A recent Wall Street Journal article listed financial tips that you shouldn’t take. It got me thinking about all of the trouble we can avoid by just steering clear of conventional wisdom when it’s not so wise after all.

If you spend enough time in the sales function, you’ll hear a lot of advice. It’s often passed on from grizzled veteran to young kid. Much of it is wonderful. Some of it is bunk.

Take article of faith #1: Always be closing. I read about this rule in college when taking a class on persuasion. But after selling for fifteen years and being around more sales functions than I can count in my consulting work, I think it’s misguided. And here’s why: customers (or prospects, as the case may be) expect it! As soon as they realize that your role is to develop busy, they get ready to play familiar roles in an ancient drama: you pursue them desperately and they play hard to get. You try to take them for a ride and they watch their wallets. And so on…

Of course, some business developers act differently, but they are surprisingly rare. And this makes them stand out all the more.

So instead of always closing, always ask yourself, “Can I (or my firm) make a significant contribution to this person/company’s goals? Are they a good fit for us? Will they end up being enthusiastic references for our work – and would we like working for the kinds of people who they send our way?”

This attitude puts you, the “salesperson,” into the role of skeptic instead of forcing the customer to do it. That role reversal, surprising as it is to the customer, often changes the whole dynamic in the relationship. Trust usually rises. And paradoxically, prospects often end up chasing you. (Not always! But more often than you might think.)

What does your own experience tell you? How do you react to salespeople who are always pushing vs. those who offer help, but with an eye on your interests above all?