Your customers are looking for a good product at a fair price, but some customers just ask for too much. They demand deep discounts and excessive payment terms, and they push and push.
A procurement manager once joked to me, “We squeeze a nickel until the beaver poops!”
This is a Canadian colloquialism, because the Canadian 5¢ coin has a beaver on it. The procurement manager was pointing out their unstated policy: squeeze vendors for every nickel.
Selling on price sucks. Use this sales tactic when you or your sales reps feel excessive pressure, “Close the Briefcase.”
A Powerful Sales Tactic
Early in my career I brought my sales manager along to help me close a big deal. I’d been negotiating with a prospective customer for several weeks, and I needed his help bring this “whale” home.
It was a difficult meeting. The customer clearly wanted our product, but he kept throwing up roadblocks and demands that our CFO wouldn’t accept.
After 40 minutes of going nowhere my sales manager shocked me. He closed his notebook and said, “Gentlemen, I appreciate the time you have invested with us, but it appears we can’t do business with you. You’re not a fit for us.” He stood up and headed for the door. He gave me a quick look and said, “Let’s go Jeremy.”
I was in shock. I’m pretty sure every bit of color drained from my face. This was a big deal. It had the potential to make my year, and my manager just killed it!
In a daze I stood up and headed for the door.
Before we even made it past reception the President of the firm called us back. He came rushing out, and asked for five more minutes. The next five minutes were a breeze. The customer accepted the terms, and the deal was done.
Close the Briefcase
My manager explained afterwards that he used the “Close the Briefcase” sales technique. The name comes from a time when salesmen carried a briefcase. Closing ones briefcase was a sign the meeting was over.
He said, “Not all deals are good deals. Be proud of what you sell, and never let anyone beat you up on price or denigrate our brand. You have to have the courage to walk away if a customer doesn’t fit.”
My manager then smiled wryly and said, “But no customer ever likes to be told they can’t buy.”
Walking away shifts the balance of power. Essentially you’re saying, “Take it or leave it.”
It takes intestinal fortitude to walk away from a prospect, and sometimes it means losing a deal. But if the customer seriously wants your services they’ll come back and accept your terms.
If you’re willing to be strong and proud of your brand, you can walk away from a bad customer. And you should.
Why It Works
I love the Close the Briefcase sales technique for three reasons:
- Know Your Value. It’s really easy to get caught up in a sales process and try to win at all costs, but not all customers are good customers. Know your value, take pride in it, and sell it. If a prospect doesn’t recognize or want what you have to offer, then don’t try to convince them. Walk away.
- Don’t Waste Time. Negotiating is a step in the sales process. There’s no point wasting your time trying to convince someone to buy when all they care about is getting the cheapest price.
- Position of Power. No one likes to hear, “No.” The thing that surprises me most about the Close the Briefcase tactic is how many customers reverse their position after they know you’re prepared to walk from the deal. You are taking back control by saying “no,” and showing the boundaries of how far you will negotiate.
Closing the briefcase is a power move. You don’t use it often, but it’s incredibly effective when you do.