For the first 90 days of this year, I'm posting each week the "single most important thing you need to know" about 13 essential aspects of sales and marketing, because "1 percent of activity creates 99 percent of success." Here are my columns so far:

This week I'll get to the heart of selling, which is the singularly important act of closing the sale. What most non-salespeople know about closing is based on Alec Baldwin's "Always Be Closing" speech in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross.

I'd love to post the scene here, but it is way too NSFW. If you want to check it out (wear your headphones), it's right here.

That scene was not intended to be serious; it's a lampoon of sales training as broad and over the top as Alec Baldwin's lampoons of President Trump on Saturday Night Live. Nevertheless, there's a truth behind the satire, which is that if you don't close, you don't get the sale.

That being said, customers are predisposed to dislike and mistrust salespeople, so following ABC literally--by pushing the customer to buy--is a recipe to annoy and alienate the customer. High-pressure selling is stupid, because pressure creates resistance.

The truth behind ABC is that when you're talking with a potential customer you must keep in the back of your mind that, if it turns out that you truly believe that buying would be in the prospect's best interest, then it's your obligation to help them make that decision.

One of my sales mentors, Linda Richardson, once told me that ABC should be interpreted as "Always be checking," which means that, rather than pushing toward a close, you should be listening for signs that the prospect wants to buy. Those signs include:

  1. Agreeing that they have a need
  2. Agreeing your product will satisfy that need
  3. Asking about product details
  4. Asking about purchasing details

As those signs accumulate, there emerges a "sense" that the deal is going to happen or, at least, is very likely to happen. It is at that point that you say something like:

"We're going to do this, right?"

That's the close, of course. But here's the odd thing about closing: Novice salespeople and people for whom selling is just a part of their job (like entrepreneurs) will often delay closing because they're afraid of getting rejected. 

What happens in that situation is that the seller feels so excited that they're about to make a sale--and that feels so good--that they don't want to kill the buzz by getting shot down. It's an understandable desire, but it's toxic to both seller and buyer.

If you've established that the prospect has a problem you can solve, an opportunity you can help develop, or need you can satisfy, it is your ethical obligation to help that prospect overcome their timidity or paranoia and make the darn purchase.

Which leads to the big secret about closing. In the old ABC speech, closing was what you were supposed to do to the prospect. In the real world, closing is what you do for the prospect. 

Huge difference, eh?