To Be A Better Closer Be A Better Opener

This question recently landed in my inbox:

Hey Josh,

I wanted to get your perspective on a conversation I had with my CEO.

Prior to doing a demo my CEO presents slides about how our solution ”saves more time, gains better insights and reduces errors”. It’s good but one slide differs between his and mine. I challenged him and asked, “But how do we make our customers kick more ass at what they do?”

He adds:

The CEO wants to leave it up to prospects to figure it out, saying, “we don’t need to explain it.”

This post is 1074 words, but the question above can easily be answered in 7 words:

People buy for their reasons not yours.

It’s easy telling people how your product can help them save time or gain better insights. After all you’re the expert on your product. You know what’s best. But often when you do that, people are confused or say “Thanks”, and you never hear from them again. That’s because people buy for their reasons not yours.

To determine if your prospects are bought into what you’re saying you need have an understanding of what they care about. If you know what’s motivating them, you can align your product to the progress they’re trying to make.

How buying decisions are made

Buyers go through certain predictable and repeatable mental steps before arriving at a purchasing decision. During every conversation, prospects are either “buying-in” or rejecting you, your ideas or your recommendations.

Then at the end of the sale (typically after you pitch and present pricing) the results are processed and the buyer decides if they want to move forward.

The buying decision is actually based a series of smaller “buy-ins” or “rejections”.

It’s like proposing. By the time you kneel down you’re pretty confident you’ll get a yes (or you’ll say yes), because of the smaller commitments along the way ( great dates, hand holding, meeting the parents, etc.).

What is the mental process buyers go through when making a decision?

The questions below represent the mental steps buyers go through when making a purchasing decision. When you align your sales process to answer and get buy-in from the questions below, you’ll help guide your buyer into making a decision.

Here are the questions every buyer is secretly asking themselves:

  1. Do you understand me?
  2. Why change?
  3. Why change now?
  4. Why should I trust you?
  5. Why should I spend the money?

Pitching before you get buy-in on mental steps 1-3 is the equivalent of asking someone on a first date to meet your parents. Before pitching you need to understand your buyer better. (Questions 1-3 above.)

Then you can take what you gleaned and position your offering based on your buyer’s motivations rather than yours. (Questions 4-5 above.)

How to understand your buyer

Here’s a framework you can use to understand your buyer:

Compelling Event

What changed in your business that prompted you to chat with us today?


Where do you want to be say 12 months from now? What does “better” look like?

What’s the value of better? 10k, 100k, 1 billion dollars (said like Austin Powers)?


Where are you today?

May I ask, how are you handling . . .

Many of the customers we work with tell us they’re struggling with A, B and C. Do any of those resonate with you?

Have you considered the impact the new regulations will have on your business?


Why aren’t you there yet? What obstacles have you bumped into?

Why not just keep things the way they are?

Decision Making Process

Is this something you’re looking to change now?

In addition to yourself, is there anyone else that needs to weigh in?

The perfect way to transition into your pitch

After discovery, summarize what you learned using your buyer’s words (because people buy for their reasons not yours).

(Pro tip – take notes during discovery so you can use your buyer’s words when summarizing.)

Say something like, “Bob, let me take a moment to see if understand. Here’s what you told me your goal is. Here’s where you are now. And here’s the roadblocks you’re bumping into. Am I tracking? Did I miss anything?”

You want to hear something like, “Wow, it’s like you work here! Yes, that’s it, now tell us how you can help.” 

If your prospect’s energy is low and you hear something like “Yup”, you probably weren’t curious enough about your buyer.

Next, elegantly transition to your pitch.

The perfect way to pitch

This is worth repeating – people buy for their reasons not yours. Therefore effective demos or pitches aren’t about your product but rather how your product aligns with what your buyer cares about. Once you know what your buyer cares about you can show them your product in the context of what motivates them.

A pitch or demo that aligns with what the buyer cares about sounds like this . .

“Bob, since you told me that you want to update your site without involving IT, let me show you how you’ll be able to do . . . ”

Top performing sales people get buy-in as they are presenting. Thus it’s incredibly important to make sure your demos don’t sound like lectures.

Getting buy-in sounds like this . ..

Salesperson: “You just saw how to update your homepage without IT. How does that compare with what you’re doing today?

Buyer: “A world of difference. We typically have to wait 2 weeks to get IT to make changes. Then we usually need several rounds of revisions which could take another week. Now I’ll be able to just make the changes myself. Much more efficient.

The perfect way to end the date (aka close)

Anytime you feel forced to do something you don’t want to do it. Your buyer’s feel the same way. So don’t force a next step.

Here are some “closing” questions that put your buyer in control while allowing you to gauge their level of interest:

Would it make sense to discuss this with your CEO?

What next step if any would you like to take?

Where would you like to go from here?

The perfect way to end this post

The best closers are really the best openers. The best openers are genuinely curious about buyers in the same way Howard Stern is curious about the people he interviews.

Without aligning the buyer’s words to your product many opportunities will be lost or stalled because people won’t be able to see themselves in it. People buy for their reasons not yours. So demo your product the same way.