Close Ad Sales Like a Successful Pitcher


Success on the baseball diamond, relies heavily on pitchers. Starting pitchers set the tone for the team, and can keep the team in the game. The importance of a ‘closer’ on a pitching staff has gained importance. The strong, fast-throwing pitcher comes in at the end and seals the victory for the team. For sales teams, the formula isn’t much different from a baseball team.

We need strong pitchers and powerful closers. The difference is we need each individual to possess the traits of the starting pitcher and the closer.

Too many times, our sales teams are pitching but not closing. If your sales rep is not asking for the sale, they are nothing more than professional conversationalists.

During a ride-along with a sales rep, one of the questions I ask, “What closing technique did you use on that call?” Too many times, the answer is they don’t know or worse, they never tried a closing technique on the sales call.

There are dozens of closing techniques available. While some companies will teach a strict formula for the sales process, I believe that the technique a sales rep uses should be based on what they are most comfortable with. The key is to ask for the sale. Here are five basic closing techniques that worked best for me:

Direct Close – Maybe the simplest technique to use, where you directly ask for the sale. The key in using this one is to be relatively sure the customer is ready to buy, as a direct approach can be perceived as a negative if the customer isn’t ready to commit.

Indirect Close – Asking a question of your customer isn’t as intrusive as a direct close, and many sales reps like to use this as a closing technique. “How does this proposal sound to you?” If they respond positively, you start working on ad copy. If they respond negatively, you start working on overcoming objections. Either way, you know clearly what the next step is in the process.

Assumptive Close – Assume the customer has agreed, and start to wrap up the process by saying “Just sign this agreement and I’ll get these ads in the newspaper.” Like the indirect close, you will know the next steps clearly after this step.

Alternative Close – I really like to offer a contained choice to an advertiser as a close. After presenting and laying out the options for the campaign, ask “Would you like option A or option B?” You’re giving the customer a choice and thus giving them a sense of control in the process when in fact you’ve forced them to make a decision or offer objections.

Fear of Loss Close – This is a good option for sponsorships, premium positions or anything that is in limited supply.  By telling the customer that if this is something that they are interested in, they need to decide now because others are out selling this exact package, including potentially to their competition. This is direct pressure on the customer, playing on their fear of losing out and is quite effective.

The key to closing the sale is to ask for it. If the answer is yes–celebrate. If the answer is no, there is still work to be done to overcome objections.


Pete Van Baalen, general manager for Fort Wayne Newspapers, is a member of the HSPA board of directors and president of Indiana Newspaper Advertising Executives Association.