Three ways to stay in control when you can’t close the sale
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Three ways to stay in control when you can’t close the sale

We often hear about how to start a sales call and how to close a sale. But what’s the best way to end a call when you know you’re not going to be able to close the sale?

It’s critical to end them effectively – with the kind of momentum that helps you crescendo to a close next time or the time after that. Here’s a powerful, three-step process that will transform the way you end calls – whether in person or over the phone – and set your prospects up for the sale.

Summarize, Bridge, and Pull.
Suppose you’ve had a long initial meeting with the general manager of an electronics assembly plant. He’s considering replacing his HVAC system with yours. You’ve pitched him, and he appears interested – but has told you any purchasing decision won’t come right away. It’ll be made by himself, the CFO and a representative of the parent company. You know you’re not going to close today, so instead you …

An effective summary contains three pieces:

  • A one- or two-sentence introduction
  • A statement of their position, and
  • A statement of your position

In the case of that HVAC deal, you might say something like this to the GM: “Jack, we covered a lot of ground today and it seems like we had a good meeting. (Introduction) You said you needed to improve airflow through the main floor of the plant by 35%. (Their position) We showed you how our system can do that, for a 20% lower initial investment than competing systems.” (Your position) Now you’re ready to move to the …


This step is simple and usually short, but don’t neglect it. The Bridge is where you seek the prospect’s agreement with your summary. Usually, it’s enough to say “Would you agree?” This is a small but subtle – and critical – step.

On the surface, you’re asking the prospect to agree only that he said certain things and you said certain other things. But by getting agreement now, you’re preparing him for the next step. His agreement, in fact, actually goes beyond your summary. It’s both a spoken “Yes” and an unspoken “You can take me farther.”

The prospect, sensing this, won’t always say “Yes” to your Bridge question. He may be objecting to your characterization of the conversation, but more likely he’ll have some other reservation. It’s good for you to be able to meet that now rather than later. Once you’ve dealt with any objections and have a “Yes” to your Bridge question, you’re ready to …

This step is where you propose the next move forward. Returning to our HVAC customer who’s just agreed with your summary, you might say: “That’s great, Jack. So it sounds like we should sit down next time with your CFO and dig a little deeper into which system configuration would be ideal for you. At that point, you’ll be in a perfect position to determine how we can go forward. Sound good to you?” Most of the time, the prospect will agree. If he doesn’t, you’ll need to cycle back to the first step.

Caution: Sometimes at this stage the prospect will propose a next step that’s off your desired track. Jack might try to refer you to an underling who’s expert in technical specs, rather than the decision-makers you want to see. Suggest that you first meet with the people you want to meet, and then later get into whatever technical discussion is needed.

Remember, you want to be as much in control of the sales process at the end of the call as you were at the beginning. Maintaining control and building momentum are what these three steps are all about. In every call that doesn’t lead to a close, Summarize, Bridge, then Pull.

Based on the work of Skip Miller

photo credit: jurvetson

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