Are You an HR Schmoozer or an HR Closer?

by Michael Haberman on March 7, 2011 · 2 comments


I recently read an article on Inc. Online entitled Are You a Schmoozer or a Closer? The author, John Warrillow, focuses his article on the premise that you need two different personalities doing sales for your organization. First is the “schmoozer”, which he defines as “… a front person for a company. Usually thought leaders, schmoozers are good at glad-handing customers, making people feel loved. They remember customers by name and ask them about their lives. They are both door openers and door warmers.”

The second personality he says is needed is the closer. According to Warrillow a closer understands “… 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.” Warrillow doesn’t think a business owner can, or should be, both. He sees this relationship this way:

“A good schmoozer needs to remain everybody’s friend—keeping things light and informal, 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 them off. If a schmoozer is the grease, the closer is the crowbar.”

I mention this article for a couple of reasons. First I think HR has a very large “sales component” to it. And all HR should have some sales training. Secondly I see parallels between Warrillow’s two personalities. I think many HR departments have, or should have, a similar division. The HR schmoozer (btw, there is no negative connotation meant by this term, at least not with me) is the “friend” in HR that everyone has. He or she is the person that employees confide in, tell stories to, and shares jokes with. This person is often the first person to pick up “warning signs” of discontent or union activity. They are the ones who know about the employees families and their interests and desires. But because they are all those things, they are also the wrong person to have to mete out discipline. It is tough to be hard on a “friend.”

For this you need to have a “closer.” This is the person who is somewhat divorced from the situation and can look at situations more objectively. They are also perhaps more effective at determining “bottomline” solutions to people problems and determining if that “most valuable asset” is really an asset at all. In some companies this is the person that has the “executioner” reputation.

No in some smaller organizations you may not have the luxury of having two separate personalities. So whoever is in HR has to play both roles. Unfortunately, as Warrillow alluded to, that is hard to do. Something suffers when one person has to perform this dual role, either employees are not as friendly, or the “hard” decision don’t get done promptly. For my clients I have often served in the “closer” role for them, pushing them to make the hard decisions because I can me more objective. I usually don’t know their employees as friends. In fact in one company they made up a rhyme about me. I drove a red Ford Ranger truck at the time and the company was doing some terminations. I was assisting in those terminations and the rhyme became “If you see the Red Ranger you know you are in danger.”

So in your organization what are  you? Being a schmoozer is more fun. It is that “I joined HR because I like to work with people” role that many people want. Or are you the “closer”? The bottomline oriented person. The follow the rules person. Both are equally important in an organization and all of us have a tendency to tend toward one or the other.

At least that is my opinion. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps the HR professional can be both. If that is your experience let us know.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Cathy Missildine-Martin March 7, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Just call me “closer.” Good post!

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Michael Haberman March 7, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Yep, I pretty much figured that for you. LOL

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