No Proposals Before You Close – by Carole Mahoney

Tomorrow we Rick give our version of how to close a new client for our group sales training. But I started writing this blog post almost a month ago as almost every new client who has started our 3 month trial program has had this same problem.

How to close the sale that has had a proposal out for a month now and still no word.

Not just close it using tricks, but how to do it right, and comfortably, and profitable for both parties. This is especially important for professional services firms, like marketing agencies and others whose growth depends on their headcount. Setting the right expectation is crucial, and some rush into proposals and presentations before they have actually closed them.

Yes, closed them before the proposal. Better yet, have them help you write the proposal.

Dave Kurlan describes it as the Inoffensive Close in Baseline Selling. I relate it to what I learned from my grandmother in the late 70’s and 80’s. She owned (one of the state’s first) real estate agencies. She would often take me and my sister to meet with prospective new clients where she spent a lot of time with them asking very personal questions like;

  • are you pregnant?
  • do you pay your bills on time?
  • how much money do you make?
  • what is your social life like? do you have people over a lot? to do what?

As you can imagine, she had a way with people that asking these questions wasn’t something that seemed nosy or judgmental to them (she didn’t click with everyone).Those she clicked with she sat listening to people spill their life stories for hours. At least to a 9 year old it seemed like hours.

When we would leave, she would say, well there is another sale! Even though they hadn’t signed a contract, or even looked at houses yet- she knew if they would sign on or not because; “If they don’t buy me first, they will never buy (or sell) a house with me.”


There are some steps that must be taken with a prospect, where you aren’t selling a product or a service, but you are selling you. (A much more difficult sale if you ask any sales person who is now an entrepreneur.)

Closing Questions.

These aren’t questions you ask verbatim, but these are questions your prospect needs to be able to answer about you and that you have to be confident is correct.

  • Do I understand them?
  • Do I have any prior experience with people like them?
  • Do I understand their business? their market? their buyers? the context of the competitive landscape?
  • Can I empathize with their buyers? Put myself in their shoes?
  • What are their goals for the business? How will that impact them personally? When do they want that to happen by?
  • What is the current status quo? Why is that not good enough? How will staying at the status quo impact their goals?
  • Am I confident I can help them?
  • Which matters more to me, the sale or their success?
  • Do we click? Are there any red flags? Have they been brought up?

The close is the most important part of sales- duh. But how you start with them impacts that. If you are an entrepreneur who needs to sell yourself, your team, or a vision rather than a finished product- this is crucial.


Carole Mahoney is the Founder of Unbound Growth, a collaboration of individual B2B professional services firms and companies whose singular mission is bottom line business growth. As a sales coach she helps both new and experienced salespeople improve their skills and competencies to increase sales up to 73% within 45 days. She reveals her coaching secrets in her upcoming book.


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