Make the damn sale.jpg

A thread on Quora addressed the question, “What is the best way to ‘close’ a prospective client who has a pain that you can solve with legal services?

I consider the question invalid. Phrased as a “how to," this question presumes the legitimacy of closing. Closing cannot have any legitimacy. Here’s why.

Language reflects beliefs, which drive behavior. The legacy language of sales, e.g., "closing," speaks of acting upon the buyer rather than acting with the buyer. It features verbs such as “qualifying,” “presenting,” “overcoming objections” and “closing.” These are things you do to someone, not with them.

Would buyers help you qualify them? Or present to them? Or overcome their concerns? Or close them?

Of course not. There’s no benefit to them in any of those activities. Which means you’re acting alone, without the assistance of the only people who know any of the information that matters.

The only justification for such act-upon behavior is the salesperson’s selfish goal of engineering a “yes.” If, in the course of your interaction, it becomes clear that “yes” isn’t good for the buyer, would you still pursue it? Good for you; bad for them. And if you did, wouldn’t the buyer know or, at least sense, that conflict of interest? 

Trying to get to a selfish “yes” manufactures buyers' resistance, and arguably is a large part of why the word “sales” has for so long been associated with negative images such as pressure and manipulation.

The only process that buyers have any reason to support and assist is that where the seller begins by acknowledging to himself that there is no way to know if this particular buyer should do business with him, even though lots of buyers similar to this one may have done so. Then, he conducts an honest investigation (without regard to his self-interest) into the buyer’s business problem to determine first if the buyer must do anything at all. “Do nothing” is sometimes the correct course.

If the investigation reveals to both buyer and seller that the buyer’s self-interest compels him to take action, and it’s now time to determine how and with whom he’ll act, the integrity of your facilitation gives you an advantage over anyone attempting to pitch a solution. Likewise, if it becomes clear that this issue is an irritant but not an imperative, you’ll save him and you a wasteful attempt at getting to a “yes” that can’t happen.

The investigative process also allows the buyer to “sample” the most important component of a professional service solution: you. You’ve already worked together and served as an objective adviser on an important problem, i.e., how to make a good decision.

Some years ago, we did an informal (and admittedly unscientific) survey of legal service buyers’ attitudes toward lawyers’ sales behaviors. In brief, buyers loathe the pitch-based, act-upon model. Conversely, they love the investigative model.  To read and hear verbatim quotes, watch this free video; the eye-opening quotes begin at the 2:15 mark. 

Think about this:  When you’re buying something, do you enjoy having someone try to close you?

Closing is a fool’s errand that alienates buyers.  It’s like teaching a pig to fly:  It doesn’t work, and it irritates the pig.

Mike O'Horo

RainmakerVT teaches you the sales approach that buyers prefer. 

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