I'm fresh out of a really interesting and compelling workshop today in which we spent a good deal of time on an age-old sales topic: closing. To the ear of the oh-so-sophisticated and evolved digital media seller, the word may have a rather tinny ring to it. At worst it evokes the hard-sell used car dealer asking "what would it take to put you in this car today?" At best, it basks in the retro-afterglow of Alec Baldwin's classic Glengarry Glen Ross cameo. ("Third prize is you're fired.") But closing is not just relevant in our world, it's an especially vital survival skill.
Let's start with the symptoms and the prognosis. In digital media, there are no closing dates or air dates. Most anything that we could run on Tuesday can just as easily run Thursday instead. While we have the occasional dated content connection, there's very little that systemically creates urgency. So it's just that much easier for buyers to sit on a decision, to let the deal drift, to offer soft, meaningless non-commitments. Add to that the compounding issue of scale: thousands of customers x thousands of vendors x billions of impressions = a seller with a forecasting nightmare.
In some respects it's a self-inflicted wound. Sellers sometimes don't even attempt to close, preferring instead the shallow satisfaction of "a really positive meeting." (Why spoil a perfectly good call by asking a question that might make someone uncomfortable?) Still others water down their closing questions to the point where they become virtually meaningless. (So is this something you think you might consider somewhere down the road?) As I've said in a previous post, this often stems from an overcautious desire to preserve "the relationship" at all costs.
But we need to start closing. Desperately. So here are a few practical tips to bring this dying all-too-rare practice back into play for you and your team.
A. Know what you want. You can't close on an ask that's not fully formed. What exactly is it that you want this particular customer to do in this particular meeting? B. Ask something they can say no to. If your ask isn't something they could reject, then it's probably too soft and fuzzy. C. Make it personal. "Jane, is this something you personally want to do?" "Rich, is this a decision that you personally support?" Making it about the person across the desk is a great way of blowing away all of the abstraction and white noise. You will know precisely where you stand.
Managers, you owe it to your company and to your team members to hold their feet to the fire and constantly practice the language of closing. Your sellers will push back at first: closing will feel alien and mildly uncomfortable. But who says being a little uncomfortable is a bad idea? Your comfort zone is a place filled with non-committal, soft support and bad forecasting.