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Posted: May 07, 2012

Becoming the closer

You can't close what you never opened!

Liz Wendling

I receive calls every day from salespeople and business owners who believe that the only skill they lack is “how to close.” They’re convinced that's the one thing missing in their sales process. They think they’re not closing the sale because they lack that magical phrase, slick one-liner or fancy statement that makes it easy. 

Very quickly, I discover that closing isn’t the obstacle. It’s only a symptom of a much more serious problem with their sales process.  I probe a bit further, listen a bit more and learn that they’re not closing successfully because they’re not opening effectively.  It’s not about learning how to “close,” it’s always about mastering how to “sell.”

I can still remember my first sales manager telling me, “If the sale doesn’t start out right, it will never end right.” He always ended our sales meetings with his favorite mantra. “You can’t close what you never opened!”

When working with clients or sales teams, I conduct a thorough intake process to investigate where the wheels fell off in their sales process. When I’m finished probing, I can precisely diagnose what’s happening. Usually I find out that their efforts in the opening stage of the sales process aren’t effective, so the closing efforts in the end become impossible. The issue is the way they begin the process and the build the foundation. That foundation can have gaping holes and massive cracks. If they aren’t patched or fixed they’ll only get worse.

There’s a beginning, middle and an end to your sales process.  Many salespeople don’t realize that the first few moments in the process has an enormous impact on whether the sales will take place. Why? Because some salespeople never give much thought to the issues that can instantly destroy trust, rapport and respect. Sales people need to be able to properly understand client's needs and discuss possible solutions that meet those needs with the relevant products and services before any close can take place. Once this has happened, they can close the sale but not before.

The sales process is also a communication process.  What’s needed is an effective sales conversation that involves a series of decisions where both parties agree along the way.  Done well and with precision, at each decision point you should be achieving joint understanding, establishing clarity and defining how you’ll proceed. You should be referencing their problems, not pushing your solutions.

In the beginning, ask yourself how are you showing up? How is your attitude, confidence, credibility and likability? Have you discovered your customer’s needs?  In the middle, how is preparation, presentation, questioning techniques and the ability to differentiate your value?  Do you have reasonable solutions to meet those needs?

Remember, there is no secret sentence, no magical phrase or covert closing technique that will transform you into a closing rock star. That can happen only when you are willing to take your mind off the close and put your focus on mastering the sales process.

Liz Wendling is the president of Insight Business Consultants, a nationally recognized business consultant, sales strategist and emotional intelligence coach. Liz is driven by her passion for business and generating results for her clients. Liz understands the challenges that business owners are facing building a business and selling their professional services in today's market.

Liz shows clients how to tap into and use their innate strength, power and confidence to develop highly successful businesses. She teaches them to create effective, dynamic and fluid client conversations that turn interested prospects into invested clients who keep coming back.

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Readers Respond

William obviously skimmed through your article...I see sales people skimming through sales opportunities all the time. It requires your full focus on the customer....or the srticle if you want to get something out of it... By shelli on 2012 05 11
Hi Liz, Thank you for connecting with me on linkedin ! I just love your articles. Thank you for your great messages and for supporting the empowerment of wonderful Women! By Monica on 2012 05 07
Not sure how you got all that out of an article that sates clearly that its about how you present yourself from the beginning sets the tone of the business. Guess you missed the part that I said its about focusing on the customer, not making about you, and talking about their issues first. Guess you inserted the part about pretending to be a sales person, I know I don't think that. I do appreciate your comment. That is why this space is here. By liz wendling on 2012 05 07
I don't get it. What was the message, start at the beginning? Hide the fact that you're a salesperson? Customers buy from people they like? This seemed more like a sales pitch for your own business than anything else. By William W Williamson on 2012 05 07
Thanks Liz, yet again your insights into the sales process are short and to the point. Thanks for the reminder that close is only ONE part of the sales process. By Sajal on 2012 05 07
As a marketer, I totally get that you're introduction defines the relationship. This is totally accurate. I've actually felt offended when a novice sales person tried to "close" way without actually building rapport and trust first. It just seemed like they had no idea what I was really interested in or cared about my situation at all. By Chris - ProCntr on 2012 05 07
Wow Liz. This one hit me hard (in a good way). I know our mindset is on the end and not the beginning or middle of the sale. My sales people have struggled with this for a while. Looking forward to talking to you. Liz By tina on 2012 05 07
Thanks TC for the nice words. Very true about the sports analogy. Liz By liz wendling on 2012 05 07
Liz, one of your best articles! Sales is similar to sports. In general, a strong start and strong finish provide a lot of wins. If you have a bad start and fall far behind, even a strong finish (close) may not be enough. By TC North on 2012 05 07
Great article! If asked why I don't get the results I desire, I would have said I am not a good closer. I'm going to print this one paragraph and have it next to me when on the phone: "In the beginning, ask yourself how are you showing up? How is your attitude, confidence, credibility and likability? Have you discovered your customer’s needs? In the middle, how is preparation, presentation, questioning techniques and the ability to differentiate your value? Do you have reasonable solutions to meet those needs?" I look forward to reading your book! By Kathy on 2012 05 07
Nice job. I never gave much thought to how important the opening is. I was always told its about the close. All week I am committed to focusing on the open and take my mind off the close. Sounds like men could use your services as well. Albert By al on 2012 05 07
GREAT article. Thanks for sharing your wonderful expertise. Steve By steve on 2012 05 07
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