Touchdown! Closing Skills for Successful Selling
It's early January 2004. The Green Bay Packers are just 72 seconds away from their fourth NFC Championship game. They have a three-point lead over the Philadelphia Eagles, who face an impossible fourth down and 26 yards on their own 28-yard line. All Green Bay has to do is hold Philadelphia to less than 26 yards. One play. That's all.
Just one play. In sports bars and living rooms across the country jaws drop when Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb completes a 28-yard pass to Freddie Mitchell, and the Eagles get the first down. They kick a game-tying field goal and force the Packers to dig in for overtime.
Philadelphia receives the ball. After struggling for little gain the Eagles punt it away. Green Bay's task is simple. Keep the ball on the ground and advance into field goal range. Favre takes the snap, drops back, and inexplicably heaves a long pass... into double coverage. Into the hands of Eagle Brian Dawkins. Into history. Philadelphia marches into field goal range and kicks an easy three to win. Game over. Lights out. Thank you for playing.
The Packers lost because they didn't close. They played well, but in the end it came down to the fact that they didn't close and the Eagles did.
More than just preparation
Talent, tools and preparation are vital to the success of NFL players and sales professionals. But in order to change buying habits, we must also incorporate closing into the natural life of our sales presentations.
In simplest terms, a close is an agreement to take the next step together. What you close for varies based on your overall objectives and your history with a customer.
Have you ever seen a football team attempt a one hundred-yard touchdown pass? Not likely. Both players and coaches understand that a touchdown is the last of a series of plays, each designed to bring the team closer to the goal line, which increases their chances of a successful touchdown attempt, which brings them closer to their ultimate goal of winning the game. Every play is important.
It's the same principle in sales. If you try to close a sales call without first executing a customer-focused presentation, you're probably not going to be very successful. However, as the Packers found out on that crisp January day, you can execute a lot of good plays well, but if you fail to close, you don't get the win.
The clock is ticking...
Green Bay legend Vince Lombardi once said, "The Green Bay Packers never lost a game. They just ran out of time." In all likelihood, the Packers assumed that their three-point lead was safe with just over a minute left on the clock and Philadelphia deep in their own territory. The win (close) was assumed. As Packer Al Harris said later, "Fourth-and-26 yards, that's like fourth-and-forever." That assumption cost Green Bay the game. It may cost you a sale.
An effective close is carefully crafted to answer these questions: What am I going to do? What are you going to do? What is the expected outcome? When you close by gaining a commitment, you make the touchdown. Because at the end of the day, someone has closed the customer. Shouldn't it be you?
Getting the win
By most measures 2003 was a successful season for Brett Favre. He passed Dan Marino and climbed into second place on the NFL's all-time list for postseason touchdown passes. He surpassed Marino in all-time postseason passing yards, moving into third place in the record books. Favre extended his NFL record for consecutive postseason games with a touchdown pass to 15, and pushed his NFL record for most consecutive starts at quarterback to 208.
Clearly, the three-time MVP is a player with the talent, tools and preparation to win. But his team's failure to close is what made the difference. Favre will be remembered as a champion, but he will never have another chance to win that game.
When evaluating whether you've done enough to meet your objective, ask yourself, "Did I close?" That could be the difference between winning and losing.
Copyright ©2005 by Sally Bacchetta. All rights reserved.
Sally Bacchetta is an award-winning sales trainer and freelance writer. She has published articles on a variety of topics, including selling skills, motivation, and pharmaceutical sales.