Former New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera was arguably the best closer the game of baseball has ever seen. He brought with him the necessary traits in order to play that role, traits which can also be applied to closing a sale. But Rivera, along with the best closers in the sales world, did not get there by accident. He was planful and mindful of his practice and training.

Simple Beginnings

The Mariano Rivera story began in the small Panamanian fishing village of Puerto Caimito, where there was only one paved road running through the town. A young Rivera lived in a small two-room home with his parents and three siblings. He did not even graduate from high school. 

Growing up, Rivera did not have regular baseball equipment. His baseball mitts were makeshift ones that he would make out of a piece of cardboard. Rivera still recalls exactly how to construct one of those cardboard baseball mitts. As a child, the game was simple for Rivera and his simple glove proved more than adequate. Simplicity can sometimes be pure bliss. Simplicity is also something that can be overlooked in so many fields.

A good closer in the sales world never forgets the importance of simplicity. Overcomplicating a deal could lead to a lot of confusion. Too many details could prove to be a tremendous disadvantage. Remember the story of Rivera's simple beginnings and use simplicity to your advantage.

When it comes time to actually close a sale, keep your closing materials simple. Don't scare off your prospect by pulling out piles of forms. That moment when they agree on terms is a critical one. It is a moment you do not want to lose out on because of something you did to distract, confuse or overwhelm the prospect.


Stepping onto a pitcher's mound in front of tens of thousands of people and throwing strikes is no easy task. The umpire could call a close pitch a ball, which could cause a pitcher to become frustrated. That frustration could lead to an errant pitch which becomes a two-run homer that causes a team to lose. And that is all because the pitcher wasn't focused enough to brush off the previous pitch that should have been called a strike.

Rivera was an expert at keeping his emotions in check on the pitcher's mound. Even during road games, he did not let opposing fans or players get to him. Part of his strong focus stems from his strong belief in God. And although Rivera is Major League Baseball's all-time save leader with 652, it wasn't just fastballs and curve balls that did the trick. It was not allowing anything rattle him when the game was on the line.

Closing a sale also relies heavily on focus. A salesperson who focuses too much on himself will likely lose out on a sale. The prospect should always be the central focus. Keep the prospect's needs in mind and refrain from talking too much about yourself or your services. Also, do not try to close too quickly. Just as it is in baseball, three outs in the ninth inning does not always come quickly, nor does closing a sale. 

Focusing on the emotions of a prospect also helps immensely. As much as people would like to think they make purchases based on reason, most purchases are made based off emotion. Keeping that in mind, it is important to focus on how the prospect wants to feel. When you arrive at that conclusion, you will be able to really fine tune your skills as a closer. 

Fear and Resilience

It's okay to have fears. Everyone has them, even Rivera. In fact, it was fear that urged him to move his family to the United States following the 2000 season when he was scheduled to make $10 million. Other Central American Major League players had experienced issues with kidnappings in which their families were taken for ransom. Instead of living with that fear, Rivera did something about it. He couldn't have been the game's best closer with such an enormous fear lurking in the back of his mind. 

In sales, there is also an underlying fear in regards to closing. The trick is to not allow that fear to determine your results. Instead, do something about that fear. Try getting yourself comfortable with being uncomfortable. The more you do something, the more it becomes routine. 

And if you think about just moving from one step to the next, closing will happen naturally. Rivera got batters out one pitch at a time. As long as he focused on each pitch, the end of the inning would take care of itself. Apply that method to your sales approach and before you know it, you will become the Mariano Rivera of your office. 

Resilience is one more trait that is necessary to close in both sales and baseball. Rivera did not always get every batter out, just like sales reps are not going to close on every prospect. The important thing is to be able to bounce back. Rivera saved 652 games, but there were 80 other opportunities in which he failed to register the save. On 80 occasions, Rivera didn't close. But that didn't stop him from coming back and succeeding.

Great closers don't just forget their mistakes. They look back on their mistakes and learn from them. Just as Rivera learns from throwing 3-2 sliders on the outside corner, sales reps learn from throwing the wrong pitches at prospects.

Being a good closer does not happen overnight or by accident. It happens with simple beginnings, focus, resilience and the ability to overcome your fear.

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