes,” the best sellers look for additional or parallel commitments that accelerate or improve the buying process.

The problem with screen-based closing is how long it takes to hear a “no.” If that’s going to be the answer, you need to hear it as soon as possible so you can focus on a better opportunity. In-person closing keeps that time cycle to its minimum.

Finally, even voice-to-voice proposals add a dimension to the communication you just don’t get on the screen. Combining words with body language, tone, and eye contact tells you so much more about your real chances, and whether you have an opportunity to respond to objections.

Lens of Love Analogy that Supports My Point
You learn more from two seconds of silence when you’ve just proposed face-to-face than you do from the two hours you spend waiting for a response to your text.

Proposing in Person – Five Ways to Get Great
Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to master what is increasingly a lost art in today’s screen-first world:

Plan SMART Commitments. The key is the “RT” in SMART – your timing needs to be right. Beginning with possible end(s) in mind is essential to good sales call planning!
Practice the proposal. I mean rehearse the actual question you might ask if all goes well. Get feedback. Practicing in your mind is not practicing!
Test for Need. Simple questions like, “Who else needs to weigh in?” or, “Do you want to get more of a feel for how this would work?” test the SMARTness of your call plan.
Use email second. In complex sales, communicating next steps in writing is essential. But don’t start there – instead, propose in person and use writing to clarify, either on the spot or as a follow up.

Get in position to propose. Use email, text, and calendar invites to create your proposing opportunities. And don’t underestimate creativity! If it matters, you may need to do something over the top to get their attention.

It’s all About Relationships
Closing is proposing, and the lessons of love apply to selling: Propose in the old-school way, person to person, for their sake…and yours. I’m looking forward to your comments!