Post-Close Closings

Ever screwed up the sale after your prospect said yes? You need these post-close closings to help you secure every sale.

It's the goal, the purpose, the incentive, the intention,the hope, the dream and the promise of something better. It is thecatalyst that stimulates creative thought and drives it intoaction. It provides a reason for playing the game.

It is, simply, that penultimate moment in the selling processcalled..."the close."

The close is what all of us are after, whether it be in sales,sports, personal relationships, or any other aspect of life. If youcan't close the deal, you won't reap the rewards of youractivity.

The close is to where all the preliminary steps in the salesprocess lead. It is the Emerald City at the end of the Yellow BrickRoad, the place where all our efforts culminate in celebratoryelation, or come crashing down around us in gloom, disillusionment,and longing for some less volatile, demanding profession.

I wish to add nothing more to what has been written anddiscussed regarding the techniques of closing the sale. Instead,the focus of this article is to identify and detail the threedifferent stages that occur after you've had that magicalmoment with the prospect when they have made the decision to goahead.

The three distinct components to be outlined in this piece arepresent in almost every modern corporate sale, yet there is almostno mention of them in texts and other articles on the subject.These post-close closings cannot be overlooked if one is to achievelong-term success in sales.

To understand conceptually what we are looking at, it isnecessary to span our attention out a bit beyond just the standardsales close and look at the procedure from a 30,000-foot viewpoint.To start, though, we'll look more closely at the fundamentalelements of a close.

What Is theClose?
It is assumed that you have at least a rudimentary understanding ofthe necessary steps leading up to the initial close and canrecognize the closing opportunity when it appears. Nonetheless, aquick review might be of benefit.

Learn More
Looking for a way to close thesale before you dive into these post-close closings? Try a little humor.

First, let's agree upon a simple technical definition forthe word "close." Paraphrasing liberally from theAmerican Heritage Dictionary, it means: "To bar passagethrough, to end, to terminate, to enter into an agreement, to bringor come to an appropriate stopping point." We shut off thecompetition, remove the prospect from the presence of othersalespersons, close the door on them. And pocket the commission.That's what we mean by "the close."

But let's not fail to note that it also means "to enterinto an agreement," and to bring to a conclusion, a"stopping point." Both of these concepts are critical toany success in sales.

We could go further and microanalyze every minute aspect of thesales process, like an endless reflection of mirrors, but thatwould be fruitless. There is one aspect, however, that bears suchscrutiny. It is where an astounding number of otherwise ablesalespeople botch a perfectly good and simple sale.

The Sales Close

This is a step that should occur the minute you observe that the"sales close" has occurred, or in any case, as soon asreasonably possible. It is also the first of what I have termed the"post-close closings."

The sales close is the most familiar and recognizable of thevarious types of closings. It is simply the final step in agradient series of steps that are designed to approach the closingin a comfortable manner. Done correctly, it is as easy as takingthe final step up a flight of stairs. It is a win for both buyerand seller, leaving each with the feeling that he has gotten whatis needed and wanted from the exchange.

This is where the salesman now has to recognize that he must"close the close." If he doesn't, the sale can slipfrom his grasp with mercurial and devastating swiftness. He hasarrived at the point where the sale can be closed and hassucceeded. That point of awareness has been reached when bothparties involved in the sales process are aware of and satisfiedwith the mutually beneficial agreement that has been reached. Thesales closing process should be ended at that point.

To push it further, and continue any purely selling activitybeyond this point, the salesperson runs the risk of alienating theprospect. The prospect will tend to put up resistance, where beforenone existed. The salesman can unwittingly create doubt wherepreviously there was certainty. The prospect will begin to questionaspects of the product or service with which he had no problemearlier. This, in turn, leads the salesperson to believe that hemust continue the selling process.

Unfortunately, this leads to an even worse dilemma. The prospectbegins trying to stop the salesperson from doing more selling, andthe salesman, sensing the withdrawal, starts to dig in and selleven harder. Thus, the more he pushes, the farther away theprospect retreats, initiating a vicious circle.

Sometimes a botched sales close can be repaired by directing theprospect's attention back to the earlier point when he wasfirst sold, thereby rehabilitating the comfortable atmosphere andfeeling of commitment that existed at that time. But the bestsolution by far is just not to have made this error in the firstplace.

It is far easier to observe, recognize and acknowledge thecharacteristics in the prospect that signal that he now understandswhat is being sold and has become enlightened as to how it canbenefit him or his interests and is prepared to move forward. Atthat point, the selling procedure should come to an end. You haveachieved your sales close, and now you should conclude it.

So, the proper procedure for closing the sales close is simplyto:

1. Observe that a close ispossible.
2. Recognize when a close has actually occurred.
3. Acknowledge that this close is the end of any purely sellingactivity, and that to continue trying to sell past this point couldcompromise the whole process.

Now, if only that were the end of the overall process, we couldjust leave and collect our commissions. But, alas, there are twomore post-close closes that must be achieved.

The LegalClose
This sometimes dreaded step involves activities of otherindividuals, behind closed doors, looking over the legal andcontractual aspects of your sales close. These are mostlyprofessionals who are dedicated to and paid for finding what iswrong with this contract, often to your detriment. You will rarely,if ever, get to talk to them directly, and they are not there to besold, in any case. As this step is inevitable in corporate sellingof any size, it is better to accept that it will occur and workthrough it as swiftly and effectively as possible.

Most often, it is best to have your legal department deal withthe clients' attorneys on contractual language due to what hasbeen called the "lawyer to lawyer communication rule."That is, from a lawyer's viewpoint, he can always communicatebetter with other lawyers. Whatever the reason, this rule seems toexist, so we might as well use this knowledge to our advantage toget the job done.

A definition of the legal close, then, is offered here fordescriptive purposes: "Actions taken by legal professionalsthat result in a legally binding, written contractual agreementrepresenting the mutual understanding and satisfaction between bothparties, completed in a timely manner."

The legal close is important and not to be taken lightly. Theoverall sale can be lost at this point due to various elements. Itis sometimes used to grind down either the price or the terms to amore favorable level. Taken too far, this grinding can disfigurethe agreement you worked so hard to reach earlier, to the pointthat it is no longer viable or even recognizable. But hopefully,through vigilance, skillful communication and persistence, you willprevail in the manner desired.

It should not go unnoticed, however, as in the previous step,that you have to observe, recognize and acknowledge the completionof this step so that the contractual elements are handledconclusively. Occasionally they will accept your contract as is,but usually they will draft one that their lawyers are familiarwith and incorporate the necessary elements. In any case, this is alegal close and should be ended when the mutual agreement isfinally contained in the contract and is legally binding on bothparties.

Unfortunately, it's not yet time to celebrate, for there isanother dangerous foe equally capable of scuttling your commission.The administrators await.

The Administrative Close

The final step is what has been termed an administrative oraccounting close. This is included as a reminder so that it is notneglected through oversight and enthusiasm over getting thecontract completed. This step is both internal, in that it dealswith your company and its procedures, and external, as it involvesthe clients' accounting personnel and their own procedures.

Unfortunately, as anyone who has ever been involved in the"business of business" will attest, leaving somethingtotally in the hands of accountants or lawyers is tantamount toabandoning all control over the area.

Accountants often only see and think in numbers, and lawyers aresometimes trained to look for and see only problems, possibly evenwhere none previously existed. As such, they both can give you asomewhat altered view of the situation at hand, and you must remainalert to this possibility.

As the sales executive, you have to be constantly vigilant toensure that the deal you have worked so hard for doesn't justdisappear in their hands. Quite obviously, the deal is not doneuntil all the paperwork is fully completed and in the hands ofthose who will handle it.

It is, once again, the responsibility of the salesperson toensure that all details are fully concluded and implemented. Ioffer here a working definition of what I have labeled theadministrative close: "The point when all necessary paperworkis fully completed and in the hands of the proper personnel, suchthat the swift and efficient transfer of funds for product orservice can and does take place."

Though perhaps a bit dull and mundane when compared to theemotional high derived from pulling off an important sales close,it is crucial that this step be fully concluded.

Once again, it can't be stated too often that it is thesalesperson who drives this process. It is his or herresponsibility to make sure this administrative or accounting closetakes place, even though others may actually be doing the work. Thejob cannot be considered complete until this is done. Once it isintroduced into the "machinery" of the business andbegins to operate without constant further attention, thesalesperson can consider this step complete.

The Final Act
In summary, "it ain't over 'til it's over."And that means utterly done. In regard to this, the final act, thesalesperson has to function as an executive.

For a working definition of "executive," lets take alook at the word "execute," which means: "To carryout fully, to put completely into effect and to do what is calledfor." It can easily be seen, then, that an executive is theone who gets something done!

The "salesperson as executive" has to monitor theoverall sale with great attention to fine detail so that each stepis fully completed before moving to the next. The sales executivemust have the sales process, the successful methods and proceduresfor his particular product or service down cold.

Any weakness in his knowledge of this process will be exposedinstantly under the pressure of an actual selling activity. He orshe should face and handle any deficiency he knows to exist beforeit becomes embarrassingly apparent to everyone when revealed infront of the client. But this is just the beginning.

Any professional sales executive also must be ready to takecomplete responsibility for seeing that the sale is brought to asuccessful conclusion after that first sales close.and thattakes at least three separate closes--the sales close, the legalclose and the administrative close.

The salesperson's own personal prosperity and the ultimatesuccess of the business depend on what he or she does regardingthese actions above. Fail to do them, and we all have to workharder for less. Do them, and we'll all win.

Copyright © 1998-2002 by Jacob Wright

Jacob Wright is thepresident of Growth Management Consulting, a sales consultinggroup; author of The Sales Journal, a manual of common-sensearticles on selling; and a book soon to be published on the fulldynamics of the complete sales process. Visit his Web site

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