"Always be closing" was the mantra among the unscrupulous salesmen in the David Mamet play-turned-movie Glengarry Glen Ross. The simplicity of that maxim has made it popular at sales seminars across the country, but is it effective?

This strategy, like the dozens of other techniques aimed at "closing the deal," boils down to the same simple idea: Run the agenda and get the customer to do what you want them to do--namely, buy from you.

Let me say something obvious yet radical, too: The best way to close sales is to stop trying to close sales.

First, hardly anyone likes being conned, hustled, tricked, slick-talked or manipulated into doing something--even if it is good for them.

Second, even if you are selling me something that's good for me, and attempting to convince me by telling me the reasons why it;s good for me, I can still be suspicious of your motives. If I think you're in it mainly for yourself, and not for me, then how am I going to tell the difference between something that's good for both of us, and something that is just good for you? How can you be trusted?

And the way most salespeople think--they can;t be trusted!

The most effective sales "strategy" is to actually be trustworthy. That means, among other things, that the seller must have as his or her goal, meeting the customer's needs. That's it. That includes not closing the sale and--I;m not kidding--actually being willing to recommend a competitor's product if that were truly the right thing to do for the customer.

Think about it--if you're never able to even consider recommending a competitor's product over your own, how can I ever trust your recommendations? They would always be, based on your very actions, selfishly motivated.

If you think this is crazy, hold on. What do you do when you run across someone whose sole motivation is to help you? Perhaps it's a non-commissioned customer-focused store clerk, or an accountant who freely gives tax advice to you at a holiday party.

The answer is, if we need what they're selling, we buy. We buy from those we trust way more than from those we don't trust, if given a choice. We buy because we trust they actually have our interests at heart.

This you can bet on. You don;t have to close every deal. If they're going to buy, they'll buy without you forcing them. If they don't buy, it'll be because your proposition--whatever it is--isn't what they need right now. Your job is to help them figure out what it is they need, and when and how and from where they can get it.

Your job is not to close them. Your job is to help them close themselves.

If you help more people do that, more people will buy from you. More will come back and buy from you again. And more still will be impressed enough to tell others to buy from you.

To learn more about trust-based sales from Charles H. Green, check out Do a Sales Job on Yourself .