Must You Always Be Closing?

March 17th, 2009 by Bob Bly

In the movie “Boiler Room,” Ben Affleck plays the head recruiter at a sleazy boiler-room selling worthless IPOs by cold-calling investor lists.

When he hears a broker-in-training patiently explaining some investment basics to a potential customer, Ben berates the young broker.

“Telling’s not selling!” he screams. “Always be closing!”

The idea, still preached by some old-line salespeople, is that the salesperson must always push the prospect toward an order … and anything else is a waste of time.

While that attitude today is viewed by many as antiquated, do you think there is some truth in it?

A case in point is SA, a personal real estate agent I know.

SA is always willing to lend a hand to colleagues and clients in need. He can frequently be found moving furniture or cleaning out a house.

SA is a nice guy. Everybody says so. Everybody likes him.

Yet SA, afraid of being viewed as too pushy, is extremely reluctant to qualify prospects very hard … or to push buyers he is working with into a decision.

As a result of his inability to ask for the order or be selective in who he works with and how much he will do for them, his income is minimal and, at age 52, he has a net worth of a little over zero.

So while asking for the order may seem unfashionable in this era of soclal-media, free-content-driven marketing, isn’t qualifying prospects and closing the sale ultimately something we have to be good at — online or offline — to get the business?

Or is simply being a nice guy (like SA), a respected expert, or a helpful resource enough to get prospects to buy from you — and not from your competitors?

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 17th, 2009 at 2:09 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

13 responses about “Must You Always Be Closing?”

  1. BrandlessBlog said:

    A cook’s job is to cook,
    A driver job is to drive,
    A salesperson job is to sell right?

  2. Bob Bly said:

    Brandless: The question is: what consistutes selling? Always asking for the order? Building a relationship with the customer and getting them to like you? Positioning yourself as a valued resource and advisor?

  3. Katherine Chalmers said:

    Unless you’re selling a commodity, you have to earn the right to ask for the order. Earning that right involves qualifying the customer, understanding his/her needs and requirements, and demonstrating how your product fits those needs. That consultative process is what differentiates sales professionals from pushy hucksters.

  4. Gerold Braun said:

    why so rude, Katherine? If your profit margin is small, you must make many sales and therefore do a lot of closing. There is no place and no need for a “consultative process” and still there are professionals that do a good and honorably job.

    The question was “Must you always be closing?” – It depends ..

  5. Steve Rainwater said:

    If qualifying opportunities and moving them toward the order constitutes closing, then I say yes. Even when you are “relationship building” or as Katherine stated “earning the right to ask for the order,” you are bringing the prospect into alignment on some level with you or your offerings – which constitutes going for the close.

    I recently spent an extrordinary amount of time with a prospect – a referral who I assumed would hire me because of the relationship which introduced me, so I threw sales 101 to the wind and just hob-nobbed, attending multiple meetings and lunches. I ultimately was not hired because a competitor had “more experience in their industry.” Had I followed my normal qualification process, I would have moved on after the second one hour phone call. Closing is good.

  6. Katherine Chalmers said:

    Gerold, re-read my comment. I wrote, “Unless you’re selling a commodity.” Obviously if your product isn’t significantly differentiated and has thin margins, then the sales process is much more transactional. And buyers expect that.

  7. Gerold Braun said:

    You are right, Katherine. But i think you are too focused on product / service. People are transactional or consultative not processes. And transactional salespeople (aka closers) will find transactional buyers, those who are quick in decision making, value personal chemestrie etc. These salespeople always have a lot of prospects in their pipeline. They start early with closing and they close or they move on to next. That is: they are always closing.

    On the other hand you have consultants. They are out for the buyer who needs a lot of handholding. Consultants start a sophisticated process to win the business.

    Just two types of buyers and sellers.

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  9. Liz Gray said:

    I was the nice lady who sold real estate, with little net worth, in financial terms, yet a clear conscience is worth a lot to me.

    I attended a sales seminar by a Major Name Realtor expert. I will never forget the sick feeling in my stomach at his advise to the packed auditorium, in Las Vegas, NV.

    “If you list 100 houses, and 50 sell you will be a success!” he proclaimed. Someone asked “What about the other 50?” His reply was horrid, at least to me, “WHO CARES? You will have a great year!” Who cares? I did. I can count on one hand the number of listings I had expire. Certainly, I never listed 100 houses a year, or anything close to it, as I worked mostly with first time buyers, but I made a commitment to sell the homes I listed. I left RE, as I can no longer climb stairs after an injury. I wasn’t the most popular, the prettiest, or the most ambitious. I was the most dedicated to providing the best representation possible. I am honest, and did the best possible for my clients. My dream of raising horses has come true, but I’m still not making much money, yet. I can pay my bills and know that I did not fail half my clients. In hind sight, I will say that I should have advertized higher end homes, and worked with richer clients to make more cash.

    If you’ve wondered about the “Stupid” Car Ads on TV, their genius is this: They attract stupid people. Huh? Yeah, they attract the foolish folk who don’t ask the price, but only the payment. My elderly neighbor lady tried to buy a car a one such place. They wouldn’t give her a price, and told her to come back with her male advisor. This woman ran a business, and did some of her own mechanical maintenance. The chauvenistic rude saleman lost an easy sale.

    Taking time to show genuine interest in your customer always helps move you closer to a meeting of the minds and a contract. One advertizes for prospects who might become customers. Be sure your ads draw the customers you want. I advertized –No Qualifying– low down, and I got “buyers” with rotten credit, or so much debt, they could’nt afford a dog house. Good prospects got lost in the melee. Better to advertize Executive home in prestige area.OWC with 100K down, Vacant, Move in this month. I’d get fewer calls, but those prospects would be ready and able to buy now.
    Advertize to attract the best possible clients, build rapport, then help them buy. Please don’t “have a great year” by letting down half the people who count on you. Good Luck, Liz

  10. Tom said:

    I’m going to lean on the side of Katherine. I think every sale is consultative regardless of the product. Anyone can ask for the business. The real key is knowing when to ask. Closing is easy. Anyone can push and if you push hard enough you’ll get your answer…. NO! Congrats, you just closed… the opportunity. Great sales people know that in reality you’re always opening, not closing. Because guess what… You’re not gonna close anything you didn’t open in the first place. No sale ever happens without prior qualification. Yes there are circumstances where all you had to do is ask and got the sale. It just means someone else qualified them first. Yes you have to have the guts and gumption to make hard closes from time to time. Closing business is why you’re there in the first place. But like Katherine said you have to earn the right and opportunity to do so. High pressure cheap sales tricks to get the business are inconsiderate, rude, dishonest, and most of all… ineffective. The number one thing a sales person should really be selling to their customers before anything else is their integrity.

    I’m a sales rep in the biomedical industry incase any of you were wondering.

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