The key to sales: Never Be Closing

Strangers Dilemma

What if someone wrote a book about sales and selling called Never Be Closing, as opposed to the oft-cited Always Be Closing? Well, someone has — and they just did an interview with Hubspot’s blog too. Here’s a golden nugget:


A lot of the negative attitude has to do with what we call the Stranger’s Dilemma. We’re all strangers at first, and for good or ill, people don’t necessarily trust strangers. Ironically, many of the techniques salespeople are taught actually reinforce the problem. Many closing techniques are designed to manipulate clients into saying things they don’t want to say. But there’s a better way to deal with the Stranger’s Dilemma: Stop being a stranger. Make it clear your aim is to help your clients. Our whole book is about how you can do that — not through trickery, but by replacing the focus on Always Be Closing with a focus on Always Being Useful.

Here’s the clip, just so we have it here — we’ll get to this quote above in a second:

Alright, so … that pull-quote above came from a question about a stat in their book; the stat’s from Gallup and found that four of the seven least trustworthy professions, off a poll, involve sales or selling as the primary component of their job. Why is the attitude so negative? The answer’s above. We talked about this a little bit yesterday too — people think “sales” is one thing, but it’s really just providing value and adding context on who you are and why you care to a situation — and really, while human relationships (and capturing someone’s attention) can be challenging propositions, the base idea of sales shouldn’t be so fraught and confusing. It’s actually fairly simple. (I’ve never really done sales, so perhaps I’m just talking out of my arse here.)

The guys that wrote Never Be Closing are Tim Hurson and Tim Dunne; they also work with ThinkX Consulting, which appears to be out of Toronto. They have a blog on that site; like most blogs from organizations, the ultimate goal is to drive the reader back towards their products, and this is no different — although some of the posts are interesting, like the most recent one on “Productive Thinking In Groups.” I wrote about brainstorming once and found it fascinating that it’s been to the go-to business idea generation model since the 1950s, but no one has any real idea if it actually works. Tim and Tim make a good point in their org’s post:

Imagine someone saying to you, “Ok, go run the marathon.” Unless you’d trained for a marathon before, you wouldn’t have a clue what to do first. You wouldn’t know how to train, how to develop yourself, how to eat, how to avoid injuries, or even how to effectively measure your progress.

And yet, that’s exactly the approach most organizations take when they ask people to put their brains into high gear and think differently.

Whether you want to produce high quality running or high quality thinking, you have to learn how. No matter how athletic you are or how big your brain is, you can improve your performance exponentially by taking a structured approach to the task.

Back in their Hubspot interview, they talk about a similar concept that I think has some value: the structured debrief. They apply it to sales, but you can apply it to anything. Essentially, after something happens in your life, you sit down and talk through a series of questions about what happened, how it happened that way, why it happened that way, where things could go better the next time, etc. It requires a degree of inward-facing honesty that maybe only a small percentage of humans actually have, but it’s a good idea in theory: look inward and try to figure out, “What just happened and what can I take from that the next time I do this?” (I used to do that all the time when I was teaching public school, and I honestly think it made me a better teacher in my second year.)

So back to the title of my post: always think about the Stranger’s Dilemma in your own life. Even with people with whom you’re very close, you’re still — in some respects — a stranger. (Almost no one can give all of themselves to another person, even in marriage; marriages have secrets.) There are always aspects and elements where you have to give of yourself a little and explain your context and how you can help. This is a powerful life lesson in many contexts, not just selling. But look, everything is a sale anyway, so we may as well apply it there as an entry point.

Just remember: you can think more broadly about these things and apply them even to your day-to-day life.



Ted Bauer


  1. Thanks Ted. I enjoyed your piece. And yes, the debrief can be powerful. It’s central to the way we improve our performance. And as you say, performance in ANY area of our lives. Too bad so few people know this simple process.

  2. Thanks Ted. Yes the debrief is a powerful tool. It’s a huge component in how we learn and improve. Too bad so few people use it.

    Thanks too for your kind words about our new book, Never Be Closing. It was released only a few days ago and we’re getting some very nice traction.

    If your readers order a copy (from any of the major online services) and let us know they did so by going to http://never-be-closing.com/special-ebook-bonus/, we’ll send them two free e-book bonuses: a problem solving template called GUST that we use with our innovation clients and Speak to Be Heard, a guide to recognizing the kind of person you are talking to so you can communicate in a way they can relate to.

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