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.