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Value: John Warrillow

Be a schmoozer or a closer, but not both Add to ...

Have you ever stopped to think about your selling style?

I have found that company owners tend to be either schmoozers or closers. Being a good schmoozer can undermine your closing ability, so knowing which one you are can help reveal who your next hire should be.


A schmoozer is a front person for a company. Usually thought leaders, schmoozers are good at glad-handing customers and making people feel loved. They remember customers by name and ask about their lives. They are both door openers and warmers.


To be effective, a schmoozer needs to hand opportunities to a closer. The closer, understanding a customer’s needs in detail, exposes a problem – often to the point of discomfort for the prospect – and proposes a solution. Closers may be friendly but rarely become friends with customers, keeping their distance to retain their bargaining position in a negotiation.

A good schmoozer needs to remain everybody’s friend – keeping things light and informal and smoothing over the rough edges of a commercial relationship.

A good closer, on the other hand, needs to know how to ratchet up the pressure in a negotiation, applying just the right amount of leverage to get a customer to decide without turning him or her off.

If a schmoozer is the grease, the closer is the crowbar.

I don’t think a founder can – or should be – both a schmoozer and a closer. I think you have to decide your role and hire for the other.

For example, Don Tapscott, co-author of Paradigm Shift , Wikinomics and the 2010 bestseller, Macrowikinomics , built his former company, New Paradigm, with the help of Joan Bigham, his second-in-command, who is a pure salesperson.

“I had a real machine as my head of sales and marketing, who is an unbelievable person,” Mr. Tapscott says. “She just loves to sell. She’s got the Xerox school of training background, and they learn how to sell.”

Sales people are “an amazing kind of person actually,” he adds. “They view ‘no’ as information, and they never take it personally. Someone says, ‘I have no interest in what you’re doing,’ and she says, ‘Great. Now we’re engaged in a conversation.’ Most people are not really salespeople. They take stuff too personally. [They think] ‘You don’t like me, you don’t like my company, I’m a failure.’ A consummate salesperson thinks very dispassionately and strategically about the selling process.”

Mr. Tapscott, the schmoozer, explains the interplay between his role and that of his closer: “I make rain at a very high level. I need someone to use that to help the garden grow, to plant the seeds, to nourish them and fertilize them and get real value. It’s one thing for someone to say, ‘Gee, what [Mr.] Tapscott does is really interesting, and I think it could be important to our company,’ and it’s another thing for them to sign on the line to spend a few hundred thousand dollars per year to get some good insights.”

Mr. Tapscott was able to sell New Paradigm three years ago in part because he had delineated the role of schmoozer and closer so well. He agreed to continue to be a rainmaker for New Paradigm, now called Moxie Insight, for a period of five years. Today, Mr. Tapscott’s books and speeches continue to unearth leads, but he’s not closing. He’s schmoozing.

Special to The Globe and Mail

John Warrillow is a writer, speaker and angel investor in a number of start-up companies. He writes a blog about building a valuable – sellable – company.

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Follow on Twitter: @JohnWarrillow

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