The Soulful Art of Persuasion

Principle 1: original

Read an excerpt from Chapter 3: "Never be closing"


In that classic scene in the 1992 film adaptation of DavidMamet’s play Glengarry Glenn Ross, Alec Baldwin’s character, Blake, stands before a room of salesmen and delivers a remedial course on the basics of salesmanship. His takeaway message: “A‐B‐C. Always be closing.” It’s a time‐honored sales mantra that goes back decades, if not longer. It also happens to be completely wrong.  

In fact, the “always be closing” approach to sales is the enemy of soulful persuasion. This may have worked in the past, but to‐ day’s low‐ trust world demands an entirely different approach to persuasion. The basic presumption behind that infamous saying is that everything a person says or does in the course of persuading someone should be aimed purely at getting to yes. It’s about aggressively pushing your audience to make the decision you want them to make, whether it’s in their interest or not. It’s about finding away to close the deal at all costs. This is short‐ term thinking at its crudest. It’s manipulative— and it doesn’t work. People don’t want to be forced into a decision; they want to make up their minds for themselves, on their own terms, for their own reasons, and in their own time.

A pushy, fast‐ talking style simply confirms people’s worst instincts about what’s motivating you. It reminds them that, for you, the decision at hand is purely transactional, and that you’ll likely say or do anything to get them to do what you want. This view of human nature was summed up beautifully by another of my personal idols, Bruce Springsteen, in his song“Badlands,” where he sings:   

"Poor man wanna be rich Rich man wanna be king And a king ain’t satisfied Till he rules everything." 

“Badlands” is about people never being satisfied and always trying to take more and more and more. This is the kind of win at all costs attitude that kills persuasion. In most persuasive interactions, people already know that you want something out of them. The only way to elevate the situation above the purely transactional is to demonstrate to them that you care about something more than your own immediate gain— more than being rich, being king, or ruling everything. So if you find yourself slipping into “always be closing” mode, you’re absolutely headed in the wrong direction.