Hershey's Bar and Clock

A Tale of (Almost) Two Closes

The scene: Jean smiles, shaking Bob’s hand across the desk, and finishes with, “I know you’re going to be very happy with what we can do for your company.” And Bob responds, “I’m really looking forward to working with you and your team.”

Jean is clearly delighted as she walks out into the crisp, morning air at 9:45 a.m. that Wednesday morning from Bob’s office. She spent weeks learning about his business and tailoring a program for his firm. This morning she walks out to her car with a check from him to start their account. The day is off to a great start.

Later that day, Sally leaves Joann’s office at 2:00 p.m. Not only is she starved, hearing her stomach growling in complaint (having not eaten a thing yet today), but she fears she’s lost Joann’s account before she can even get it to close. What happened?

After weeks of nurturing this prospective client, Sally was thrilled this morning to convince Joann to give her an appointment early this afternoon. She anticipated a quick close, having finally spent weeks learning about Joann’s business, her needs and how her own firm’s services could enhance Joann’s business.

She had carefully outlined the benefits for Joann, making sure she grasped the results and what a hero it would make Joann in the eyes of her boss. One of the greatest difficulties throughout the process had been merely finding time in Joann’s hectic schedule. Today had been no different.

Something felt off when Sally sat down in Joann’s office. Joann was scattered. It sounded like she’d had quite a busy morning already and had yet to slow down. Her focus was anywhere but on the meeting with Sally. And Sally felt Joann was a bit short with her, which hadn’t happened in previous, productive meetings.

Instead of closing the sale as she’d hoped, Sally became frustrated because Joann seemed unusually confused about the benefits her firm would receive from doing business with Sally. As Sally attempted to close the deal Joann completely shut her down expressing lack of confidence in the projected results. Her only salvation seemed to be that Joann didn’t indicate her answer was a complete “no,” but clearly she wasn’t giving her the business this Wednesday afternoon.

“Where did I go wrong?” Sally wondered aloud when she got her car door closed and dejectedly began to drive back to her office.

Can You Beat the Clock?

What if the only difference between Jean’s success and Sally’s failure was the time of day?

Think about it: Jean had Bob’s full attention early in the day. Sally had little, if any, of Joann’s attention. And perhaps, like Sally, Joann hadn’t eaten anything either.

How many of us find our attention waning right before meal time? Do you grab a snack from a desk drawer mid-afternoon to boost your attention or help get you back on track?

A recent study conducted at Columbia University may hold one of the keys to the Successful Close. You can read about it in more detail at Neuroscience Marketing, but the gist of the study reported was that a group of parole judges, who favorably approved around 65% petitions earlier in the day, had their affirmative decisions plummet to nearly 0% by meal time. This happened repeatedly. (Obviously you don’t want to be a criminal up for parole right before lunch!)

The Grumpy Factor

What caused the nose-dive in affirmative parole decisions? The judges were tuckered out mentally right before meal time. Right after meals their affirmative decision rate zoomed back up to 65%.

We make better decisions when our energy is high. First thing in the morning and after meals our bodies have the necessary nutrients to function in an optimum manner. We can better evaluate options in making a decision and feel more confident in the decisions we make. On the other hand, at low-energy periods our brains simply don’t process data as well or as quickly as we like. It is easier under those circumstances to simply say, “No.”

Of course, studying the decisions made by a handful of parole judges isn’t necessarily the same thing as studying the nuances or statistics of a million sales call closings throughout the day. But another study also looked at the ability to focus on a task for a given length of time. (Ok, this time it was a study on dogs. But that doesn’t mean the principles don’t apply to us when it comes to the length of our attention span.)

In short, a drop in glucose levels results in a drop in attention. Fido needs a Milk-Bone to continue.

The Butterfinger Bribe

You might conclude that the simple answer is to pack a case of Butterfingers in your briefcase to ensure prospects have adequate fuel to give you a “Yes” on your sales call. (But given the number of folks with blood-sugar issues I’d recommend packing a carton of orange juice as well.) However, your prospects may not care to have food or beverage forced down their gullets before announcing their decision about your sales call.

Tips for More “Yeses”

Leaving out the part about having a fantastic product or service your prospect cannot possibly walk another day on this earth without, here are a few other tips to ensure a successful close:

  1. Track your own sale closing times and note what time(s) of day works best for you. Stick with it.
  2. Control the appointment for the “closing” meeting: Instead of asking what time slots are available to meet, offer your prospect your one or two available slots – early in the morning or take her for lunch.
  3. If the only time a prospect has available is late in the day when you know energy is dipping, adjust your pitch and commentary accordingly. Many prospects want to give you a “yes” answer but are held back by brain cells that aren’t fully functional. (Offer that Butterfinger if you know it works for you!)
  4. Help them make the decision by going back over previously agreed upon details. (“Remember how much you liked X when we discussed how it would help you two weeks ago?”) You may have to rebuild her enthusiasm, but it’s worth it if it makes your close easy in the end.

When push comes to shove, perhaps you should consider that secret weapon. Even the candy’s slogan implies the owner of the bar is grumpy from a drop in her glucose level: “Nobody better lay a finger on my Butterfinger.”