Why closing is hazardous to your sales health

By Charles H. Green

Trusted Advisor Associates

Here's what you want your buyers to feel, what closing actually conveys, why we focus on closing, and three things you can do to stop closing and start selling.

If you're focused on closing sales, then you are most likely hurting your sales. You need to stop closing so that you can start selling.

The implication of closing

You may have been trained in various kinds of closes — the assumptive close (“Shall I start the credit check now?”), the either/or close (“Would you like that in red or green?”), and many others. Each close is a way to persuade the buyer to do what the seller wants.

And persuade is a nice word. However, there is a whiff of coercion, trickery and manipulation about the term — at least from the buyer’s viewpoint. The simple truth is closing is not buyer-centric, it’s seller-centric. And all of us as buyers know what it feels like to have another person try to force their will on us — and deny it’s happening even while they’re doing it.

Closing sends the wrong message — that you are getting your customers to do something you want them to do. This works with some people in the short run, but with very few people in the long run.

Here's what you want your buyers to feel, what closing actually conveys, why we focus on closing, and three things you can do to stop closing and start selling.

You want to convey trustworthiness

Nothing — nothing at all — makes a buyer feel like buying more than the feeling that they can trust the seller. And the best way to be trusted is to actually be trustworthy. That is not a vague concept; trustworthiness means four precise things.
    1. Credibility. The credible salesperson conveys, “I am smart, and I will share my knowledge with you.” The effect is to create a confident buyer.

    2. Reliability. The reliable salesperson is conveying, “You can depend on me to do what I say I'll do; I’m a person of integrity.” The effect is to encourage reliance on the part of the buyer.

    3. Intimacy. A salesperson who scores high on intimacy conveys, “You can share information, concerns and questions with me. There are no stupid questions, and I will never abuse your confidence.” The effect on the buyer is to genuinely share their concerns — all of them — with the seller.

    4. Other-orientation. An other-oriented salesperson conveys, “I am genuinely interested in and curious about you. I’m in this for you.” The effect on the buyer is to think, “This person has my best interests at heart.”
If a customer feels all those things about you, they will trust you. And if you’re giving them honest advice that truly is in their best interest, they are very likely to buy.

Closing says you are untrustworthy

Closing generally conveys the opposite of trustworthiness.
    1. Credibility: Closing says, “I am smart, and you should trust me when I tell you what to do.”

    2. Reliability: Closing says, “You can depend on me to always come back around to ask for the sale.”

    3. Intimacy: Closing says, “You are taking up my valuable time by asking unnecessary questions, to which I know all the answers — and I’ve already told you.”

    4. Orientation: Closing is not other-oriented, it is self-oriented. It says, “I am focused on my best interests — to get you to buy. Now are we ready to close yet?”
People who are “closed” may or may not buy; but if they do they won’t be happy about it, and they’re less likely to buy again. And they’ll tell their friends how they feel.

Why we get obsessed with closing

We want to control our outcome, to increase our success. This is perfectly natural and certainly common. But there are two problems with it:
    1. Most people don't like to be controlled (do you?)

    2. Most of those who do get controlled will resent it and not re-buy
They’ll also tell others you’re not trustworthy. And nowadays, that means email, Facebook and Twitter. And that reputation can spread like wildfire.

Three ways to stop closing and start selling
    1. Stop being attached to the sale itself. Accept that you may not get every sale, including this one. Instead focus on doing the right thing for the customer, whatever that may be. Learn to trust that doing so will gain you at least as many initial sales, more repeat sales and far more referrals — not to mention a reputation of trustworthiness.

    2. Understand where the customer is coming from. Don't answer questions or "handle objections" until the customer really feels you understand their concern. Focus less on the answers, and more on empathy and understanding.

    3. Don’t say your favorite closing phrase. Instead, just ask, "What do you want to do now?" Then do what they say.
You’ll like the feeling of being trusted. And it sells.