Selling Beyond the Close: Close is Not the Close…

In today’s business environment with salespeople confronting unprecedented pressures from competitors and customers, looking at the order alone is simply not enough. The future belongs to the professionals who can sell beyond the close.

The reason is simple. Today, electronic communications have made Marshall McLuhan’s global village a fact that no business professional can afford to ignore, and evading the consequences of manipulative, or merely thoughtless, selling has become impossible. Burn the buyer, consciously or unconsciously, and within minutes, the news will be showing up on email screens across the global. Fail to heed the long-term effects of your selling and you’ll soon be paying the price in terms of an unsatisfied customer, bad references, and lost business. If you don’t attend to what happens to your customers after the order, sooner or later you will have no business to attend to.

What ‘selling beyond the close’ does mean is that every time you go into a selling encounter, you must keep in mind that this call is only one step in an extended scenario and long-term relationship. More than that: Once you get the order, you must think of that order as part of a much longer selling process. ‘Selling beyond the close’ means constant attention to the care and feeding of that ongoing process… This has to do with understanding two related ideas:

  • Your long-term success is intimately dependent on your individual customer’s success.
  • All good selling, like all good buying, begins with a solution image; the visual concept or mental picture of a solution (or a need to accomplish) in the customer’s mind.

Linking these two ideas, you can say that good selling must always start by understanding the customer’s inner picture or mental image of what he or she needs to accomplish in order to succeed.

Oddly, many sales professionals consider this a radical view. Often when salespeople speak of “need”, they mean their own need for a sale. Traditionally, selling means convincing a potential buyer that they need what you, the salesperson, has to offer. So the goal of the traditionally trained salesperson often gets perilously close to that of a drug pusher: Push your product or service whether the customer needs it or not.

Consider the opposite approach. Consider the notion that the customer may know at least as well as you, and probably much better than you, the nature of the problem that they are facing. However, the customers may not always know the best solution for their problems, and that’s where the salesperson can assist. If you can encourage the customers to confide and explore solutions with you, you have a far better chance of making a quality sale (i.e., Win-Win) then if you simply push your product and try and convince the customer that they need your product or service.

The downside of this customer-driven philosophy is that sometimes you have to do what no self-respecting salesperson ever wants to do; back away from the sale. Sometimes you have to acknowledge, even when the customer doesn’t, that there isn’t a good match between the customer’s needs and your product or service.

Then the wisest strategy in this case is not to push for the close but offer the customer assistance in finding the best solution (even if that means a competitive solution). If this sounds heretical, so be it: If you’re not willing to walk away from a poor match, you’re not really committed to your customer’s success — or, for that matter, to your own success. You’ve got to ensure that both the customers and you feel good about the business relationship. Without that mutuality somebody always loses and the relationship will not last, and you will lose a customer.

The “secret” of “selling beyond the close” is just that simple: A customer relationship built not on inspiration but on selling realities. Every good close must be a step toward the future, and you win only when your customers are successful. It says that success is the predictable result of a logical process; a process where you work with your customers, not against them, to develop solutions both of you can own.

These are the only solutions worth delivering; they are the only ones that build solid, profitable business; business that can last ‘beyond the close’.