The Myth of the Great Sales Closer

The Myth of the Great Sales Closer

I know many of you have seen it. I’m referring to that famous scene from the movie Glengarry Glen Ross where Alec Baldwin tells his lackluster sales team that the ABC’s of sales are “Always Be Closing.” It’s classic Hollywood and also a classic stereotype of sales people.

The Closer: Fact or Fiction

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard something similar to “great salespeople are great closers.” The implication is that sales people are smooth talkers, must have excellent closing techniques, maybe apply some pressure and sales will happen. Is that really what it takes to be successful at sales?  

You’ve probably run into the “closer” sales type now and again. When you do encounter this type of sales person, is it a positive or negative experience? And, you may not have to encounter a “closer” type of salesperson to have a negative opinion of sales people in general. Studies show that public trust in sales people is absolutely abysmal. Whether right or wrong, this is the perception of your buyers, regardless of what you sell.


In his book, To Sell is Human, Dan Pink performed a survey of over 10,000 people and their impressions of sales people. If we summed up the word most commonly used to describe sales people, those 10,000 people said “pushy”. This perception is so pervasive, I consider it universal in nature. How do we overcome these negative stereotypes, bad behaviors and misconceptions of professional sales people and yet create positive experiences for our buyers?

The Anti-Sales Guy

My professional career started in software engineering. I have the ultimate nerd badge, a degree in Computer Science. I found the science behind computers fascinating and that developing software based solutions was highly logical and organized. But along the way, I discovered that while working with the users of our software products, they needed a lot of hand-holding. At times they could not even clearly articulate what they wanted.

I found myself frequently translating between their needs and the capabilities of the computer. Actually, one of the most interesting parts of the job was helping users understand what they actually needed and then designing solutions that would meet those needs. It was a real lesson in listening, communicating and putting their needs first.

Eventually, I moved into large scale project management, then account management and ultimately sought out a quota-carrying sales position. I came into that position with the same negative impression of sales as everyone else. But, I resolved early in my career never to behave like the stereotype. I was going to be the anti-sales guy. No pressure tactics, no slick closing techniques, no obnoxious behavior. Throughout my career, the results were, and still are, amazing. And the most successful professional sales people I know, follow this same thought process.

The Most Successful Sales People Do This

Here’s the essence of great sales behavior: ask great questions of your potential buyers. Why? Because if your buyer is talking, you’re learning about their needs. If you’re talking, or pitching something, you’re not learning anything. And the more you learn about your buyer’s needs, the better solution you can present to solve their challenge. People don’t really want to buy something, they want to solve a challenge or meet a need.

If you ask good questions of your potential buyers, and clearly understand their deepest needs, then move heaven and earth to solve those needs, do you think you will make more sales? And, don’t miss this, you will differentiate from those poor sales people that over talk, and under listen. Which type of sales professional would you rather deal with? Then, become that type of sales person and be a “true” closer of more deals.

If you’re leading an organization, the surest way to create a successful sales process and team, is to follow this pattern of deep inquiry into your customers’ or clients’ needs. If you look at the marketplace, you will notice that many teams do not follow this advice. This is your opportunity to create a team of closers who behave better than the rest.

If you want to go deeper on how this process works, please drop me a note. I’ll be glad to answer any questions.