Ninth Inning Stretch: How To Close Like a Pitcher

kid pitching baseball

Being a closing pitcher probably seems like the cushiest job in all of major league baseball to an uninformed sports fan.


On the surface, it looks like all a closer does is lounge around for eight-innings in the bullpen with their pals on a warm summer night, chewing sunflower seeds and bubble gum until being called out for a measly inning of work.


And at the end of it all, they get to cash in on a nice million-dollar cheque after barely breaking a sweat all year. It seems pretty simple, doesn't it?


Sadly, no.


Being a closer on a baseball team is one of the most stressful, pressure-filled roles on the team, night in and night out.


As a closer, you are tasked with holding onto your team's lead against a late-game onslaught from opposing players and fans, all with only an inning or two of work to do so.


In sales, being a closer on a team closely mimics that of baseball, almost eerily so. Sales closers are tasked with getting a deal done and simply can't take no for an answer. They are the last line of defense and the final push for a deal.


They are also the individual that a sales team relies on most when it is all said and done.


A closer must bring their best stuff to the pitch every time they step out onto the mound or into a boardroom, no questions asked.


Listen up closers: here are three tips on how to close like Mariano Rivera.

1. Use emotion

Closing is emotional. That’s why when you look at MLB closers who know how to close, they use their emotions to create energy and pump their teammates up for the big ninth inning push. Jose Valverde, the former Detroit Tigers closer, is perhaps the best example of that, as he was known for his fiery personality and signature on-field celebrations after getting outs during his 12-year career.


In sales, making a human connection is one of the most important aspects of closing out a deal, especially in the early stages. You should create rapport with your prospects and make them feel like you care. That’s how you close.


Tip for how to close: send personalized emails or asking mundane yet important questions on the phone are small yet important measures that could help push the deal over the edge. Emotion and human connections are ultimately what close out the deal, use this to your advantage.

2. How to close 101: Use your executives

This might seem obvious, but when it comes to closing, use your execs!


When a closing pitcher steps on to the mound, they have the luxury of having eight capable players behind them to help finish out the game. If the batter pops it up behind home plate, the catcher is there to snag it. If the ball is hit to deep left field, then the left fielder is there to make an acrobatic catch if need be.


Every player on the field has a role and should utilize it to help the closer get the results that they need. When it comes to how to close a deal, don't be afraid to lean on your executives for advice or help with the phones.


3. The quicker, the better

Ask any major-league closer what the most important aspect of their job is and odds are they'll say efficiency. A pitcher who knows how to close will come into the ninth inning and be done in 10 minutes or less every time they take the field.

baseball field

That way, they keep their arms fresh and opposing hitters guessing about what they might throw next game. If a deal or a sale drags out for a long time, it's probably an indication that something just isn't clicking.

How to close tip: make sure you are as efficient as possible when trying to close out a deal. 

Wrap up 

In both baseball and sales, how you close can make or break a game. Every championship team throughout history has won with a great closer on its roster, from the days of Babe Ruth right up to Aroldis Chapman and the Chicago Cubs last year. Being a closer on a great sales team comes with a lot of pressure and stress, but it is rewarding when all is said and done.

Image credit: Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash