“The Phone Rang…” Closing and the Classic Closes, Part 1

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Nov 28, 2011

The phone rang. When I answered, the caller was anxious. He was very close to putting a deal together, but was stuck in the hiring process. I suggested he go into a “Negative Yes” closing sequence. He didn’t know what that was. I said, “OK, then let’s try a ‘Ben Franklin Balance Sheet’ instead.” He didn’t know that one either. And finally I said that was OK as well, just to remember the “Reduce to the Ridiculous” if the salary objection came up again. He didn’t know that one either. And so, I ended the call by scheduling a time when I could teach him the traditional SALES CLOSES.


I believe that Selling and using Closes is merely telling the truth in an attractive manner. Now, before I start discussing these “sales packaging” techniques, I need to reaffirm that “sales” is not a dirty word. In my mind, it is merely more attractively packaging our candidates and job orders. I am not advocating trying to talk people into doing something that they truly don’t want to do, or that is not in their self-interest. It is merely packaging. It is an attempt to bring the advantage to our side. Think of it this way: When I am giving you a gift, I can toss it to you unwrapped and say, “Here’s your gift” or I can carefully wrap it in pretty paper and put a big bow on it and gently present it to you. Which gift do you think has the greater value? It is the one that I wrapped. Think of Closes in this way. They are gift-wrapped. And we are salespeople and salespeople use Closes.


When I teach Closes, I want you to know where they come from and how to use them in your business. Learn how to use them on every phone call and in every sentence. That’s why the great sales trainers teach the ABC’s: Always Be Closing.

Closes are used to structure your conversations. Like a guide, you should know where you want to go. You just need to take your prospects with you. Closes are the tools you use to amplify your chances of success. And you use many and diverse closes every day. You don’t want to be caught short-handed. One of Abraham Maslow’s greatest quotes is, “When the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”

Different closes are used for different situations. You need to know them all. Only when you learn a close by name, will that close become part of your repertoire. Then you need to role-play them; you need to rehearse them. They all work but only if you use them. As we say in recruiting, “I can’t guarantee you many things, but I can guarantee you one thing: That everyone you don’t call, you won’t make a placement with.”

Remember that closes don’t always work. They are in your toolbox to amplify your chances of success—a way to up the odds in your favor. As in baseball, the difference between a marginal .250 hitter and a league-leading .350 hitter is only one more hit at every ten times a bat. Great homerun hitters also strike out the most. Great base-stealers also get thrown out the most. Knowing and properly applying  the closes can help you to lead your league in production.

Over the next three weeks, we will wrap up “The Phone Rang…” series with 15 classic closes. Below are the first five.


1. Order Blank

This close comes from the real estate industry, automotive industry, and major appliance industry. The salesperson pulls out a form and starts filling it out and as long as you don’t stop them, then you are buying. If you try to stop them, they will say that they merely use the form to keep their thoughts organized. Then, when they are finished, they turn the form around to you and ask you to OK it and they will submit your offer.

In our business this would be a Send Out Slip, a Job Order Form, etc. It is best to use this close in person, but this is not always possible since most of us work over the telephone. An Invoice Worksheet works very well when using this close.

2. Alternate of Choice

This close comes from the egg industry. Apparently in the 1920s and 30s, in the Midwest, there was a malt shop that was selling more eggs than anyone in the country. So, the head of the egg industry visited the malt shop to find out why. When questioned, the malt shop owner said that he never sold any eggs with his malts until he changed his sales approach and started asking the customers, “Do you want one egg or two in your malt.” The customer would then choose between the options, and the malt shop’s egg sales soared.

In our business, this is a way to avoid close-ended questions—those that can be answered by responding “yes” or “no.” Many of you, when presenting your candidates for interviews, use this close. “My candidate is available to speak with you on Monday or Tuesday. Which day is better for you?”

You don’t ask IF they want to see your candidate. You ask WHEN they want to see your candidate.

3. Puppy Dog

This close comes from the television industry in the 1940s and 50s in New Jersey when color TV was just becoming a reality. Customers would come into the showrooms and look at this new format. One TV outlet that sold more color TVs than any other would have their salespeople say, “You can’t really tell what this TV is going to look like until you see it in your own front room or den. Why not take it home and try it out? If you like it, then you can buy it. If you don’t, we’ll pick it up.”

Then, in about a week, the retailer’s color TV Tech would show up at the customer’s house to see if the reception was still OK. No close on this visit. The retailer said that usually within another week the father figure would come back to the store and ask how much the darn TV was. You see, he couldn’t return it now. He would look like the biggest villain of all time in the eyes of his family if he did. Indeed, if you ever have a puppy that you want to get rid of, just ask a friend to watch it for a short time. After your friend names the puppy, they’ll never give it back—thus, The Puppy Dog Close.

This is sometimes used when you arrange Creative Send Outs—when you are arranging demonstrations where no real job order exists. You can also use it in the form of early project work or temp work to engage your clients and candidates when a long start date is anticipated.

4. Ben Franklin

This is the “Ben Franklin Balance Sheet Close.” Sometimes it is called “Baconian Empiricism through Enumeration” and is actually still in Poor Richard’s Almanac. This is apparently how Ben Franklin would make his decision. When faced with the need to make a decision, old Ben would take out a blank sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. Then he would write down all of the reasons for doing something on the left-hand side of the paper and all of the reasons for not doing something on the right-hand side. Then he would add up the columns and the column with the highest number determined his choice.

In recruitment, this is great for either a candidate or a hiring manager who has a lot of information. Their thinking becomes cluttered. By itemizing the info, you help clarify their thinking. Then, you help them with the choices in the column you want them to pick (keeping in mind that they have to say it—not you—in order for it to be true). Once you finish with your column’s choices, you refer them to the other column and now you don’t help anymore—i.e., shut up! If they can come up with more than just a couple of entries, it will be a miracle. Then you add up both columns and, hopefully, your column wins.

5. Negative Yes

This is sometimes called the “Is It… Close.” This is for the candidate or hiring manager who is the opposite of the ones we just talked about. These folks give us no information. They are just not sure of what the problem is. Trying to get information out of these people is like attacking an amorphous mass; a cloud. So, what we are going to do with this close is to attempt to isolate the real objection.

Let’s say that we are trying to close a hiring manager. This is what we say: “OK, June, but just to clarify my thinking, what is it that bothers you about Jim, is it his education?” You don’t hesitate after you say …what bothers you about Jim, or the hiring manager might say “everything,” and you are right back to where you started.

So, go right into your series of “is it’s” without stopping.

At this point the manager will usually answer “No,” — thus the Negative Yes or “No Means Yes” close.

Then you follow with, “Is it his professional background?” She says No.“Is it how he interviewed?”

She says No, etc.

See what you are doing. One by one, you are taking away the objections and determining what really is the final objection. Then you can attack that objection.

Stay tuned next week for classic closes 6-10.

“The Phone Rang…” by Bob Marshall is a series that defines what we, as recruiters, do for a living. This article series ran in The Fordyce Letter over the past year and we are proud to bring you the series online. To subscribe to the print edition of The Fordyce Letter, click here.