The "puppy dog close" and other old tricks

When it comes to closing, there’s one very good reason why the “oldest tricks in the book” almost never work: Because outdated closing techniques are, by definition, out of date.

Everyone — including your prospects — has heard of them, seen them in action or been subjected

to them a hundred times over. And as a professional salesperson, the last thing you want your client to think is that you’re just trotting out “Sales Nugget #5,” instead of getting to know them, their needs, and what your product can do to help meet them.

If you need proof, consider the following experience I had last summer.

My husband and I were out shopping for a new car. We found one we liked, and the sales rep was friendly, helpful and treated us with respect. That is, until after the test drive, when he leaned over the hood of the car, looked me straight in the eye, and spoke.

Salesman: “”You know, that’s a really popular car you’re looking at. I sold 50 of them last year.

“”This steel grey one you like is hot. I have two green ones in the back, but I know you don’t like green. I can guarantee that if you don’t put a deposit on this last grey one today, this car won’t be here on Monday.””

Normally I would have either laughed or just walked away, but I was so shocked at his approach that I couldn’t resist firing back:

Me: “”Excuse me, but are you using the “”impending doom close”” on me?”

Salesman: “”Excuse me?””

Me: “”You know, the “”impending doom close.”” It’s the old closing tactic where you tell me that if I don’t take action today, there’s a risk that the opportunity won’t be availabletomorrow. Are you actually trying to tell me that the factory is never going to make another grey car again?””

Needless to say, he lost the sale.

Why didn’t we buy from this salesman? Because, to quote my one-year-old niece, the sales techniques he used were “”so old I fell off my dinosaur.”” In fact, his sales techniques were really just sales tricks, and the last thing we were looking for when we walked into that dealership was to be manipulated or forced into buying before we were ready.

The usual suspects

As a general rule, if you’re using a sales technique that has a cute nickname, or a starring role in movies like Tin Men, Tommy Boy, Glengarry Glen Ross or the Boiler Room, then you need to stop using it. Immediately. After all, what do you think the odds are that these movies are modeled after good, solid sales behavior? Where would be the fun in that? Even worse, chances are that your prospect has seen these tricks before, too, and most likely has an effective process for countering all of them.

Just a few of the more common outdated sales techniques include the Ben Franklin Close, the Puppy Dog Close, the Impending Doom Close, the Wimpy Burger, the Negative Reverse, the Silent Treatment, Good Cop — Bad Cop, the Four Doors and the Assumptive Sandwich.

Other than the fancy names, what do these techniques all have in common? They all try to trick the prospect into buying something, instead of trying to build a relationship in which both parties will benefit.In other words, they’re manipulative, they’re lazy, and in the final analysis, they just don’t work.

So what can we do instead? Remember, people buy from people they like and trust. So let’s revisit the four key principles of building high trust relationships:

1. You can’t sell to everyone.

This is a simple fact, but it’s also often overlooked. In every market, there will always be at least one person who will not, for whatever reason, want to buy from you. In fact, if — as I said in my last column — an average sales rep will close one in three qualified leads, then statistically speaking 70 per cent of all prospects won’t buy from you.

Don’t be afraid of this fact. Instead, take it with you into every sale. Be up front with your customers. Let them know that you’re not there to waste their time or sell them something they don’t want, and that it’s okay for them to choose not to proceed. The truth is, the more chances you given them to say no, the more often they will say yes. Plus, your refreshingly honest approach will help break down the artificial barriers your prospect puts up to protect themselves from traditional sales people.

The result? You’ll be able to have an open, honest sales dialogue and exchange of ideas. Remember, sales is a conversation between two people, in which you discuss how to make decisions that are in the bestinterests of both of you.

2. Your customers are more interested in you then they are in the products and services you’re selling.

Your prospects aren’t looking for “sales people.” They’re looking for people they can trust to advise and influence them on important decisions. True influence happens when your prospect trusts youenough to believe your idea or buy your product because they want to, not because they were forced, tricked or manipulated into it.

Ultimately, there is no influence without trust. To build that trust, try the following three ways to improve rapport between you and your clients:

Make sure your body language, words and tone all match. When was the last time you believed someone who told you that they’d be happy to help you, but said it through gritted teeth and with their arms crossed tightly over their chest? Your body language will always give you away, so if you’re feeling angry, frustrated or just plain down, check your body language — and then check it at the door.

Match the atmosphere, spirit and posture of your prospect.Stand, walk or sit like them. Pay attention tohow they move or remain still. Then gradually adapt your positions to mirror theirs.

Match your customer’s tone of voice. Vocal tone is comprised of pitch (high or low), speed (fast or slow) and volume (loud or soft). If those around you are speaking in quieter or more boisterous tones, do the same.

3. What you do and say in the first minute will determine whether or not a prospect will trust you.

It’s a cliché, but all the research proves that it’s true nonetheless: you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So make sure your first impression is a good one.

The biggest mistake I see in the field these days is sales people trying to build rapport the old fashioned way – by picking something in the prospect’s office to bond on. Don’t ask about the family photos, the painting of the fishing boat on the wall or the hockey trophy in the display case, especially on the first visit to someone’s office. This is getting toopersonal too soon.

Sure, these comments might be harmless, but then again, but they could also lead to a disastrous mistake. Like wasting your entire meeting discussing their love of sailing. Or complimenting their son by calling him “a beautiful little girl.”

Don’t believe anything like that could really happen to you?Neither did I. But if you e-mail me, I’ll be happy to give you all the gory details of how yours truly succeeded in ruining two brilliant prospects by committing precisely these fatal errors.

4. Decision makers will buy what they need from sales people who understand what they want.

Even if we can’t provide a solution, if we show that we genuinely understand what our prospects want, and recognize it as having value, then they will be far more likely to trust us and, eventually, to buy from us.

How do we find out what they want? Just ask. But ask questions that get beyond their needs. For example, try some of the following:

What about x is valuable to you?

What have you tried before? How did that work out?

Why is this problem so important for you to fix?

What happens if you do nothing? What happens if this problem continues?

What have you tried so far?

Once you have their answers, try using their own words in your comments or questions. This will signal to your prospect that you understand them, encouraging them to trust you more.

If it seems like I’m a bit fanatical about the dangers of outdated selling techniques, you’re right. I am. Many have called me a non-conformist or contrarian in the area of sales, and I consider that to be a compliment.

Why? Over the last 30 years, our prospects have evolved to become smarter and savvier. Why can’t we?

See you next month, when we tackle “average sales mistake” number three: not accepting objections as buying signals.

Colleen Francis is a certified sales professional advisor. You can catch her on the Web at

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