I learned the lesson of Rule Number Three the hard way, when a lot of money was on the line and I said and did exactly the wrong thing.
I was selling a computer system and installation consulting services to a manufacturer of high-technology camera equipment—the kind of cameras that are used in surveillance aircraft. My associates and I had spent weeks determining exactly the system that fit the company, and it all came down to getting a signature on an agreement.
I arrived in the company president’s office, greeted him, put my briefcase on the floor next to me, opened it, extracted my leather portfolio with the agreement inside, and, after a bit of small talk, said, “Fred, as you know, I’m all set to get the equipment ordered and the staff into training on the new system. May I have a signature on the agreement here to do that?”
I put the agreement in front of him and handed him my pen. (That’s Closing Rule Number One: Ask for something—in the form of a question.)
I smiled, but said nothing. (That’s Closing Rule Number Two: Ask and shut up.)
He thought a minute, and then signed.
I removed the agreement and pen from the table—any signed agreement or check or money of any kind should always be put away immediately— sliding the agreement into my leather portfolio, and then bending down to put my leather portfolio into my briefcase.
Just then my new client said, “Oh Lenann! Did we decide to get me the big computer screen for my desk, or the small one?”
I straightened up and said, “Fred, remember we tried putting the big screen on your desk, and you felt it took up too much space, so we ordered the smaller one for you. Your assistant Linda is getting the big one, so when she’s typing she’ll see the entire page on her screen...” I bent over to again try to get my briefcase snapped closed.
Fred piped up, “Oh Lenann! Did we plan to put all the accounting department’s staff into the training class at the same time? I’m worried about coverage on the phones.”
And, fool that I am, I answered him, in direct violation of Closing Rule Number Three! “Actually, Fred, we put half the accounting staff in the first week’s class, and half the second week, so we could keep the phones covered.”
I reached for my briefcase one more time when he said, “Oh Lenann! I forgot! The general counsel needs to see that!” And he looked toward my briefcase.
“See what?” I said, glancing at the briefcase blankly, but knowing full well what he meant.
“That!” Fred said, gesturing toward the agreement.
Now, the general counsel, of course, is an attorney. Is he likely to say, “Oh this agreement is perfect and we will agree to all of its provisions?”
Of course not! He’s going to say, “We won’t agree to this part, and we want to change the language here, and rewrite this.”
And my company believed that either the salespeople could sell, or we couldn’t—they generally allowed NO changes in the contract terms. So, there I was, reaching down into my briefcase and extracting the precious signed contract ... and handing it back to my (soon-to-be-former) client.