What’s Wrong (and What’s Right) with ‘Always Be Closing’


What’s wrong with “always be closing”? 

To start, it’s pushy. You can’t approach the situation with this mentality and develop a relationship. Always be closing is the same thing as “always be damaging” the relationship—which means you’re sacrificing tomorrow for today, and tomorrow is coming.

At the same time, always be closing has its upside, too. Here’s what’s right and wrong about it and how to integrate these ideas for success.Always be closing

What’s Right About ‘Always Be Closing’

Forcing a decision is actually better than not getting a decision at all (or a maybe)—because maybe is death. Not to decide is to decide to do nothing, and you do need a decision. 

The issue is sequencing

Much of this approach was born out of sales leaders trying to get something out of today. In fact, it’s hard to worry about tomorrow when you feel like you’re fighting for survival today.

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What’s Wrong About ‘Always Be Closing’

Always be closing invites people to give you a false yes, we call this the counterfeit yes. As the saying goes, if you don’t know who the fool at the table is, it’s probably you.

  1. They Use You to Drive Down Price

Those who are seeking to either play you off of the favorite to drive their price down (spoiler: they are going with the favorite anyway) will give you the counterfeit yes to absorb the knowledge of your features and benefits.

Then they simply require the company they intended to go with all along to give them as many of those features and benefits as possible.

  1. They Use You to Figure Out How to Do It In-house

Or, the other side may be seeking to absorb all of the information on your features and benefits so they can simply do it themselves and not pay you or anyone! Remember: It’s not a sin to not get the deal. It’s a sin to take a long time to not get the deal.

If you’re yes-addicted (i.e., you’re constantly asking questions that fish for yes answers), you’re causing pressure. And this is where your “ghosts” come from—your non-responders.  

It bears repeating: It’s not a sin to not get the deal. It’s a sin to take a long time to not get the deal.

(Wondering whether you’re the fool at the table? Watch this video to find out.)

Being yes-addicted is also creating your future non-responders. The people who are giving you the counterfeit yeses are invisibly killing you by forcing you to take a long time to not get the deal.

Pressure in sales, negotiation, and relationships doesn’t create diamonds. It puts you out of business in a slow painful death spiral.  

What to Do Instead of ‘Always Be Closing’

  1. No-Oriented Questions

First things first: Give the other side the safety of no by asking no-oriented questions.  

People feel safe and secure when they say no. So—and I know this sounds ridiculous—just switch your questions around.

Useless Yes                                             Transformative No

“Do you agree?”                                       “Do you disagree?”

“Does this work for you?”                        “Is this a bad idea?”

“Does this make sense?”                         “Is this a ridiculous idea?”

“Would you like to ... ?”                             “Are you against ... ?”

“Would you still like to ... ”                        “Have you given up on ... ?”

“Do you have a few minutes?”                “Is now a bad time?”

“Is this correct?”                                        “Am I out of line?”

  1. Use Labels (Really Counterintuitive Ones!)

Never underestimate the power of labels. Instead of always be closing, try using some counterintuitive labels such as these:

  • “It seems like you have a reason for hesitating.”
  • “It feels like there’s an obstacle here ... ”
  • “It seems like something is holding you back ... ”
  • “It feels like there’s something I’m not seeing.”

There will always be things that the other side is hiding—Black Swans, if you will. And the other side is always concerned about them.  

Using labels like these relieves the other side of its worries about your understanding. It gives you your best chance of success at getting these things out in the open.

And making the deal.

Go and sin no more.

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Chris Voss

About The Author

Christopher Voss is the CEO of The Black Swan Group, a firm that solves business negotiation problems with hostage negotiation strategies. Chris founded the Black Swan Group, in 2008 upon his retirement from the FBI where he was the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator. Chris is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern California (USC) Marshall School of Business and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business where he teaches business negotiation in both M.B.A. programs.