This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

I was shopping for a Halloween costume the other day and I was reminded of a big sales no-no in the process—that is, if you want to sell the trust-based way. And while my experience was in the realm of retail, it’s also a cautionary tale for anyone in professional services.

The store was collecting donations for a charity benefitting kids, or so I learned when I presented my credit card to pay and was asked, ”How much would you like to donate to XYZ today?”

My immediate and unfaltering response:  “None.”

Funny thing, though, because I just about always make at least a small donation when I’m asked at checkout, as is often the case these days at the grocery store and the pet store. How I’m asked makes all the difference.

Q: “Would you like to donate to the ABC fund to help with DEF?”

A: “Sure.”

Q: “How much would you like to donate to XYZ today?”

A: “None.”

Those two little assumptive words at the beginning of the second example (“how much”) are anathema to trust.

I Googled “assumptive close,” assuming (hoping) I would find long outdated sales wisdom. No such luck. Web pages authored this year still extoll the virtues of the technique—the same web pages, apparently, that the Halloween retail store I patronized has been using to train its cashiers.

One site, dated February 2017, asserts that, “while your assumptions may be completely wrong, your confidence can be contagious.” Another, dated May 2017, refers to the assumptive close as a technique that “makes you come across as pushy and self-serving” (thank you!), then goes on to suggest 18 alternative closing lines, all of which make my skin crawl. No wonder, as they’re all positioned as “non-aggressive closing questions to make the buyer feel comfortable—without completely taking off the pressure.”

Let’s be clear: pressure plays no role whatsoever in any trust-based conversation.

Here’s the point as it relates to anyone in professional services:  you probably know better than to apply an assumptive close with your clients. Beware, though. You might be over-eager at times, thinking your confidence will be contagious. Or you might not realize that asserting a point of view prematurely can trigger the same kind of knee-jerk reaction I had at the Halloween costume store (“Heck no!”) simply because people don’t like to feel pushed in any way.

Pushy: bad. Positive: good. Trustworthy: best of all.

Make It Real

This week, be an observer. Notice when you or others around you try to push people in a particular direction. What happens as a result?

Learn More


Read more about why listening to sales experts may be hazardous to your sales, from our friends at Trusted Advisor Associates, or review six reasons not to always be closing in Chapter 16 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).