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A Client You Can Never Close


So, you had a great meeting with a local direct client. The last words you heard from her were, That sounds great. I think we can do this. Just let me take care of a couple of things first and Ill get back to you within the week. The week comes and goesstill no call back. You write an email. No reply. You call back and get the answering machine. You leave a message. You begin panicking. No call back. You call again and leave another message. Again, no reply. What happened?

Elusive and disappearing clients are so frustrating to deal with. Just when you think youve got him, he magically slips away from you. In this article, well address the best ways to pin down local direct decision-makers and stop much of this time-wasting, cat-and-mouse game.

First, never assume anything (unless youre using the assumptive close). A great broadcast seller that I have known for decades was fond of saying, Its not a sale until its collected. Hes right.

Ive asked sellers, So, how did that appointment go with ________? and they respond, Oh, we had a great conversation. Shes really enthusiastic and she likes our station. And I say, Did you get the order? No. But she says shell get back with me next week. That is not a close. Ill get back to you is usually just a nice way of saying no.

Some people just dont feel comfortable saying no. So, they just dont ever say it. Some entire cultures dislike telling someone no. This is particularly true in some Asian countries, where telling someone no is considered a sign of rudeness. In fact, in Japan youre better off asking questions where you will get a yes answer. For example, Is there anything you dislike about this proposal? and the client may answer, Yes, there is something. 

Your objective is to discover the truth, whether it hurts you or not. In other words, the objective is the objection. Once you discover the problem, you can work to correct it. Maybe then youll be able to close the client. Maybe you wont. But at least youre not spinning your wheels chasing a fairytale fantasy.

I prefer using several different closes to get the information that I need. The direct close, Great. Lets do it, is a good way to start. If the client balks, you know there is a hidden objection. Find out what it is by asking directly,

What is it about the proposal that makes you hesitate? 

Sometimes, I begin with the assumptive close. As I begin, I simply say, Okay, heres what were going to do, pretending to assume that the client is already in. At that point, you might hear, Wait, Im not ready yet. Then you dig in deeper and find out why the client is not ready to commit.

The summary close is a great way to pick out objections. First, go over the proposal in its entirety. If afterward the client stays silent, then you go over each bit of your proposal saying, Well then, we agree that well and if there is no objection, go on to the next point, etc. until you fish out an objection. If there are no objections, go back to the direct close, Great. Lets do it, and see if theyll sign the order. If they dont, they still have a secret objection.

Once the client signs, ask for payment. See if you can get a check or a credit card number. If the client hesitates, theres still an objection. Or, try to set up a production time with your client. Again, if the client wavers on an exact day and time, you still have a problem.

Only when the client is absolutely convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that your plan for his success is better than his, will he turn over the keys and let you drive. Up until that point, youve got to uncover objections, dispel misinformation, and patiently answer questions to the clients satisfaction.

Remember that scene from the movie Boiler Room with Ben Affleck? Somebody is always closing. Either youre closing them or theyre closing you. And by remaining elusive, theyre closing you.

The elusive clients motive may or may not be about you or the benefits your station could bring him. Perhaps he doesnt have the money and hes embarrassed to tell you. Perhaps shes not really the decision-maker after all. Perhaps he just doesnt know you well enough to trust you. Maybe they had a previous bad experience with advertising. Maybe he just doesnt like the way you pierce your lips. Whatever it is, your job is to ferret out the truth. If you dont, youll keep playing the game of chase, falsely believing that you have a client in the bag, when in reality, you are the one in the bag.

Paul Weyland helps media companies get long-term local direct business at rate card. You can contact Paul at Pauls new book Think like an Adman, Sell like a Madman is available on his website or on