Based on the types of questions I receive from recruiters, you’d think closing was some sort of Voodoo ritual, complete with potions, incense and secret incantations.
To set the record straight: Closing is simply the process of helping people get what they really want, by facilitating compromises without sacrificing the basic goals of either party. Deals that are forced, lopsided or negotiated in bad faith rarely stand up over time.
As negotiators, our goal (the close) is achieved when the parties we represent satisfy their sincere and overarching needs. Our job is fun and easy, provided we can accurately assess each side’s interests, priorities and sense of urgency. In contrast, attempting to close a deal between two warring (or indifferent) parties becomes exhausting and difficult. And the long-term results of such a close are predictably unsatisfactory.
The situation in the Middle East illustrates what happens when two parties simply can’t agree to terms (or abide by the terms of a previous agreement). Despite the tireless efforts of negotiators (Colin Powell being the latest), the cycle of violence will continue until the subtext of ancient hostilities is rewritten.
Some Deals will Never Close
That’s why it’s so important to qualify both parties prior to trying to close a deal. If you discover that your candidate has a hidden agenda, a lack of motivation or a fundamental problem with the job he’s considering, you should disqualify the person, and avoid the trauma of trying to force a deal that’s doomed from the start. Likewise, you should avoid working with an employer who has unrealistic expectations regarding the ideal candidate’s work performance or salary level.
To fine-tune your understanding of everyone’s needs during the interviewing process, you can use periodic trial closes. Questions like, “Any new developments?” or “Is this the type of job (or candidate) that looks good to you?” are designed to keep you up-to-date and confirm your assessment of needs. In some cases, the answers might surprise you—-and may serve to expose inconsistencies that threaten the success of your deal.
Assuming you’re working with two qualified parties who are on the same wavelength, the close is simply a matter of tying up loose ends and getting a commitment from both sides. When complications or disagreements occur, they can usually be resolved by applying a little creativity or asking one or both parties to make concessions without undermining either side’s most critical needs.
If an agreement can’t be reached, it’s the recruiter’s job to dig for the essence of what each party truly needs to find a win-win solution. If it’s discovered that the parties’ goals are in conflict with one another, that’s the point at which prayer, witchcraft or temper tantrums are usually invoked. Or when recruiters call me for help.
I learned long ago the limitations of “persuasion” as a means of closing. To me, closing is all about the process of qualifying early and testing the strength of your deal through a series of trial closes.
- Bill Radin, President