Everyone I know did it, but everyone seemed to call it something different. You may know it, for instance, as the “porch-light close.” Or maybe the “cigarette close.”
It had different names but they all stood for the same thing: a ruse designed to force homeowners to make up their minds.
Here’s how it works. You’ve been in the house for going on three hours. You’re winding up your roofing/siding/window presentation. You’ve worn the homeowners down with the heat lamp (to show how the low-E coating stops ultraviolet light from getting in or heat from getting out) and the mallet (to demonstrate how shatter-proof the glass is). All that stuff. You sense that they’re on the fence.
You come up with a final offer and asked for the business. They’re squirming. If they say, “We’ll think about it,” you can kiss the deal goodbye. If they say, “We’ll be getting back to you,” that’s a death sentence. You’ve run through six or seven mini-closes, to test the waters. (“So John and Mary, wouldn’t you agree that this new siding would not only look great on this house, but it’ll help you sell this house three years from now, when you’re planning to retire?”) They’re on the hook but they just can’t bring themselves to make a decision.
If You’ll Excuse Me
This is where the porch-light close—or whatever you call it—comes in. I say: “Look, folks, I know this is a big decision. I’m not a high-pressure guy. If it was me and my wife in your shoes, I know we’d need some time. We’d absolutely have to think it over. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go out to put these samples in my car. I’ll just be sitting out on the front porch, so whenever you’re done, just come and get me.”
I go outside, rummage around in the trunk, play with the radio. This works most of the time. Do you think they’re going to come running out to tell me no? If after 15 minutes goes by, and nothing’s happened, I knock on the door. I got so good at it I could tell by whoever answered whether or not I could just pull out the pen for contract signing or if I was going to go back into the sale.
Us or Them
My sales career started in a car lot. The manager there had seen it all and then some. This was in the days when pricing the car meant you had to work your way up from a base price and everything else was an upcharge—radio, air conditioning, windshield wipers, the works.
One day a couple came in. We had incredible rapport. I showed them a car and spent time pricing it out. They said: We’re going to go to a few more places and see what other dealers have, but we’ll be back. We really want to buy from you, Mike.
The manager watched them driving away.
He says: “Well, that’s the end of them.”
I say: “No, they’re coming back.”
He shook his head.
I said: “I’m telling you, they’re coming back.”
He says: “Kid, they’re not coming back.” He let that sink in for a minute or so and then he said: “Either you’re selling them, or they’re selling you.”
But then they came back.
We’re there when they appear again in the lot. We’re watching them get out of their car.
He says: “You must’ve forgotten to price something.”
Sure enough, he was dead right.
Facts and a Price
A few years ago, I got to thinking: What if everything I was taught about selling was wrong?
“You want to eat, you’ve got to close.”
“You’ve got to keep them from procrastinating and keep them from shopping.”
And all the smoke and mirrors stuff. The lies. The six-hour sales calls. (As a sales manager, my guys weren’t allowed to leave the house unless they called me.) The way anything they said became a product benefit: “And what this means to you, John and Mary, is that instead of being up on a ladder washing windows, you could be out on the golf course ...”
Here’s how I justified it. We just made it emotional. We made it juicy. And we did it the way we were taught to. They got what they paid for, right? I showed them a banana and described the banana. They bought it, peeled it, ate it, and it tasted good. The homeowner got a remodeling job. That’s not theft, it’s commerce.
But whatever label you want to put on it, the number of people willing to buy that way is becoming fewer and fewer, and older and older. The young don’t fall for any of this. The information revolution has inoculated them against it.
Today, homeowners want a price. They want facts and they want a reliable company to do their job. If you can walk in and provide those things, you have a chance of selling a job.
The old way? Forget it. Especially if those homeowners are under 40. Try telling them you need to put some stuff in the car while they come to an agreement. The agreement they’re most likely to reach is that that under no circumstances are you getting back in their house.