Seek first to understand before closing

Seek first to understand not to close. Resist the temptation to pluck the low-hanging fruit. For all you know, it could be bait.

To being with, salespeople are primed to close the sale, not seek first to understand. Also, their very success depends on it. In fact, even have clients that call in to say, “We just want you to train our salespeople on how to close.”

Further, in sales, activity is encouraged; however, it is accomplishment that is rewarded. With such messaging continually bombarding the novice seller, you can understand this unfortunate response to the following unsolicited enquiry coming into his inbox:

‘We need souvenir brochures (300 copies, A4, 20 pages approx.) and stage branding printing, as well as a couple of pull up banners for an event on March 16th.’

Exercise patience, seek first to understand

The progressive seller does not grow dizzy from seeing dollar signs and the incessant ominous whispering in his ear urging, ‘Close, close.’ Such dizziness is what yields this unfortunate novice response:

“Quick questions, do you have the artworks ready?  Do you have preferred paper stock to enable me quote? Is the booklet/brochure self-cover? On the roll up banner, what is the size, and do you want light or heavy base? I look forward to your feedback.”

Customers want to buy, not be sold to

As logical as that response seems, it triggers repelling emotions. First, much as people buy, no one wants to be sold to. The potential buyer (prospect) knows they will buy, but that response makes it feel that they are being sold to. Secondly, the response assumes the enquirer knows what they are asking for. For all the seller knows, the enquiry could be a forwarded message from the actual prospect; or, one from procurement seeking a quote just to fulfill the requirement for three.

So, in the former case, the enquirer feels confused and in the latter, the seller, used, especially when silence follows; because they realize it was bait, and they bit. And thirdly, the seller could miss the opportunity for an even bigger sale as this progressive seller response shows.

seek first to understand, not close

Seek first to understand

All this can be mitigated through asking questions. Therefore, the progressive seller first seeks to understand, not to close. So, instead of a knee-jerk, “Quick questions, do you have the artworks ready?  Do you have…”, he asks instead, “To be of greater assistance please let us know what the nature of the event is, and, if you’ve held it before, please share sample marketing material you have printed in the past to enable us appreciate the level of quality you desire (or don’t). Understanding your event will enable us share insights from our own experience that may be of benefit to you. If it’s ok with you, we are happy to meet and share ideas. What do you think?”

The prospect is likely taken aback, warmth filling his heart. He is accustomed to a transactional trigger happy response seeking to sell; this thought out emotional one likely melts his heart, and so he responds in kind. “Yes, please, we’d like that.”


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