Sales isn’t about ‘closing’

I recently saw this on HubSpot’s blog — it’s essentially snippets of sales advice from professionals that you can then ‘click to tweet.’ (It’s amazing how many people 55 and over think ‘click to tweet’ is ingenious. It really is amazing.) This was one of the ones that immediately jumped out to me:

“You don’t close a sale, you open a relationship if you want to build a long-term, successful enterprise.” – Patricia Fripp

Here’s a little background on Ms. Fripp, and here’s an entire SlideShare of sales one-liners:

I don’t know very much about sales, admittedly — I’ve never worked within it — but it always seems curious to me that the concept has always been centered around closing. There are definitely sales situations where people buy one thing and then get out — think of maybe a random Google Shopper purchase — but in probably 90 percent or more of sales situations, the goal on the seller side has to be to keep the person around in some way, shape or form (e-mail capture, follow-up, etc.) Isn’t that the whole idea of “the funnel” in some ways?

Sometimes I feel like sales is a whole set of rules and vocabulary that doesn’t make that much sense and could be much simpler. It goes back to the central idea that a lot of commission-linked sales jobs are “Eat what you kill.” That harkens to very primal anecdotes, and guys especially love that shit — that’s part of why the NFL is popular, honestly — but it makes no sense. You’re not trying to kill anything. You’re trying to build a relationship with someone so that they’ll return to you often. You’re not eating them.

My wife used to work with this guy who regularly had higher billings than anyone else at his office, despite having only two regular clients. Thing is, all those other dudes were out chasing leads and banging down doors and catching business flights daily, and this guy did none of that. He just cultivated his two clients, worked them, and was constantly at their beck-and-call. He was raking in $400K a year and barely traveling (few times a year), hence more time for family. His colleagues were doing 100-250K and traveling all the time, plus always stressed about the state of their ‘leads.’

Point being is, it’s not about closing or killing or eating — it’s about building out relationships.


Some have approached selling this way, like the idea of “Never Be Closing.”

Sometimes I think this right here is the essential problem with business — we develop this short-hand for it (also see acronyms) that’s kind of based on long-held stereotypes and management approaches and it doesn’t really work for the modern world. I was talking to a guy about this last week — marketing in the modern age, for example, is all about storytelling. It has almost nothing to do with the hard-sell. People don’t like that these days, especially in the days of algorithms and targeted content. But the marketing-sales relationship is often tied up in chasing the hard-sell (“ALWAYS BE CLOSING, BABY!!!”).

Seems awkward, right?

Ted Bauer