It’s Not Your Close That Causes You To Win!


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We spend a lot of time talking about closing.  We focus on doing a great final presentation or proposal.  We worry about finding the right way to close–how to ask for the order in a compelling way.  Frankly, it’s too late–sales are not won or lost at the close, they are won or lost much earlier in the sales process–and– unfortunately, where we probably spend the least time.

Sales are won and lost during qualification and discovery.  Yet these are probably the areas we focus on least.

Qualification—or as I prefer to look at it, “vicious disqualification.”  Too often we chase bad deals, that is deals that aren’t good for us.  They may be real deals, money the customer intends to spend on solving a problem or addressing an opportunity.  But they are the wrong deals for us.  They are a bad fit for our capabilities.  Others can satisfy the needs in a far better fashion than we can.  We chase them though—our funnels are empty, so we chase deals we know we can’t win.  We know through force of personality, persuasion that we can convince the customer they don’t get it.  We wast our time and the customers’ on bad deals.  Winning starts by getting the right deals into your funnel and competing vigorously!

Discovery—understanding what the customer is trying to do.  Learning about their problems, needs, desires.  Understanding the priorities of each person involved in the decision.  Learning about how they will buy, who will be involved, how they will make a decision.  Understanding the alternatives they are considering.  Beginning to facilitate their buying process.  We rush through the discovery phase, we want to get to talking about our products and solutions.  We look for those few trigger words  or phrases that enable us to leap from discovery into presentation and closing.  “Need a new software system?  Stop right there, I’ve got just what you want!”  “New manufacturing control system?  Have I got a deal for you….”

The discovery phase is where the customer lays out the road map for us.  This is where they tell us, “This is what you need to do, this is what we need to understand, follow this path, present the most compelling solution and you will earn the business.” Our job as sales people is to keep asking questions, to keep probing, discovering, until the customer has laid out what it takes to win.  I’ve over simplified it, it’s iterative, there’s a lot of back and forth, there’s a lot we can do in guiding them.  If we do the right job of discovery, the customer lays out what it takes to win, focusing our efforts in presenting the right solution and closing.  We don’t have to guess, we don’t waste our time and theirs pitching features and functions that aren’t important to them.  We focus just on what they need to make a decision.  We use their time on what they want and don’t waste our time. 

Presenting our solutions, closing are important.  It’s important to present a compelling solution and to make sure the customer sees it as superior to other alternatives.  But if we haven’t done the right job qualifying–we may be chasing the wrong deal.  If we haven’t done the right job in discovery, we have no idea what the customer wants to do.

Are you spending enough time — up front — to win the deal?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. Dave: strong qualification skills are important for salespeople, as are qualification processes for a company. That involves knowing the characteristics of a good opportunity, and/or the characteristics of bad ones.

    But salespeople must think of discovery as something that’s important throughout the sales/buying process and beyond, not as a particular phase. Even in a closing call, there’s valuable information to discover: “Will you place an order?” And even that’s not the end point. “How does the process work from this point?” is one of dozens of potential questions to ask after that.

    Another reason for continual discovery is the fact that many prospects don’t provide any “road map” in the early part of the buying process. The most frequent reason I’ve found is that they don’t know it themselves. But even when they do know, conditions change. And in other cases, prospects don’t want a particular vendor to win. The decision has already been made, but Purchasing requires multiple bids. That’s why many vendors think they’re “in the chase,” when they’re really not.

    As you wrote, best to find out early, but there’s no end point for discovery.


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