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7 Outdated Sales Closing Techniques That Are Flat Out Terrible

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In Glengarry Glen Ross, Alec Baldwin plays Blake, a belligerent trainer sent to shake up a tired, underperforming sales team.

Blake storms into a room of unsuspecting reps and starts screaming about prospects. “Only one thing counts in this life -- get them to sign on the line which is dotted!”Fortunately for Blake, his character claims to have earned $970,000 in a year. Unfortunately, he’s dead wrong about what ultimately counts in sales. Even in the age of Glengarry Glen Ross, when "Always Be Closing" was the mantra echoing in sales reps’ heads, he was wrong.

The old sales playbook -- dragging prospects through a sales process and strongarming them into a purchase -- only worked because there was no better way for buyers to buy.

Today, things have changed. Buyers have access to more information and more options than ever, and salespeople who still operate under the Always Be Closing model will find that ironically, more doors than ever are closing on them.

Many sales tactics have changed with the times. But closing is an area where reps still struggle.

It’s easy to see why. The idea that prospects need to be “closed” is, in and of itself, a dated concept. Today, salespeople educate prospects so they can decide on their own whether they’ll buy or not.

“Closing” shouldn’t be something that gets done to prospects. Instead, it should be a mutually agreed-upon outcome that’s a natural byproduct of a helpful, educational sales process.

Traditional closing tactics are left over from an old era of sales. These techniques are particularly cringeworthy -- avoid them at all costs.

1) The Assumptive Close

As its name suggests, the assumptive close operates under the assumption that a prospect is going to buy, even when they haven’t explicitly said so. Reps will ask prospects things like, “So what day should we get started?” in the hopes their buyers will get in the mindset of purchasing the product.

Why it sucks: Treating prospects as if they’ve decided to purchase and hoping they’ll forget that they haven’t yet is a transparent effort at best, and insults their intelligence at worst.

2) The “Cradle to Grave” Close

This strategy is designed to handle prospects who say it’s too soon to purchase. Salespeople using this close tell prospects that in life, there’s never a good time to buy -- so they might as well buy now.

Why it sucks: Actually, there is such thing as a bad time to purchase. The “cradle to grave” close ignores legitimate objections and breaks the cardinal rule of prospect relationships: Make prospects feel respected and heard. Don’t dismiss buyer concerns -- that’s something Blake would do.

3) The Alternative Close

A spin on the traditional assumptive close, the alternative close presents a prospect with two product options. For example, "Would you like to buy the red shoe or the blue shoe?"

Why it sucks: It’s an even more aggressive version of the assumptive close. Prospects won’t be tricked into buying with this tactic, and will easily see through your efforts to do so.

4) The “Something for Nothing” Close

This close offers prospects something free or deeply discounted if they’ll buy today, such as an extra product, or an item that would normally be an up-sell.

Why it sucks: This close is not only bad for your prospect, it’s bad for you. Not only do you come off as desperate, this close leads to unrealistic long-term expectations. Are you willing to set the precedent that every time your prospect pushes back, you’ll have to provide something free? Also consider what it says about your brand if you’re willing to give things away for free. The “something for nothing” close cheapens your product’s value.

5) The Sales Contest Close

This close attempts to leverage whatever sympathy your prospect might have for you. In this close, sales reps offer a deep discount or free add-on, and explain the freebie by telling their prospect they’re in the race for a sales contest.

Why it sucks: Like the “something for nothing” close, reps who use this tactic set a bad long-term precedent. Even worse, this close asks prospects to buy for a reason completely unrelated to their situation. Prospects don’t care if you’re one sale away from President’s Club -- they care about solving their problems. And by bringing the focus onto yourself, you’re showing that you don’t.

6) The Sharp Angle Close

This close is used in response to a prospect question about the product. When a prospect asks, “Does the product do X?”, a rep responds, “If it did, would you be willing to buy today?”

Why it sucks: Your primary responsibility as a salesperson isn’t just to close deals -- it’s to close good deals that benefit both you and your prospect. If your prospect is still asking questions, it’s because they don’t fully understand the product and its value. Instead of using their question as an opening to make a hard sell, answer it.

7) The Takeaway Close

When the prospect expresses hesitancy around the price, a salesperson using this close removes something they know the prospect wants. For example, the rep might say, "Okay, if you don't want to go any higher than $400, I'll remove the option to get priority support. You've said priority support is really important to you, but that's the only way we can meet that price."

Why it sucks: This strategy relies on the human aversion to having things taken away. The problem with using it? You're backing yourself into a corner. If the buyer replies, "I can't afford the first price, but I need priority support. I guess I have to go with Competitor X,"  abruptly changing your mind will make you look sleazy and manipulative. 

Sales is better for the buyer and better for the seller when trust is established and reps aren’t employing shady tactics to make a sale. So ditch the tricks and the gimmicks. Being helpful, open, and transparent is the right thing to do -- for yourself, your buyer, and your business. 

Editor's note: This post was originally published in November 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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