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No Proposals Before You Close

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 3/9/15 3:43 PM

How do you close the sale that has had a proposal out for a month now but which you still have no word on?

Not just close it using tricks, but how to do it right, and comfortably, to make sure it is profitable for both parties? This is especially important for professional services firms, like marketing agencies and others whose growth depends on their headcount. Setting the right expectation is crucial, and some rush into proposals and presentations before they have actually closed them.

Yes, close them before the proposal. Better yet, have them help you write the proposal!

Dave Kurlan describes it as the Inoffensive Close in Baseline Selling. I relate it to what I learned from my grandmother in the late 70’s and 80’s. She owned one of the state’s first real estate agencies. She would often take my sister and I to meet with prospective new clients where she spent a lot of time with them asking very personal questions like;

  • Are you pregnant?
  • Do you pay your bills on time?
  • How much money do you make?
  • What is your social life like? Do you have people over a lot? What do you do to entertain?

As you can imagine, she had a way with people where asking these questions didn't come off as nosy or judgmental to them. She didn't click with everyone, but those she did click with, she would sit listening to them spill their life stories for hours. At least to a 9 year old it seemed like hours.

When we would leave, she would say, "Well there is another sale!" Even though they hadn’t signed a contract, or even looked at houses yet- she knew if they would sign on or not because; “If they don’t buy me first, they will never buy (or sell) a house with me.”


There are some steps that must be taken with a prospect, where you aren’t selling a product or a service, but you are selling you. (A much more difficult sale if you ask any sales person who is now an entrepreneur.)

Closing Questions

These aren’t questions you ask verbatim. These are questions your prospect needs to be able to answer about you. But even more importantly, you have to be confident the answers are correct.

  • Do I understand them?
  • Do I have any prior experience with people like them?
  • Do I understand their business, their market, their buyers, or the context of the competitive landscape?
  • Can I empathize with their buyers? Can I put myself in their shoes?
  • What are their goals for the business? How will that impact them personally? When do they want that to happen by?
  • What is the current status quo? Why is that not good enough? How will staying at the status quo impact their goals?
  • Am I confident I can help them?
  • Which matters more to me, the sale or their success?
  • Do we click? Are there any red flags? Have they been brought up?

The close is the most important part of sales- duh. But how you start with them impacts that. If you are an entrepreneur who needs to sell yourself, your team, or a vision rather than a finished product- this is crucial!

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Topics: sales mindsets, sales questions