December 12, 2017


Every sales professional has had some mishaps in their career, especially when they first started out and weren’t sure how to close a sale.

Perhaps no situation is worse than when you put in all the work, close it, and then unclose it.

Here’s a story which was related to me. I have changed some of the details to protect the guilty.

Poor Joe

A salesman with a couple of years under his belt, Joe was attempting to sell an automated payroll solution to a midsize residential carpet wholesaler who was expanding into commercial carpeting. The wholesaler had recently hired a considerable amount of personnel and added facilities as part of its operation in Texas. Seeing an opportunity, Joe cold-called to set an appointment.

The procurement manager agreed to take a meeting. Joe did his due-diligence on the company and on the procurement manager using LinkedIn, Facebook, and other online sources, which he always did to strategize how to close a sale most effectively. He discovered that the company was going to open a massive facility in Houston the following month. He made a mental note of that in case he needed it.

At the sales call, everything seemed to go fairly well. The procurement manager was hesitant, but he agreed to a test run of the system at one of the existing facilities (near Dallas). An installation date was set. Joe was elated. He got up to leave, shook the manager’s hand, and set out towards the door. Feeling a bit invincible, and wanting to impress his bosses with a much bigger deal, he turned and said “Hey, are you sure you wouldn’t be better off using Houston as your first installation? After all, it’s a way to implement our solution from the beginning, rather than have to replace what’s already there, like in Dallas.”

With that the procurement manager said, “You know what, you’re right. We should pilot at Houston since it would be a day one installation, rather than have to replace and retrain at an existing plant. Tell you what, let me evaluate each of these payroll vendors who have contacted me and I will make a decision soon. Don’t worry, you are still in the running.”

Needless to say, he tried to backtrack and get at least the smaller facility done, but it was too late. Poor Joe talked himself right out of a deal, and another vendor took Houston…and eventually the company’s entire payroll operation.

Knowing how to close a sale means knowing that after you close the deal, you stop talking about it. Change the subject!

Just keep quiet

This next one has a happy ending. It shows the power of just shutting up after the closing question, regardless of how everything else goes. It involves an inexperienced saleswoman who, through a networking cocktail event, made an appointment with the CEO of a financial services firm who was looking for a temporary staffing solution.

Being quite new, she was in way over her head. She fumbled through her presentation, and then directly asked, “So, how many people would you like us to hire for you?” No getting of minor agreements along the way. No test closes or “How do you feel about this so far.” No objection handling. Nothing, just a spiel and right into a pretty presumptuous closing question.

The CEO just looked at her. He raised an eyebrow. She started sweating. Neither said a word. In her mind, she was thinking “Oh my gosh, I am an idiot. He is just staring at me like he has never encountered a worse salesperson in his entire life. I have to get out of here.”

After what seemed like an eternity of staring at each other in silence, the thoroughly embarrassed saleswoman simply got up, turned straight to the door, and had her trembling hand on the handle when she heard the CEO bark behind her, “Five! I need five support staff for our marketing department by Monday. Can you do that?”

Instead of saying “Yes,” she replied with a line she just read in a book about closing a sale: “If we get you those five, would you be ready to meet again to discuss the rest of your departments?” And the rest is history.

Do you have any sales war stories to share? Comment below!