Closing Is Not Selling

(Listen to this post, here.)

On the odd chance that you forgot, I wanted to remind you of the significance of this past Saturday, December 8th.

Because on that day, I arrived at what I like to call the “Marriage Equilibrium Threshold.”

More specifically, it was the day on which I had been married for 10,647 days. Prior to that, I had been single for 10,647 days.

Like a nine-month old baby, it was the day on which I had been in for as long as I had been out. (Unlike a nine-month old baby, the in part came after the out part and was not nearly as dark.)

Popping the Question

If you’ve ever asked – or been asked – to get married, there’s a pretty good chance that you remember the circumstances.

I do, quite clearly, although I confess that from a pure creativity standpoint, I blew this (hopefully) once in a lifetime opportunity.

I didn’t hire an airplane to pull a, “Linda, will you marry me?” banner across the sky.

I didn’t take her back to the spot where we first met.


I didn’t find a Toronto street magician who would hide the engagement ring in a magic cup.

What I did do was panic.

I picked up the ring at the jewelry store, put it in my pocket and, although I had no intention of asking her that night, it just came out. I leaned over during dinner at a local restaurant – right inbetween the salad and the main course – and the next thing I knew, I was popping the question.

It was boring.

It was awkward (you can’t really kneel in a restaurant booth).

It was completely without flash or romance. I seem to remember getting a free dessert out of it, but other than that, it was a missed opportunity.

But – and this is a critical but – she said “yes” anyway.

Not that I was surprised. We had been headed in that direction for months – this was simply the logical conclusion to all that had come before.

It took me a long time to realize, but selling a professional service is not that different. Here’s what I mean…

When I first began working for myself in 2000, I knew nothing about selling. My professional experience up until that point was in marketing, which is quite a different thing.

And so I figured I had better learn “how to sell.” I read a bunch of books, I took a few classes, and I practiced.

I practiced asking for the sale. I practiced handling objections. I practiced emphasizing benefits, not features.

Did it work? Maybe. Sometimes.

But it was always uncomfortable, and it never felt authentic. And, I eventually realized, it didn’t matter that much anyway.

People who liked me, trusted me and wanted what I was offering were eager to move ahead. We just needed to agree on the specifics.

It wasn’t about closing, it was about connecting. And connecting takes time.

The Sale Happens Long Before the Sale Happens

If you’re in the business of selling low risk, small ticket items to people who you’ll never see again, then yes, I suppose selling technique matters.

But you’re not in that business. You sell a professional service – one that feels risky to engage, is hard to sample, and requires a fair amount of investment in time and/or money.

The people who buy from you and me need to believe in us, something that happens slowly and begins long before we ask for the sale.

Here’s the bottom line.

When it came to asking Linda to marry me, the truth is, if she weren’t interested, there’s nothing I could have said or done during the proposal itself that would have changed her mind.

That’s because the key to effective selling isn’t in the close. It’s in everything you do to develop trust, connection and reputation for weeks, months or years leading up to it.

And while it may be true that only by saying the magic words, “Will you marry me?” does an engagement ever occur, by the time the question is asked, the decision has already been made.

Discussion Questions:

  1. OK, math majors, how many years and days old was I on the day I was married? Extra credit: On what date did that occur (Note to Linda: You are ineligible to participate)?
  1. In what creative way(s) have you asked, or were you asked, to get married? (Was the answer “yes?”)
  1. How important are selling skills in your work?

Share your comments below!

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13 thoughts on “Closing Is Not Selling

  1. Cliff Robbins

    I didn’t ask my wife. She didn’t ask me either. We were at dinner one night when I looked across the table and said to her, “I have no intention of spending the rest of my life without you; we’re getting married.” She said yes. How could she say no? OK not very romantic. But I made up for it by getting married on Valentine’s Day.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Sounds like it was in the stars!

      I gave my wife a child on Valentine’s Day (actually, my direct involvement was long over by then). Always a fun celebration each year!

  2. Glenn E Miller

    i agree with the premise that the process is where the sale is usually made. That said, everybody is different and some simply want the whole nine yards, and thankfully they’re the exception. But you need to be prepared by knowing the options inside and out. Being very conversational is a key ingredient. Be normal.
    But do ask for the business!

  3. Pam

    I really liked your thoughtful, funny and oh-so-true analysis of working (and personal) relationships, and the analogy with asking someone to marry you… Keep your observations coming—I enjoy them!

  4. Charles Alexander

    1. You were the ripe ole age of 29!

    2. Michael, this is a long proposal story (but worth it), so bear with me.

    I proposed to my beautiful wife, Sarah.

    I had it all planned out too.

    I was working in San Diego and I would fly her out and propose in the most romantic restaurant in La Jolla (for reference, La Jolla makes Hartford look like Detroit.)

    I made the pricey reservation and let them know my plan.

    Then Murphy’s Law arrived before Sarah did.

    Southwest had a long delay in Atlanta. I mean, of all airlines too. I would expect that much from one of their competitors, but not them!

    Sarah arrived much later that night. The reservation was long gone and her Valentine’s spirit was dampened when her luggage decided to hang out in Atlanta.

    So it was on to Plan B.
    Unfortunately, there was no Plan B, so I improvised.

    After the luggage finally made it, we went to Jim Croce’s Restaurant. It was no George’s on the Cove, but there was “Time in Bottle.” Get it? Time in a Bottle? No…ugh, Google it then.

    I thought I would be able to propose there, however, they sat us right next to the front door. And in San Diego, they don’t close the front doors. Ever. And the wind that night had Sarah’s cute, little black dress whipping all over the place. She was less than thrilled.

    On to Plan C.

    It was already very late, so I told her we would go back to the hotel and exchange gifts on the rooftop, which overlooked downtown San Diego.

    As we entered the lobby, a couple was exiting the bar and stumbling up the steps to the rooftop with a brown bag in their hands. And they were loud. And friendly. And loud!

    Now Plan D.

    I decided to head to our room until the rooftop cleared out. After an hour or so, we headed up, only to find out the rooftop closes at midnight. Ugh!!!!

    Plan E

    I called downstairs to see if they would make an exception.

    They would not.

    At this point, it was late, and I had decided that the hotel room would have to do. As I was preparing myself to get on one knee, the phone rang.

    “Is this Charles?”


    “You’re the guy that flew a ring in to propose today, right?”


    “We’ll have the rooftop opened if 5 minutes!”


    Back to Plan D

    As we wearily went to the rooftop at 1 a.m., Sarah gave me my Valentine’s gift, which was a very nice watch.

    I then got on one knee and gave her a ring.

    And she said yes. Whew!

    3. I create explainer videos, so I do more selling than I like. I make a strong effort to post a lot of good content, such as videos, email newsletters, articles, and free guides/checklists/cheatsheets, however, the most common question people give me right out of the gate is, “how much?”.

    I do have a nice landing page explaining pricing and the simple process, but then have to do selling on occassion if they haven’t gotten to “know, like, or trust me” just yet.

    Any suggestions Michael?

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      1. You are correct!
      2. Great story.
      3. Seems like it works well. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with selling, it’s just so much more efficient when the know, like, trust is already there.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      You are 100% correct. Assuming you didn’t count the days by hand, did you ask The Google to do the math (as I did)?
      And yes, you have earned a prize (seriously), which I will send to you. Thanks for figuring it out!

      1. Michelle Morris, CFP®, EA


        I asked Excel. And then saved the file in my “Michael Katz” folder. 🙂

        I eagerly await my prize….

        I was younger than you when I got married– I vaguely remember thinking some time during my 48th year that I had crossed the married longer than single line, but did not calculate it to the day!



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