There’s No Such Thing as Closing

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I was once teaching a class about partnerships between startups and Big Companies, and one of the students came up to me after class with a complaint.

“To be honest, I was hoping to learn some ‘ninja tactics’ for closing deals,” he said.

“That’s silly,” I told him. “There are no such things as ninjas.”

OK that’s not true. Ninjas are real, and they are dangerous. But seriously, there are no such things as secret “closing tactics” harbored by stealth clans of business developers that can suddenly bring a deal from a standstill to a contract.

Closing Is an Outcome

In business development and sales, there is a danger in thinking of “closing” as a technique to be mastered. Closing is not an event, it is an outcome: closing occurs when the product of a deal creates so much value for the individuals and organizations on both sides of the table that moving forward becomes an inevitable next step.

“Poppycock,” you might say if you were prone to using a hilarious vocabulary. “My deals would stall forever if I didn’t apply a bit of pressure once in a while.”

Wordplay is Not Enough

There are certainly techniques that people use to force a deal to come to fruition. Instilling a sense of urgency, suggesting that their competitors are knocking on your door, even the ole’ good/bad cop routine — there’s no shortage of classic “techniques” that suggest a clever turn of phrase to suddenly transform a “maybe, someday” into a “yes, right now.”

Prodding a contact to usher a deal through their organization isn’t necessarily bad, and to be frank, it’s occasionally necessary to put a bit of muscle into a negotiation to keep the ball rolling. But it is unfair to suggest that wordplay alone can close a deal. At least not one that actually lasts.

While ninjas can throw down a smoke bomb and disappear into the night, you can’t; once your smoke cloud dissipates, the resulting deal will be out in the open for all to see. If it doesn’t truly drive value to both sides, then the deal will die.

Playing the Long Game

It’s not that hard to get someone to say yes once, but twist someone’s arm into a deal with false promises and subterfuge and you’ll never get them to say it a second time.

Business development is about creating sustainable value that persists over the long-term. That requires a deeper level of buy-in on both sides, and an appreciation that what’s promised in the terms of a deal will ultimately pay off in the form of the value that the deal actually delivers. It’s a long road to closing, and unfortunately there are no easy shortcuts. Closing will not be an “inevitable next step” until you can find alignment between the value to the Organization and the value to the Individual.

It takes time to find the right mix of people who are both personally invested in what you have to offer and are empowered by the organization to make a decision on its behalf. But when you’ve invested the time and resources to find those people, you can immediately get to work in constructing a deal that gets both sides excited to get to market. And once you do, you’ll quickly find yourself needing a pen.

2 Responses to There’s No Such Thing as Closing
  1. Rob K Reply

    Scott- Good post. I agree that alliances aren’t about getting to closing. OK great, you closed. Now what? I think we share the opinion that alliances are about getting to value (post closing). That said, it is easy for things to stall and die off, especially in the small company / big company alliance. I had a mentor who always said “Time Kills All Deals.” He even had me find it in Latin and put it in our conference room.

    • slpollack Reply

      Totally agreed, great comment Rob. I also subscribe to the notion that “time kills all deals”, but I think a prerequisite to pushing past a stalled deal is to see what gaps in value need to be filled. That might mean narrowing the scope of the deal to make it easier for the organization to swallow (and plant the seeds for future expansion), or that might mean that you have the wrong folks engaged in the process. In either case (or any similar scenario) if you try to force a deal to close before they’re truly bought in, you’re gonna have a bad time.
      Like I said, sometimes you gotta push to keep things moving but be wary of “closing techniques” offered in a vacuum – they will be misapplied if there isn’t a solid foundation of value to begin with.

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