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Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Closing is a Dysfunctional Selling Skill


In his blog

Mark Hunter offers advice on how ‘Closing’ [asking for continuance in this case] should be done when a Sales Call is going badly. The premise he uses for this is the “Try Harder”, “persist longer”,
the “never give up” Sales school.



Mark writes:


“It is essential to always remember there is no such thing as a final sales call. If a sale can’t be made, there is still a sale that can be made and that’s selling yourself and creating a next step.”




What is the Evidence Basis for this view?

Well, Top Sales Performers use the opposite approach.

They ask themselves what is the likelihood of winning this business?
Unless their chances are high [the algorithm they use I will write about at a later date] they cut and run.

Their most important resource is their TIME, and they don’t waste it, on unlikely sales.

Poor Sales Performers, on the other hand, don’t give up.

They flog dead horses. Poor Sales Performers appear to lack judgement,
they do not use an Algorithm.
They spend 4 times as much time on No-sales as Top Performers.

Mark then writes:

“Minimally, strive to agree on what is keeping the customer from making a decision to buy.
Doing this helps to clarify in both your mind and your customer’s mind where the issues are.”

This is a highly Dysfunctional Selling Skill!

Agreeing with a Customer’s Objection is called “Objection Reinforcement.”

This was used disastrously with the Positive-Negative Close.

“You’re too expensive!”
“Yes, we are expensive, and it’s this Price ‘exclusivity’ which many of our Customers enjoy!

Agreeing with ANY Customer objection reinforces the Objection.

Xerox PSS in the 1970’s used a step in Objection Handling called “Confirm and Isolate
e.g. “You believe we are expensive, is this the only reason why you won’t go ahead?”

Salespeople who used this were found to be 10 times less likely to get the business,
than Salespeople who missed this step out!


First of all recognise,
that YOU have most likely made mistakes both before, and during, the call.

Poor pre-call qualification, poor proposition or insight preparation or just poor selling skills during the call.

Don’t make it worse by “Reinforcing the Objection”,
or by causing further Objections through more ‘Closing’ or Commitment requests.


So, how can you manage the ending to a ‘difficult’ call?


DISAGREE with what is keeping you apart,
ask for a time-out and a new appointment.


Give a positive reason for the next meeting,
see three great selling skills that really work.

And, finally if you did a good job in the Call, and it did not payoff, use the Algorithm “Move on!”

Sometimes Your Cheese really has Moved!

Be the Type of Salesperson who uses an Evidence base to Support their Sales Behaviours, not speculation.


  1. Account selection and qualification seem to be missing skill sets in many reps I speak with. Should you even be knocking on the door? Or if you're there, how quickly can you ascertain the need or likelihood of a sale? I've created courses in the past on what I called "Account Selection" for this very reason.

    Reading your linked post on Initial Value Statements reminds me a bit of Jacques Werth's "High Probability Selling." If I remember right, he claims a higher success rate with those statements by using the word "want," as in... "Is that something you want?" Haven't seen the research myself but always found that intriguing. Have any thoughts on HPS?

    BTW, an opinion.... "Agreeing" with a concern (objection) is not the same as "confirming it" (understanding) or "acknowledging" its existence (without validating it). I'm possibly fuzzy on the exact stats/info now, but by memory, in 1995-ish, the research for Learning International's (previously Xerox and now AchieveGlobal's) update for Professional Selling Skills (PSS) indicated that next-step recommendations or concern resolutions that started with an acknowledgement, had a 75% higher chance of being accepted by the client. They also made it clear, however, that you should NOT "agree" with the objection. I don't remember stats on that, if there were any.

    Using your thought process here, qualifying accounts, using value statements, etc.,... if you learn that it's time to "move on," it would seem that you've handled the call in such a way to gain respect from the prospect for not wasting his or her time, and perhaps the thing to "close" on would be asking for appropriate referrals to those who may actually have a need/problem you can solve.

    1. Hi Mike, Thanks for your comments.

      The "problem" with agreeing is that it provokes 'agreement' in the other,
      in this case not a good thing.
      i.e. I agree with your objection, is followed by "I agree with you agreeing."

      When I agree with your objection, 33% you will clarify/add to the objection,
      15% you will simply agree with my agreement. =50% chance of reinforcement.

      Worth knowing that the most powerful behaviour in this situation is
      "Seeking Clarification" in 89% it will produce clarification,
      explanation and further information.

      When I disagree, then you will 42% Clarify/Explain,
      31% disagree with my disagreement,
      = 73% opportunity to express rational disagreement.

  2. I think you made up 87.6% of those stats. ;-) Where did those come from?

    I agree with your agreement that agreeing is bad. Think we settled that. Agreed?

    Also agree with seeking clarity. Many problems result from a gap in real understanding and clarity.

    You skipped my question on Werth's HPS... curious on that, to hear your opinion.

  3. I have never read High Probability Selling, nor heard of Jaques Werth.

    The Stats come fom the work carried out by Peter Honey [Rackham's early co-pilot]
    most are published in his book Face to Face, a practical guide to interactive skills. Chapter 7 2nd edition 1989. (pages 132-148 with a summary on page 143)

    Those not published were either taught on his seminars on Behavioural Analysis, or his other published works. All have been verified by work on Live Sales calls, Sales Accreditation centres, and Sales Assessment centres by me. 1995-2010.

    That's the real problem with Statistics, people imagine they are made up!
    You will note I never quote 95% :)

  4. On "Seeking Clarity", the point is not that misunderstandings cause problems, but that "Seeking Clarification" is THE most effective Interactive Behaviour, in that it is 89% predictable as to HOW the Buyer will respond to a Salesperson "Seeking Clarification".