Note: This is my post for 9 October 2009.
I’m not going to say “close the sale” is the best phrase to be used, but I think it is a very appropriate mentality to have when talking with a guest about membership in your Toastmasters club. There is an important distinction in what we do as Toastmasters opposed to other salespeople. For a used car dealer, closing the sale means getting that car sold or she doesn’t feed her family. In fact, you don’t have to convince a used car dealer that the sale needs to be closed. However, in our organization, there is a misconception that our product sells itself.
Fact: no product on Earth truly sells itself.
More importantly, many visitors want to feel like they’re wanted (assuming that they’re human). As a visitor, I would actually be insulted if someone didn’t offer me an application and tell me that they wanted me as a member of their club. Okay…maybe not insulted, but I think that telling a guest that “they’re welcome back anytime” does not have the power of “we’d like to invite you to join tonight.”
The difference is based on how we respond to “no” or “I’m not sure”. If a shady used car dealer hears “no”, they start in their list of “today only” deals and other dubious tactics. As a Toastmaster, if you hear “no”, you should (and probably do) thank them for coming and let them know we’ll be here if they change their mind. If they’re not sure, then you invite them to come to the next meeting as your guest, and that they’re free to take their time and decide.
In Toastmasters, closing the sale isn’t scamming the loser. It’s asking a guest to be a long-term part of your club’s future. It’s about mutual success, growth and giving another human the opportunity to “Unleash Your Possibilities!” that someone gave you when they “closed the sale”.