Watch any police procedural and you’ll hear the grizzled veteran detectives talk about ‘closing cases.’ To add a retro visual, you’ll even see them erase victim names or case numbers from a huge blackboard in the station house. But as you learn, closing cases is not the same as solving crimes.
The cop who closes cases is mostly concerned about the bureaucracy of getting a case disposed of; tagging it with a plausible outcome and getting it out of active consideration. It’s Dragnet meets The Dilbert Zone. In contrast to these uninspired civil servants, we’ll see the real cop in the bunch…the one who isn’t satisfied until she solves the crime and brings the real culprit to justice.
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It’s occurred to me recently that we have a version of this contrast playing out within sales teams in our industry. There are a lot of erstwhile sellers who are actually just closing cases. They watch the board, they take notes, they report out what happens. If they don’t get included on the RFP or the client decides to spend the money with another vendor, they dutifully append the case with the outcome and take it out of circulation. They will have a half-dozen very good reasons why the sale wasn’t made, and an air-tight rationale for closing it out.
Contrast this with the seller who’s really out to solve the crime. This seller goes into the investigation with genuine curiosity. Win or lose, he wants to chase down every lead, interview every witness, eliminate every dead end. If the case seems to be going cold or the witnesses disappear, he digs deeper and with greater urgency; he finds a way to pry it back open and earning a second or third look from the customer.
Sellers who solve crimes are a rare breed in our station houses. Maybe it’s because we don’t call out and recognize their particular contributions enough. Or perhaps we’re just not being clear about the nature of the job that needs to be done. Is the drive and ability to solve crimes just something you’re born with? Or can it be taught? I aim to find out.
We need a new kind of cop in this town.