The Fallacy of the Close is that it's about the anxious moment when the salesperson makes the all-or-nothing request for the order. The Reality of the Close is that it's actually a collection of moments, in which a good sales process produces so much momentum it leads almost casually to placing the order.

When I ask salespeople during seminars, "How do you close?" I discover that many industry veterans can tell what they do at the end of the deal but can't articulate exactly how they made that deal happen beyond blurting out, "May I have the order?" The Reality of the Close actually goes more like this:

Jill intensely prospects for new leads on the phone. She discovers it's difficult to even get a conversation, let alone an appointment. She persists, and after dozens of phone calls encounters a pleasant, open-minded person. This builder prospect agrees to meet her at a specific date, time, and location.

Ring the bell, I say! Jill has just made a "close"–the agreement for a meeting.

At that meeting, Jill surprises her prospect by asking about his business plan, marketing challenges and operational practices. The meeting ends suddenly when the prospect looks at his watch and says he has to leave for an appointment with his client. He apologizes because he has been doing all the talking.

Jill expresses her gratitude to the prospect for sharing and assures him she has ideas and tools to help his marketing efforts. She suggests a follow-up meeting the coming week. The prospect agrees to give her the time she deserves and they put the date into their calendars.

Ring the bell! Jill has just closed another deal–an agreement to deliver a product presentation. At the subsequent meeting, Jill presents a manufacturer's product that carries strong brand awareness, a preferred contractor program and, most important, leads for the builder. Naturally, these brand features make it more than a mere product offer. She is presenting valuable business resources to entice the potential client.

His curiosity piqued, the builder confesses he has no projects in the works, but says he would be interested in talking if he gets the custom home deal he is pursuing. Jill suggests she follow up in a couple of weeks to find out about the project. She asks the client how he would like to hear from her–via phone call, e-mail, or text, for instance. Happy to be asked for his preference, the builder enthusiastically lets her know he prefers text communication. Ring the bell when she sends the text two weeks later! Ring it again when the builder replies that he can meet her two days after that to share the blueprints of the next home he is building.

After their meeting, Jill takes the plans and schedules one more meeting a few days later to deliver her proposal. Ring! The builder reviews the proposal with her and asks for a bit of time to discuss the product with his client. Jill offers to deliver a sample the next day for his presentation. Ring! Two weeks later, Jill receives a call from the builder. He wants to schedule a meeting to place the order.

So when exactly did Jill "close" the deal? Was it during her cold-calling efforts? Was it when she listened rather than pitched early in the process? Was it when she presented the manufacturer's program? Offered to communicate by text? Unveiled the final proposal?

The answer is all of those moments. If you want to close more deals, remember that sales momentum is the key and the Reality of the Close is that it's a series of little victories. Work to fill your calendar with productive time and little victories. Big successes will come easily.

Rick Davis is president of Building Leaders Inc., an LBM advisory firm specializing in sales management training. He is an international speaker and author of Strategic Sales in the Building Industry, a BuilderBook publication. 773.769.4409. E-mail: [email protected]