TALKING SALES 80: “The Sales Closing Conundrum”

Closing the sale                “The way we have traditionally tried to close a sale is problematic? – discussion with John Smibert.


Many salespeople have been taught how to close a sale using strong closing techniques which are often badly timed,  manipulative and disrespectful to the client. Most customers will no longer accept this behaviour. There is a better way.

TonyHughesIn this discussion Tony Hughes expresses a strong message for those who find closing a sales order difficult. He points out that closing should be a simple and natural step in the sale. He told me that when people have an inability to close, the real problem is usually one of four underlying issues; 1. an inability to build trust, 2. an inability to establish strong, compelling value, 3. not understanding the customer’s timing and priorities, 4. not understanding their selection, evaluation and/or procurement process.

“Because” he says , “if you can build trust and rapport, you establish strong value, and then you know their process, closing becomes just a logical next step”.

See the full interview below.

Tony is a leading author and keynote speaker in the world of B2B sales and sales leadership. He is well known for his strategic selling book “The Joshua Principle” and for the RSVPselling methodology.

See more of the ‘TALKING SALES’ series here


John: Tony Hughes – welcome back!

Tony: Hey, John!

John: Hey, I saw an article you wrote recently, that the problem is rarely closing.

Tony: Yes, yes.

John: I can have affinity with that – I’ve been called in often by organisations. Sales guys getting through a deal, and the close just goes on and on forever. They don’t get to that close, and they want me to teach them how to close.

Tony: Yes.

John: I think you’ve got a solution to that.

Tony: I think I do. The thing I found in business, 30 years of experience, is that the problem is rarely the problem. People talk about symptoms as if they’re causes.

John: Yes.

Tony: When people have an inability to close, my experience is usually that the real problem is an inability to build trust, an inability to establish strong, compelling value, and then the third piece of it then is not understanding the customer’s timing and priorities,and in big complex selling not understanding their selection, evaluation, procurement process – it’s really those three things. Because, if you can build trust and rapport, you establish strong value, and then you know their process, closing becomes just a logical next step.

John: It just happens, doesn’t it?

Tony: It does.

John: In fact, these days if you have done what you say you often don’t even ask for the order – it just happens. “It’s now time to go to the next step – let’s commit.”

Tony: Yes, yes. And the thing every sales manager needs to do with their salespeople is when they look in that CRM system and see forecasted dates for deals, they need to say to the salesperson “Is that your date, or is that the customer’s date? And why is that date important?” And that’s the best way to really test.

John: So, understanding the customer’s journey that they’re going through, where they’re at in that journey, some of the drivers, like compelling events or whatever, need to be absolutely critical in your planning, and that’s what you mean by “Is it the customer’s date, not your date?”

Tony: It’s true, it’s true. And the very last thing I’ll say is that closing needs to be earned; putting the blowtorch on people at the end of a quarter usually just damages the relationship. In many industries, especially the technology and software industry, we are renowned for training customers about the discounts they can get at the end of the quarter, right?

John: Crazy, isn’t it?

Tony: It absolutely is. And what we need to do is in the beginning of the quarter we need to focus on trust, value, and understanding their timing and process, so things happen naturally.

John: And they’re not destroy it at the end of their quarter by getting them to make a decision when it’s not within the buyer’s journey right now.

Tony: Correct, that’s true.

John: Great advice, Tony – thank you very much! I looking forward to the next time we talk!

Tony: Thanks, John!


More interviews with Tony Hughes:


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John leads three related organisations, Custell, Strategic Selling Group and Sales Masterminds APAC. These help B2B selling organisations, who recognise the need to transform their sales capability, to respond to the tsunami of change that is starting to wash over us all. He works with people who recognise that to survive they must more strategically support their customer in their buying journey - and understand that they must become specialists in the customer's domain in order to be of value to them. He also helps sales teams build differentiated personal brands and leverage the digital and social worlds to engage to create trust and value.

  • You make a great point SalesAddict – thank you for your contribution and for your affirmation of our discussion..

  • I wholeheartedly agree that many previously taught closing techniques are now almost prehistoric and can create at minimum an awkward silence at worst can upset and delay, or lose new business negotiations.
    If you have had a mutually beneficial, business relevant conversation with a prospect asking for their business out right is very rarely going to harm your chances of obtaining a deal. Win the prospect’s respect, demonstrate that doing business with you is potentially value adding and go for it. I often openly state that I personally want the client’s business at x company. Once all real objections have become bases for agreement, it’s only natural to negotiate terms on which to do business together. Make it easy for your prospect to commit fully and do so with positive terms of speech, making it seem the natural progression to engage you as a business partner.

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