Uncharted Waters

Sep 7 2015   5:06PM GMT

Always Be Closing, Or Not

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman


There is a lot of folk wisdom surrounding sales that I’ve been reading about over the past year or so. All of this has of course become a lot more important since I went independent and now to some degree my ability to sell myself will determine how long I can do this. Most of the old-school literature and advice around sales revolves around the phrase ‘always be closing’. The gist of this, is that every time I’m talking to someone, I should be driving toward getting them to sign on the dotted line. Every interaction is about moving from the courting phase into paying work.

Whenever I talk with people that I respect that somehow have sales as part of their role, maybe they are business owners or service sellers, that phrase never comes up.

I went to a wedding over the weekend. Not my own, that’s already been taken care of, this one was for my sister in law. There were about a hundred people there, and as weddings go we were all contained in one space for a few hours to celebrate the new bride and groom. There is always small talk at these events while people from different sides of the family, and overlapping circles of friends get to know each other. Probably the most common conversation starter is the question “So….what do you do?”.

I of course answered that I had recently shed my employer/employee relationship by taking work as a contractor and doing a lot of writing. People asked how I found clients and we talked about how I do a lot of work through Excelon Development and how that smoothed out the sales cycle a lot. A few people there were business owners. Various types of doctors for the most part.


Doctors are in a constant position of sales. The interesting part to me though, is that they don’t have to actively sell. I don’t usually see advertisements for doctors through Facebook or in between segments of my favorite TV show at night. Doctors, or at least the ones I had the pleasure of talking with this weekend get most of their business through developing relationships over time. Working with colleagues and making friends in their area of medicine might eventually get patient references here and there. Going to community events and making friends with the parents of their kids friends might turn into a new patient. Being skilled is of course a must, but having a positive public reputation is what keeps the practice going daily, and thriving over the years.

Developing these relationships is a long road, but it seems like the best way.

For contractors and people that want to do consulting like myself, each little thing we do — an article published, a conference talk, or just having coffee with some local folks to talk shop — is like a rain dance. You never really know which thing will turn into work and help grow the business, but you have to get out there and dance. The dances that don’t turn into business will probably turn into new friends to talk with, or new ideas to use somewhere else.

I think for the time being, I’ll keep focusing on making friends and making a good public reputation based on my work. We will see how far that takes things.

If things don’t work out long term, I can always go get one of those job things people are always talking about.

3  Comments on this Post

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  • Nathan Lamb
    Love the Glengarry Glen Ross reference in the headline. 
    735 pointsBadges:
  • eggely
    Humm - you forget that Doctors have a very efficient trade union, geared up to ensure that Doctors get paid too much. You are in a profession where anybody can write and the barrier to entry is extremely low.

    This might have a drastic effect on your ability to earn.

    10 pointsBadges:
  • mikelyles
    I've heard it said before that we must live our lives like it's going on a resume.  Some people will have a history of being a doctor.   Some people will be in IT.  Some people will travel the world, building their financial status in various ways.  Some people (not me --- at least not yet) will find that everything they touch turns to gold.  You've seen those people, right?  They skip college and go to work at company X - they are so creative in building their relationships that they move up the ladder and become a director, then VP.  They leave company X and go to company Y and continue to grow.  Before long, you have an entrepreneur making millions of dollars and they are only 25 years old.

    Unfortunately this is not the norm.  For the other 80% of us that have to find creative ways to "sell" ourselves, we have to find ways to identify how to connect the dots for our future.

    Steve Jobs (and i've quoted him on this so many times) once said 

    “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”  Jobs thought his life was over when he was fired from Apple years ago.  Then he started Pixar, made the highest grossing animated movie "Toy Story" and then went back to Apple.  Imagine our lives without "Woodie" from Toy Story.  And it all happened because Jobs was fired.

    Not all of our lives are going to be that drastic, but i can surely tell you that my ability to build connections, and to have those relationships all around me, has helped me to grow in my career.  And whether you are writing, speaking at a conference, giving a webinar, or simply talking to someone at the grocery store, i can't agree more with you that you need to always be closing.  you never know when your "toy story" is going to happen.
    240 pointsBadges:

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