"Being asked to develop and find new clients to build a new business thousands of miles away from my home country is a big challenge. I am fortunate that, immediately prior to taking on this assignmen.. Tarsem Basran
(Former) Head of Group Business Development
 – TMF Group
 

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"Closing is a fool’s errand that alienates buyers.” Really?!? NO.



A few months ago I came across a blog post by Mike O’Horo who, like me, trains lawyers to sell their services. In the article, Enough With This “Closing” Madness, he writes about a thread he’d seen on Quora which posed this question: “What is the best way to ‘close’ a prospective client who has a pain that you can solve with legal services?” 

O’Horo asserts that the question is invalid because it “assumes the legitimacy of closing. Closing cannot have any legitimacy.” He discusses his reasoning for such an opinion and ends with this: “Think about this: When you’re buying something, do you enjoy having someone try to close you? Closing is a fool’s errand that alienates buyers. It’s like teaching a pig to fly: It doesn’t work, and it irritates the pig.” 

Well, I took exception with that last idea especially and here’s the comment I shared on O’Horo’s blog:

 
Michael, I think the issue here is with your definition of "closing." Having taught business development skills to legal professionals and others in the professional services world for many years, now, I've defined "closing" as "encouraging a prospect to come to a decision."

This is important because we know that the vast majority of conversations in which a legal professional is hoping to move to a real, substantive discussion of a business problem end with ... nothing. Other priorities get in the way, and the discussion dies, even if it was about a real, legitimate pain the prospect has. Somehow other real, legitimate pains arrive to move this one further down the priority list, and no action is taken.

So, in my view, we should move to close in every interaction we have with a prospect. That is to say, we should encourage him/her to make a decision -- upon meeting us, is it worth scheduling a meeting? Upon meeting with us, is it worth scheduling some sort of next step with us? And upon scheduling some sort of next step(s), is it worth it to put us to work on their behalf?

At each stage of this process, of course, one of the possible answers to those questions is "NO, it's not worth it." And at that point we have to understand that, for our prospect, given everything else on his/her plate, this matter isn't worth pursuing right now. It's important that we understand that there's a difference between "irritant pain" -- things that bother our prospects, but not enough for them to take action/spend some money to correct, and "actionable pain" -- things that bother our prospects badly enough to move them to act.

You're absolutely right that no one wants to be "act(ed) upon." Nor do they want to be argued with, pushed around, or manipulated. At the same time, without asking for the business -- or at least for another conversation -- we may miss the chance to move the business opportunity forward to benefit both ourselves and our prospects.

Do you make it your business to discern whether your prospects have “irritant” or “actionable” pain, and do you remember to let those who are merely irritated go in peace? Knowing the difference between the two types of pain – and the optimum action to take – will improve your business development results! Share your ideas in the comments below. Learn more here.
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