In this episode, Steli and Hiten are talk about closing especially in sales. Closing is involved in any relationship you have and there’s a foundation that you need to build. Listen as Steli answers questions on how closing doesn’t start with a closing, why is a foundation needed and the major no-nos in closing and selling.  

Time Stamped Show Notes:

  • 00:28 – Hiten introducing closing as it is used in sales and other places
  • 01:20 – What closing means to Steli
    • 01:25 – “Closing is the art of making a decision or facilitate a decision”
  • 01:58 – Closing doesn’t start with closing
    • 02:07 – Closing starts with selling
    • 02:17 – Selling by making a connection to see a fit
    • 02:54 – Closing is the final step
  • 03:59 – Most people find it difficult to make a decision
  • 03:36 – Some misconceptions about closing
    • 04:00 – Closing is a singular event but it is not
  • 05:53 – Closing creates a moment of truth
    • 06:00 – It is an opportunity for people to get real
  • 06:12 – Most people takes rejection negatively
    • 06:20 – People should see it as an opportunity to be excited and improve more
  • 07:38 – “A NO in that moment is a NO but it just means that there’s more to learn here”
    • 08:03 – Take the other person seriously
    • 08:10 – Find the right information for you to help them or to make you decide that it is really not a good fit
    • 08:30 – “Once I’m convinced that there is a fit, I’m will try to close you”
    • 08:50 – Understand the situation and help each other decide not be wrong
  • 10:37 – “There’s a foundation to closing that needs to be set up earlier”
    • 10:40 – The foundation happens in the beginning of any relationship and the goal is to completely show them that the deal needs to happen
    • 11:12 – “I need to get sold on the idea that you need to buy my product”
      • 11:28 – First try to sell yourself and the moment that you’re convinced that your product is the best for them and it will make them successful, don’t ask them to buy but tell them to buy
  • 12:33 – Selling and closing is a transaction of confidence
    • 12:54 – “If you are not confident, you can’t make a decision”
    • 13:28 – You should be confident and have a level of clarity to make a decision that you’re going to sell
  • 14:16 – What are No-Nos in selling or closing?
    • 14:44 – People are not asking for the close
      • 15:00 – People end a conversation without having a next step or call to action
      • 16:00 – “Asking for a close is the greatest way to end the call or talk”
      • 16:40 – Don’t ask late, ask for the close early and often
      • 18:20 – Ask not with a question mark but with an exclamation point
      • 19:21 –  Ask for the close with clarity, keeping an eye contact and expect a yes
      • 19:35 – If you get a no, embrace it – it will make you more confident
  • 21:00 – “When go for the close and asks somebody to make a decision, you need to ask with confidence clarity and expect a yes and if you get a no, embrace it and take it as a learning experience. If you do that, you can have an amazing closure”

3 Key Points:

  1. Closing is the art of making a decision or facilitate a decision.
  2. There’s a foundation to closing that needs to be set up earlier.
  3. When go for the close and asks somebody to make a decision, you need to ask with confidence clarity and expect a yes and if you get a no, embrace it and take it as a learning experience. If you do that, you can have an amazing closure.   

Steli: Hey, everyone this is Steli Efti.

Hiten: And this is Hiten Shah. And today on the Startup Chat, we’re going to talk about closing. And the most common sort of terminology, or when closing is used is in sales. But I would say to just to kind of put this out there is that you’re probably closing all the time. Sales is one of the common places, and a lot of the tactics and things we’re going to talk about apply there, but when you’re trying to close investors on giving you money, that’s another place. When you’re trying to close a team member on joining your team, that’s another place where closing matters.

And there’s a whole number of areas in your life, even like when I negotiated getting the car I wanted with my wife, I had to close her. Or convincing her to get the car she should get, I had to close her because she doesn’t like spending money. So all these tactics are used, and can be used throughout your life, not just in sales. I want to point that out before we start talking about sales. So Steli, obviously this is one where you definitely are going to have much more to say about this than I do, so let’s start with you, what is closing and what does it mean to you?

Steli: So yeah, I think closing is the art of creating a decision, of helping facilitate a decision. As you said this can relate to all kinds of scenarios of life, but what you’re doing is with the tools of communication you are creating a moment of truth. You are a creating a moment of conversion. You’re creating a moment where somebody makes a decision for something or against something, to buy, not to buy, to invest, not to invest, to join your company, not to join your company. There’s a lot –

Hiten: So closing doesn’t start with closing?

Steli: No.

Hiten: That’s kind of what you’re saying.

Steli: Yes.

Hiten: Closing is not really closing, closing starts with something else. What does it start with?

Steli: Well, closing starts with selling, right? so the way that I would think about this is that you show up, which usually means that you are making an initial connection with another human being, either in business, in an investor, or whatever it is, a prospect. You’re making a connection with another human being. You’re trying to uncover if there’s alignment, and if there is a fit for whatever you’re trying to accomplish, or you’re trying to help them to accomplish.

And then you’re selling them, which means you’re trying to understand everything that it will take to get them from realizing that there is an opportunity to work together, that there is a really good fit or alignment, to making the decision and converting and deciding to do it, and following through with that decision. Closing is the very final step.

Closing, because most people have a difficult time making a decision, most of us don’t want to make decisions, closing is the art of at the very final step, the very difficult art of making sure that a decision is being made, the right decision hopefully is being made, and that a decision, and the right decision is being made in a timely fashion.

Hiten: Yeah, I like it. I just think that the reason I pointed that out is I think a lot people think closing is just closing. When, you know, the insight, the first insight I would say about closing that I got from you was that basically closing starts with the first conversation, maybe even before that.

Steli: Yeah, absolutely. And I think – so let me point out one big misconception that people have. The reason I find that most people are really bad a closing, even if they’re doing an insane amount of like promotion and marketing and even selling, trying to convince people of things, they’re really bad at the art of the close at the end of the conversation, at the end of the sales funnel, or the sales cycle, or the relationship. The reason why most people are really bad at it is because they – well, there are a number of reasons.

Number on is they fear, or they have this misconception that closing is a singular event, and it’s like a one chance. If I ask you: hey, do you want to buy my product, and you say: no, Hiten, that’s it, we’re done for life.

Hiten: Isn’t that it?

Steli: No, it’s not. This is absolutely wrong. Closing is not a singular event, right? You could ask somebody for – I say to get better at closing start asking for it often and ask early. And I tell this story, it’s a little bit of a joke, and it’s something that I have done, but I don’t think most people should do. It’s not part of everybody’s personality, but it’s just a good example for how true this statement is. You know, when I say ask early; ask often, I had a presentation many years ago. I had to demo where a prospect, two people from the company came in, in person to get a demo from me about this product.

And as they walked into the conference room, and as we shook hands, they sat down and I looked at them and I went, “Alright, gentlemen, are you guys ready to buy?” And they looked at each other and they were like, “Well, we thought today would be the demo. We have not seen the product yet.” And I was like, “You’re absolutely right. You guys seem very decisive, so I thought maybe you made up your mind already, if not we’ll get back to this question after the demo.” And I just started the demo.

And this is very much something that is my style and it is not for everybody, but you can ask somebody: hey, are you ready to buy at the hello, and they go: no, I’m not ready to buy. And you go: perfect, what do we need to do get you ready? Well, perfect, I just wanted to check. I’ll come back to this question at the end of our meeting again. Just because somebody says no, it’s not the end of the sale or the end of the relationship, it’s the beginning.

And honestly, I love – the reason why I love the close is because it creates a moment of truth, because when somebody tells me no, that’s a beautiful thing to me because it is an opportunity for us to get real. And it’s an opportunity for me to figure out what is missing? Alright, you’re not – like, let’s say at the end of the demo I go: gentlemen are you ready to buy now? And they tell me: no, not quite yet. Most people will take that as a real visceral emotional rejection and they’ll feel horrible in the moment.

They’ll feel embarrassed and they won’t know how to handle it. I think people need to reframe it and see it as a huge opportunity. When somebody tells me no, I get excited. I go awesome, what did I miss? What do we still need to do to get you to a yes, tell me more, help me understand you. And then when they tell me: well, we’re still really worried about security, or this or that, or whether they say we’re not really sure if this is the right tool for us. To me that’s great, we’re getting to the truth.

I get to learn something, we’re getting somewhere. Most people want to avoid that, so they just talk, and talk, and talk, and talk, until they think the chances are higher that they’re going to get a yes. And if they don’t think the chances are high, they’re not asking for the close.

Hiten: I really like that. I don’t think I’ve heard people really think about it like that. Okay, so if it works like that, and I shouldn’t take a no for a no, how should I think about that? I think many of us would take a no and walk away from it.

Steli: Yeah.

Hiten: Right, and just be done with it. And what you’re trying to tell me, if I’m hearing you correctly is that no means maybe, or no means not yet? What does the no mean then?

Steli: Well, to me this is a great question. So there’s some, the old school sales model, I think, was suggesting a no is really just a yes. You just have to keep asking, until you just magically turn it into a yes. I think that’s bullshit. I don’t think that no is a yes, or a no is a maybe. A no in that moment is no, but my perspective on this is that a no just means there’s more to learn here. And I’m not trying – when somebody tells me no, I’m not thinking internally: ha, ha, you’re going to buy. I’m going to make you buy even if you don’t want it. I’m not saying ha, ha, you don’t know it’s a maybe, you’re just not realizing it yet.

I’m taking them – like, I’m taking the other person seriously, but when I’m thinking when somebody is telling me know is there is information I don’t have yet. And I need to have that information to either be able to help them make a great better decision, or for me to realize that this is truly not the right thing for them and I shouldn’t be trying to close them. Some of – so since I went through the exercise to try and qualify them and trying to first figure out if there’s a fit. Once I’m convinced that there is a fit, I’m trying to close you.

If you don’t want to buy, it means I don’t have – there’s some information I haven’t uncovered yet to either help you make a better decision because you didn’t – are not thinking about it the right way, or for me to reevaluate thinking that you are a good fit. One of us is wrong and I’m trying to understand who it is and help each other not be wrong. So when you tell me no, all I want to know is why? And I want to truly figure out if that why is a reason to stop the conversation? If it’s really a big red or flag or reason not to work together, or if it’s just means that I missed an opportunity to give you the right information, or if it’s just something I haven’t considered, but we can work around. Does that make sense?

Hiten: Yeah, it does. So when you get the no, make sure you figure out why it’s a no, because there’s a chance that – there’s a big chance that you could turn it around. That’s basically it, right?

Steli: Yeah, that’s basically it. When somebody tells you no, it’s an opportunity to learn. Like, you need to lean in. it doesn’t mean the deal is done, but it doesn’t mean that you’re going to get the deal, it just means now is the time to get – there’s an opportunity to get more information and more data, in order to either be able to close them and turn it into yes, or to convince you that it isn’t.

Somebody is always being closed, either they close you by not buying, or you close them on buying. Somebody is going to have to be closing in any kind of interaction, so a no to me is just a moment of truth and opportunity to learn more in order to go one way or the other in the deal.

Hiten: Yep, it makes sense. So what I’m curious about, and I’m still, I’m a little stuck on this because I know we went all the way to the no, but I would want to know if your thesis is that closing starts from that, sort of that first touch, that first conversation, or even before that, how should I be thinking about closing during that time? Like, what are the tactics, what should I be doing, because to me what you’re basically saying is that, if I’m hearing you correctly, is that there’s almost a foundation for closing that you need to set up much earlier.

Steli: Yes. So I think that the foundation really is that what you’re trying to do at the beginning of any relationship, and relationship here means investors, employees, customers, doesn’t really matter what kind of – it’s always a relationship between humans. At the beginning of that relationship your goal needs to always – your goal needs to always be to get to a point where you’re completely convinced and confident that this deal needs to happen, like just to take the sales example, right? So when we first talk, my number one priority is I need to get sold on the idea that you need to buy my product.

And so I’ll ask all the questions, and I’ll try to do all the research, and I’ll try to really understand your situation, your workflow, your company, your pain points, until I get sold. At first I’m trying to sell myself. The moment I get sold, the moment I’m convinced and completely confident that our product is the best product for you, and you need to buy it, and it is going to make you successful, at that point I’m not asking you to buy, I’m not, you know, second guessing, I’m actually operating under the principle that there’s not even a choice.

I’m telling you to buy. And I’m going to – I’m operating kind of from the same perspective that let’s say a good doctor would. So first I’m just trying to diagnose what’s going on, but the moment I’m certain of my diagnosis of what the issues is, I’m prescribing a solution. And I’m not wishy-washy about it. I’m not doubtful. This is not discussion. I’m not sitting down as a doctor and like: well, maybe it’s this, maybe you want to do that. No, I’m telling you: okay, this is the problem and here’s how we’re going to fix it, just trust me.

Do XYZ, I’ve done this a million times before; it’s going to make you healthy and happy again. Like, I’m telling you what we’re going to do because I’m the expert. I’m not asking you what to do. I think that’s a very important thing because selling and closing even in particular, is really a transaction of confidence. It’s that you are afraid to make a mistake as a buy in this example. You are afraid to purchase something that’s not right for you. And if I am doubtful myself, if I am fearful myself that you’re going to say no, your doubt can never then be transformed into confidence.

And if you are not confident, you can’t make decisions. If you are not confident and comfortable, you cannot decide to do something. You’re always going to try to avoid or postpone the decision. So first I’m trying to close myself on the idea that this is the right thing for you, and once I’m closed, I’m closing you. It’s not a question. It’s not like – and I need to be completely confident. I need to have a high level of clarity. And I have to have made the decision that this is happening, you are buying because that confidence, that clarity, will comfort you as the buyer to make a decision and to follow my advice and to go with what I’m telling you to do.

Hiten: I really like that. I feel like there’s so much more that you could give around this topic. So what I’m wondering is could we make this just about a whole bunch of tips around closing that you would give people?

Steli: Yes.

Hiten: The reason is I’m getting a lot of value from this. And it’s like I keep asking you different questions, but I feel like you have such a wealth of knowledge around how to close the right way, and how to go through the whole process, so you don’t screw it up. So one example would be maybe to help inspire you, I want to know the things that people do that screw it up? So what are the no-no’s? I’d love a bunch of tips around that.

Steli: Yes.

Hiten: Because I think people are probably getting on calls today, people that are listening, trying to close things, whether it’s like me trying to convince my wife to buy a car, or the folks that are getting on sales calls as founders or sales people and we’re probably screwing it up, so tell us what’s up? Tell success where we’re screwing up and what to do about it?

Steli: Cool. Yeah, so I think the number one closing mistake that people make is they’re not asking for the close. This is the most trivial and simple thing in the universe, but it’s the most prevalent, like the most – the thing I’m observing the most when I join founders demos with prospects, or negotiations with customers, is that they end the conversation and they’re not asking for the next step and they don’t have a call to action in their email, it’s just the same thing. It’s like they’re talking, talking, talking, they’re demoing their product for an hour, and then they end the conversation because they are afraid of rejection.

Because they are not yet certain that they completely convinced the other person, because they didn’t go through the exercise of truly being convinced themselves. They end the conversation on kind of a really mute note and go: well, this was a really a productive conversation, thank you so much for your time. Yeah, so why don’t you talk amongst yourselves and then maybe you want to let us know over the next few days, or we will check in with you again and see where we can take it from here.

And I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen founder COs, or even sales people end a conversation with a prospect like this and it drives me crazy. Ask for the fucking close already. Just go: hey, are you guys ready to buy? But most people –

Hiten: So simple.

Steli: So simple.

Hiten: It’s not scary. You shouldn’t be scared to ask that. It’s just a simple question, like it’s a great way to end the call, too.

Steli: It’s the greatest way to end the call. It’s like: okay, are we ready to do this now? And if we’re not, that’s totally fine, but let’s figure it out, like are we ready? We’ve spent an hour together, let’s go. Have we made a decision yet? And if not what do we need to do to get to a decision? But most people, the number one closing mistake is you are not asking for the close. In life in general, think about all these situations where you end the conversation and the interaction and you never go for it, you never ask for what you want.

So that’s the number one, the biggest mistake that people don’t ask for the close. The other thing, which is related to that, is that they don’t ask for it because they’re waiting for the perfect moment, so they ask it very, very late. Don’t ask so late for the close, ask early and ask often. As I said earlier, closing is not a onetime event. You might have to ask three or four times until you turn somebody around. Just in general in life most things are like that, where the first time around it didn’t work out, you’re not done yet. You’re not done yet. It means you need more information, more knowledge, more skills.

You need to approach it in a different way, but it doesn’t mean necessarily that this is done forever. So asking early and asking often, something people are not comfortable with, some people are not doing – they’re waiting forever to ask for the close, which means you’re wasting a shit ton of time. And you’re wasting time trying to mind read and guess what needs to happen, instead of just learning it from the prospect itself. Hey, what do we need to do to make this happen, versus going back to your office and having an all hands meeting.

Well, I think that they are thinking this, so I think the next thing we need to do is prepared a PDF with that. Like, don’t fucking mind read, just ask them. Let them give you all the information, right? Let them tell you what needs to happen. Anyway, so asking early, asking often is another thing people just don’t do. They ask way too late and they take way too much time to even ask. The next thing is that when you – and this is – I know that this is a challenging idea, but stay with me for a second. I think that most people – and this takes time, but you can and should train yourself to learn to expect the yes and embrace the no.

So when I ask you to do something, I’m not asking with a question mark at the end, I’m asking with an explanation. When I say are you ready to buy, I’m expecting a yes in that moment. I need to communicate as if you saying yes would be totally normal. I can’t – my body language, my tonality, my voice, my manners, cannot suggest that I’m expecting rejection. Because the problem if I do it that way, if I communicate to you that I actually expect you to tell me no, is I’m going to strongly influence you. You’re going to have this gut feeling that you should probably tell me no.

Why? Because if I suggest that I expect rejection, your interpretation subconsciously is going to be that I’m probably being rejected a lot. And if I’m probably being rejected a lot, it means that’s it’s probably a good idea to also reject me. It’s one on one human psychology, what attraction, what attracts us to people, versus not attract us to people. If we think everybody else has rejected this person because this person walks around in life not being that confident, it means we also don’t feel attracted to them. So you have to ask for the close with confidence, with clarity, expecting the yes, keeping eye contact, smiling.

You know, acting as if saying yes is the most natural thing that they would say right now. It’s something you hear all day long. And then when they give you the yes, awesome, but if they give you the no, which happens as often as the yes, if not more often usually, when they give you the no, you need to embrace that. And that makes people even – that takes even more confidence, and that makes – but that makes you even more attractive to people. 99 percent of the time when I say no to somebody, what is it that I typically witness when I reject somebody? I typically witness them crashing and burning in their confidence.

I witness them in body language, like having their shoulders hanging and their head looks down, and their eyes go inward, and they feel bad, and they feel embarrassed. And they just try to – it’s socially awkward and they try to leave. That’s usually what I expect as a response when I reject somebody. So when that doesn’t happen, when I reject somebody and that person laughs honestly and authentically, looks me in the eye and goes: awesome, hey, I appreciate your honesty. What’s missing Steli? What do I need to do to make this happen?

What do I think, holly shit this person is confident. What does that mean psychologically, it means this person probably has a lot of success in life that they are able to deal with rejection. So it makes me more comfortable with you. It makes me be more attracted to you. It makes me feel even more like I want to do business with somebody like that. And as I alluded to earlier, it’s an opportunity – when I embrace the no it’s an opportunity to learn and to potentially turn this into a yes, or turn it into a learning experience because I missed something that I can now prevent next time around.

So when you go for the close, when you ask for somebody’s business, or for somebody to make a decision, you need to be able to ask with confidence and clarity, and expecting the yes, and if you get a no, you need to be able to embrace that. And if you do that, you’re going to become an amazing closer. It’s just as simple as that.

Hiten: I think we got to end on that note.

Steli: I think so, too.

Hiten: Because you said if we do that we’re going to become amazing closers, and then I know that’s what we want, so thank you, Steli.

Steli: Hey, this was fun, thank you so much.

Hiten: Later.

[End of Audio]

Duration: 23 minutes