Do Closing Attempts Used During
the Sales Process Impact Trust?

Do Closing Attempts During the Sales Process Affect Trust?

by: Rob Reed

Does closing a prospect affect how much the prospect trusts you?

Sellers often use closing techniques to persuade a prospect to act. To determine whether five closing techniques affected trust between a prospect and a seller, a study surveyed 238 industrial purchasing executives. The study also included a no-close option in which no closing technique was used.


Persuading the Prospect

During sales encounters, sellers attempt to persuade prospects to act. Sellers can persuade prospects in two ways. Each has drawbacks.

Type of Persuasion Description Drawbacks
Direct Seller explains the features and benefits of the product so that the prospect understands them. The prospect makes an informed decision on how the product will work in the prospect’s environment. There is often too much information for the prospect to absorb. Analyzing complex information is hard.
Indirect Seller uses cues and methods other than objective features and benefits. Closing techniques are a form of indirect persuasion. Experienced buyers often perceive these techniques as manipulative.


Closing Techniques and Persuasion

Closing techniques are a form of indirect persuasion. All closes are based on persuasion techniques that give the closes their power. Here’s a look at the five closes covered in the study and how they persuade prospects to act.

The assumed close and the either-or close use the consistency principle of persuasion. The consistency principle states that people have a strong need to be consistent in their attitudes. A seller uses this technique when he or she seeks to have the prospect agree to a position that will support the sale.

Closing Technique
Salesperson’s Typical Closing Action
Persuasion Principle
Assumed close Act in a way that assumes the sale has been made, such as writing the order Consistency
Either-or close Ask a minor question regarding a detail of the  transaction — “Would you prefer X or Y?” Consistency


The social validation close uses social validation principle of persuasion. The social validation principle states that people model their own behavior after the behavior of others they respect. Doing this establishes a basis for action. As a result, the social validation close can be effective when a prospect lacks the knowledge necessary to fully evaluate the product.

Closing Technique
Salesperson’s Typical Closing Action
Persuasion Principle
Social validation Mentioning a firm similar to the prospect’s that has purchased the product or service, then suggesting that the prospect place the order and receive the same benefits Social validation


The If-then close uses the reciprocity principle of persuasion. The reciprocity principle states that people feel pressure to repay favors. It is interesting that there appears to be no relationship between the size of the original favor and the value of the repayment.

Closing Technique
Salesperson’s Typical Closing Action
Persuasion Principle
If-then Offering a concession, favor, or service on the condition that the prospect places the order — “If I can get you X, will you give me the order?” Reciprocity


The impending event close uses the scarcity principle of persuasion. The scarcity principle uses the fact that products seem more valuable when there is real or implied scarcity. The principle works whether the scarcity is of supply or time, so “Just a few left!” and “Limited time only!” both apply the scarcity principle..

Closing Technique
Salesperson’s Typical Closing Action
Persuasion Principle
Impending event Asks the prospect to buy now, before X occurs that will eliminate the opportunity Scarcity


Closing Techniques and Trust

Closing techniques are effective because they introduce “a cue, signal, psychological tendency, or social norm” that may increase the desire to buy. But the study’s authors conclude that closing techniques reduce the prospect’s trust in the seller because prospects see closes as manipulative.

The authors found that not using a close (the no-close technique) resulted in the highest level of prospect trust.

The either-or close and the assumed close, both based on the consistency principle of persuasion, damaged trust between seller and prospect the most. The authors found that the other three closes also reduced trust levels.

The authors concluded that sellers should consider carefully before using closing techniques. Because trust is a prerequisite for effective long-term relationships, they say that sellers must balance potential gain from the current sale against potential loss of trust and a future relationship with the client.

The results of this study suggest that sellers should avoid traditional closing methods. Instead, the seller should seek to establish a trustworthy relationship with the prospect, so that appropriate sales will flow from the relationship and traditional closes will not be required.

My verdict from this study: Don’t use closing techniques or any other methods that could be construed as closing attempts – unless trust development is not important in your business.