POOR sales staff focus on just closing the sale. Successful sales staff focus on closing the sale and the relationship. Which is your approach?

For many sales staff, the close of the sale typically comes at the end of the sales presentation. It represents for many, the final act in the sales process.

It is unfortunate that these employees lack an adequate understanding of the role of selling in today's competitive world.

Selling is not only about getting the prospect to pay for a product or service that solves one of his pressing problems, needs or desires.

It is about building a trusting relationship and partnership with your client by becoming a resource. It is about helping him solve his on-going problems, or satisfying his continuing and evolving needs and desires.

For years, sales staff have been taught that to close a sale, they need to use devices or "closing techniques".

For example, the closes that go: "Which would you prefer?" or "Get it before the price goes up."

These techniques, although sometimes successful, tend to focus only on how the current product or service solves a prospect's problem or satisfies a current need or want.

The sales relationship must begin somewhere.

The question is, how can you become a resource for a prospect, therefore beginning the relationship or partnership, before you have sold or closed a sale?

Short or long term

You must first evaluate your selling intent or philosophy that underlies the sales process and how it impacts your ability to close this sale and the future relationship.

If your focus is on the short term, your concern is most likely on moving products or services now.

If your intention is to develop a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship with this new prospect, you may not sell this order, but that does not prevent you from beginning to build a positive relationship that can one day end in success.

It also depends on how you choose to define a successful sales relationship. All relationships, sales or otherwise, are dynamic. They either get better or worse.

For a relationship to become better, there are several areas that need constant attention. They are: trust, respect, acceptance, integrity, communication, intent, the relationship direction, personal agendas and a willingness to make the relationship work.

It is possible to begin to develop all of these with a prospect with whom you have not closed a sale yet.

You can provide information, guidance, recommendations, solutions, feedback and a variety of other services that will move the relationship from its current non-relationship status to one that gets better.

Strengthen your position

I am not suggesting that you give away that which you sell. If you sell information or guidance, for example, don't give it away. That only weakens your ability to build a positive and successful win-win future relationship.

Instead, think of ways to help your prospect and strengthen your position in his eyes.

Let me give you an example. During the past 20 over years as a speaker and trainer, I have given away hundreds of books and audiotapes by other speakers and authors to clients and prospects.

You might wonder why I would introduce a competitor to a client.

Simply, because it means I care about my client enough to give him something I think he may find useful. And he will appreciate my gesture and remember it.

It takes more time, resources and energy to generate a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. It is also easier to do more business with a present customer than it is to find more new ones.

What is your approach? Are you investing a greater proportion of your time and resources to continue to find new business or to satisfy, develop and keep existing business?

I agree that a continual flow of new business is the lifeblood of growth and success in sales. However, don't underestimate the ability to use your present customers to help you with that mission.

Few customers will just give you their business. You must ask for it, but you also have to earn the right to get it.

In my opinion, closing is more of a philosophy than a skill. It is more an attitude than a strategy. It is more about giving than getting, and it is more about service than your sales compensation.

A closing attitude or philosophy says: "I am here to help you. I am here to do business with you. I am not on an educational crusade nor am I a professional visitor."

We all make the same income, regardless of what we sell, on the sales we don't close. Nothing. The most successful closers are effective prospectors.