Martial artist and author Bruce Lee once said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”In the course of coaching thousands of salespeople of all makes and models, I have been confounded again and again to learn that, most often, they do not rely on standard, well-rehearsed verbiage when asking for the order. On occasions when I’ve probed sellers for their justifications,most say they don’t have a standardized close because of something similar to the following logic: “Every customer is different, and I like to keep my reaction to them different.”In the earlier chapter “Asking for the Order,” we discussed the failure of many sales people when it comes to actually asking people if they would like to buy. Preparing a rehearsed closing question allows a muscle memory-like function to take place in your sale. To learn more about Bruce Lee’s muscle memory philosophy about “practicing one kick 10,000 times,” I sought out practitioners of the martial arts style called Jeet Kune Do.
Jeet Kune Do is a practical mode of self defense developed by Lee. At first, this discipline was met with great skepticism from the masters of other disciplines and protocols with lineage that dated back thousands of years. Jeet Kune Do barked directly in the face of the principles of most of the major martial arts regimes. The Jeet Kune Do teacher who instructed me said that unlike other martial arts that remain rigidly focused on rank, standards and belts, the brainchild of Bruce Lee concentrates on executing the right actions in situations that people would most often react to emotionally. Rather than making it’s students reach a bar under the scrutiny of others, like in other heritage martial arts, Jeet Kune Do’s aim is for each individual practitioner to remain lucid in the face of turmoil and to be able to summon the proper reaction for each occasion. Though at first traditional martial arts masters discounted Lee and this alien discipline, Jeet Koon Do went on to be one of the core curriculums for many branches of the U.S. Special Forces. It’s also practiced and utilized by many law enforcement agencies across America. In the series of training sessions I attended, I learned a technique called “brush-grab- punch.” This technique involved me, the defender, countering a punch from an attacker by brushing the attacker’s punching hand away with my lead hand, grabbing the attacker’s brushed hand with my opposite hand, and then pulling them close to me while I clenched my lead hand (the one that I had brushed with) and delivered one of Bruce Lee’s famous one-inch punches somewhere on the body or face of the attacker. At first, the technique was taught to me very slowly. Though I felt I could go faster, the instructor deliberately made me take my time, repeating the drill over and over again. We drilled the brush-grab-punch technique for over an hour on one hand, gradually getting faster until the three maneuvers were one, and I could focus on power and speed. Then, we repeated the process with the other hand for the next hour. I was physically exhausted, but I owned that technique. I was no longer thinking about what to do and when I needed to do it. In fact, I wasn’t thinking at all. I was simply allowing muscle memory to do its thing.
This ability to summon the proper response in the face of turmoil is exactly what sculpting and drilling the perfect closing question allows a seller to do in the face of turmoil.Turmoil? Yes, in chapter 7 of "Zen & the Art of Sales" I addressed a subtle remnant of the “fight-or-flight”response that is evoked in any sales negotiation. Even when someone wants to buy something from you, that bargaining communication activates a pre-wired fear of conflict. Whether we like to admit it or not, the feelings of fear, anxiety, and trepidation flood our minds. This, in turn, fills our bloodstream with adrenaline when it comes time to ask for the order. This reaction happens to all kinds of sellers,from rookies to well-weathered vets.
In Chapter 7, “Hard to Say No,” we talked about the fear buyers face when it comes to rejecting sellers. When you compound the fear experienced by buyers with the fear experienced by sellers, it’s a wonder any commerce happens at all! Buddha said this about fear: “The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you; depend on no one. Only the moment when you reject all help are you freed.” The day will come in your sales career when you will have that enlightened notion that Buddha professed over 2,500 years ago, and fear will not be an issue. But until then, take a cue from Bruce Lee, and summon an emotion-free response to a situation and brush-grab-punch, meaning develop and drill your own closing question.
Every closing question should be brief, and it should cut right to the bone of the matter. Most importantly, it should be a question; not a statement. In many business-to- business sales people whom I’ve coached, I’ve seen many realize success with the simple closing question, “Will you trust me with your business for the next year?” Or with, “If you’ll just authorize this, I’ll get going on what I do best.” Either way, make it your own, and like Bruce Lee, drill-drill-drill. Many times, prospective buyers will say “yes” to a closing question, but not endorse whatever agreement you have at the time you’re offering the closing question. This usually occurs when their courage fails them at a time when they should say “no,” or when they are too sheepish to object to certain points of your presentation.
Addressing those objections also requires disciplined practice we'll discuss in coming months.