InSights - What you didn't know you didn't know

Always Be Closing… With the Right Competency Set

There has been a great deal of research and discussion in the field of Industrial/Organizational Psychology on the topic of broad versus narrow traits in predicting outcomes.

At Chally our research has concluded that broad traits measured by instruments such as Big-5 personality, the 16PF or Myers Briggs are useful for general self-awareness, team-building activities and leader development. But broad characteristics like Extroversion and Ambition tell us surprisingly little about whether the person will excel at performing his or her job. It is more specific facets of behaviors that actually predict the outcomes that are truly important in employee selection and development efforts – hiring the right person for the job and developing the right things in that person so he or she continues to be successful.

We have all run into the stereotypical salesperson who talks incessantly and refuses to take “no” for an answer – the image of a larger-than-life man smoking a cigar and slapping someone on the back while closing a deal comes to my mind. But in reality, this over-the-top behavior only results in closing deals in television and movies. And simply being an Extrovert and talking ignores the one thing that makes most salespeople effective – listening to their customer instead of talking to them.

In the 1992 movie Glengarry Glenn Ross, Alec Baldwin’s character (Blake) professes to others the ABCs of sales “A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing.  Always be closing!” What is closing? It is the art of sealing a deal. And much like the myth that the best salesperson is the best sales manager, a good salesperson who sells auto-parts cannot necessarily be a good systems salesperson in a territory. Thus, the types of skills necessary to close actually differ considerably. A single competency for closing is, therefore, much too broad to predict outcomes (just as Extroversion is too broad). Chally has identified five different types of closing, and two examples are presented below. CLOSES THROUGH EMOTIONAL APPEAL – Building a prospect’s enthusiasm to the point they are fearful of missing the unique benefits if they fail to act.The idea of a car salesman comes to mind here. Recently, I took my car in for service and was approached by one of these guys who told me I should get out of my 2004 car and into a new one because they had the deal of a lifetime and if I did not take advantage of it then I would be crazy. “We will never offer this again, and you could pay 10% less than dealer inventory!” He almost got me, too. If it hadn’t been for his failure in being supportive and cooperative (another Chally competency) then I might be driving a new ride today. CLOSES THROUGH LOGICAL, INCREMENTAL STEPS – Breaks the sales cycle into increments and gains commitment to each component leading up to closing the sale.

I was on a sales call some years ago with a fellow who was the master of closing. We had a confirmed appointment with a sizeable pharmaceutical company for a major salesperson selection project, and John was the lead in the sales effort. He went in, asked probing questions, understood their needs and then began to educate the client, not sell them. John went on to describe the benefits of using our service and made sure that everyone in the room understood how the system was going to solve problems. In hindsight, I understand that he was slowly gaining the client’s commitment to us, the products and services we offered, and how it would fit into their needs. In the end, the client began telling us why they needed to use our system. Now that’s selling without selling.  Dr. Killian currently serves as Senior Technical Consultant at Chally. If you have any real-life examples of how Chally competencies have played out in your careers or observations and would like to share them, please email your story to him at