I6HL Huffaker1Several years ago I learned a very important sales principle.  The knowledge and application of this principle has made a huge improvement in my ability to complete a sale.  

I’m going to share this principle with you in hopes that it will have the same effect on your sales.

As a young and inexperienced salesperson, I believed selling was simply telling someone about my product or service and then working really hard to persuade them to buy.  In other words, I was hoping something would happen at the end of my sales pitch that would persuade my prospect to buy.  There were two possible “hoped for” results to my activity:  first, I was hoping some unknown thing would happen and second, the prospect would occasionally agree to buy.  The buy-in, or decision to purchase was a separate event, or a post activity to all that had happened previously.  I would make my presentation and then decide which one of ninety-nine closing techniques I would apply to close the sale.

I’m happy to say, those days are over.  Selling has never been more enjoyable and successful.  This is what I learned.  Selling is a process, not an event.  From the time you first make contact with someone who has a potential need for your product or service, you are following a process which will eventually lead to a sale.  There is no separate phase where you apply the strong arm of “closing the sale”.  Closing the sale begins at the beginning.  It begins with the fact that someone is willing to invite you into their personal time and space.  Closing the sale is integrated into your sales process, not something that is added at the end of a sales pitch.

From the very beginning, you want to establish a need for your product or service.  If there is no need, either staring you in the face, or hidden to their understanding, then you should politely pack up your things and leave.  Never attempt to sell someone something they don’t need!  Once you have identified the need, everything you say and do should be directed towards meeting the needs of the prospect.  Making the sale part of a process, which begins from the very first time you meet with a prospect, instead of a separate event at the end of a presentation, reminds me of a popular poem written by Joseph Malins entitled, A Fence Or An Ambulance.  It talks about the prevention that should come at the beginning of a process, compared to the rescue that comes at the end.  In this analogy to the proper sales process, Joseph Malins offers a poetic reminder that it is much better to solve a problem at the beginning than to effectively deal with the result at the end.  Enjoy the poem and remember that the best way to close a sale is to present a solution to the prospect’s need at the beginning and throughout the entire process and not by treating the closing of a sale as a separate isolated event at the end.

‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,

Though to walk near its edge was so pleasant;

But over its terrible edge there had slipped

A duke and full many a peasant.

So the people said something would have to be done,

But their projects did not at all tally;

Some said, “Put a fence around the edge of the cliff,”

Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”


But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,

For it spread through the neighboring city;

A fence may be useful or not, it is true,

But each heart became brimful of pity

For those who slipped over the dangerous cliff;

And the dwellers in highway and alley

Gave pounds or gave pence, not to put up a fence,

But an ambulance down in the valley.


“For the cliff is all right, if you’re careful,” they said,

“And if folks even slip and are dropping,

It isn’t the slipping that hurts them so much,

As the shock down below when they’re stopping.”

So day after day, as these mishaps occurred,

Quick forth would these rescuers sally

To pick up the victims who fell off of the cliff,

With the ambulance down in the valley.


Then an old sage remarked: “It’s a marvel to me

That people give far more attention

To repairing results than to stopping the cause,

When they’d much better aim at prevention.

Let us stop at its source all this mischief,” cried he,

“Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally;

If the cliff we will fence we might almost dispense

With the ambulance down in the valley.”


Oh, he’s a fanatic,” the others rejoined,

“Dispense with the ambulance? Never!

He’d dispense with all charities, too, if he could;

No! No! We’ll support them forever.

Aren’t we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?

And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?

Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence,

While the ambulance works in the valley?”


But a sensible few, who are practical too,

Will not bear with such nonsense much longer;

They believe that prevention is better than cure,

And their party will soon be the stronger.

Encourage them then, with your purse, voice, and pen,

And while other philanthropists dally,

They will scorn all pretense and put up a stout fence

On the cliff that hangs over the valley.


Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,

For the voice of true wisdom is calling,

“To rescue the fallen is good, but ‘tis best

To prevent other people from falling.”

Better close up the source of temptation and crime

Than deliver from dungeon or galley;

Better put a strong fence round the top of the cliff

Than an ambulance down in the valley.