Here’s a thought: An old sales adage goes, “Always be closing.” I think it’s wrong and here’s why.

I’ve been listening to NPR for the last 20 years. (At the same time, I subscribe to the Wall Street Journal.) And in those two sentences, I’ve probably convinced both conservatives and liberals that I’m an idiot in record time.

But I digress.

Any NPR listener (or public television watcher) knows the regular ritual called a pledge drive.  Listeners loathe it and it always sounds to me like the poor staff members they corral into pleading for funds would rather be anywhere else than on air, repeating that phone number in increasingly desperate and cringe-inducing ways. (I’m looking at you, WBEZ Chicago.)

Like many people, I’ve mastered the art of turning off the station and clock-watching until I know regular service has resumed. (Before any NPR narcs report me, we’ve been consistent donors for all of the 20 years I’ve listened.)  I just can’t bear to listen to it.

But then, one of their reporters did something different the other day.  Instead of begging for money during his pledge drive shift, he explained his job. He told how, because we support the station, he can go to city hall to report on Chicago government (always something happening there!). He talked about how he attends trials so that he can bring us the story without all 3 million of us trying to cram into the court room.  He was witty, matter of fact, and – interesting!

And curiously, I did something new. I listened. I was intrigued. I wanted to pledge more than I ever have in the past – not out of guilt or pressure, but because it made sense to me and his story engaged me.

How often do we pitch instead of engage? And how often do people around us – clients, colleagues, employees, suppliers, bosses – turn the channel and wait for us to shut up? Sure, we can’t see them physically hit the switch, but that light goes from their eyes as they wait for us to… shut up.

What would happen if, instead of pitching and closing, we informed and shared and engaged?