One of my favorite character movies is Glengarry Glen Ross. There is a memorable scene in the movie where Alec Baldwin plays the part of a bullying Sales Leader attempting to motivate a team of underperforming real estate sales people.
Baldwin uses a line in the scene that I hear repeated often: "Always Be Closing."
While the dramatic scene earned Baldwin an Academy Award nomination, the expression is about as applicable to today's professional selling environment as the speeding stunts of "The Fast and the Furious" are to driving through city traffic. It might be entertaining to watch, but it's going to create one heck of a mess.
Now don't get me wrong, I am a realist and I understand that if we don't close business, we won't have jobs. However, in today's environment, buyers don't want to be closed, they want to make intelligent buying decisions. In fact, in many cases people who think they are being closed will fight against buying, even if they believe the overly aggressive sales person has the best solution.
Always Be Qualifying
Instead of ABC—Always Be Closing, I recommend you go with ABQ—Always Be Qualifying. I know it isn't as flashy, and using it in your next sales meeting probably won't win you an academy award. However, living it out in customer engagements will likely win you the accolades of your customers and numerous sales awards.
So how do you put this into practice? The starting point lies in this simple selling axiom: Never try to sell anything to anyone, unless they have already told you that what you are about to sell them is what they want to buy.
You see, many sales people believe the best way to "close" customers is to tell them why we believe we have the right solution for them—and to do so with enthusiastic conviction. Then, having given all the reasons our solution is right for the buyer, we are supposed to ask them the closing question and voila, we have ourselves a sale!
Unfortunately, these stories, no matter how convincing, don't address the real reason people buy from us. Customers buy when they believe that what they are buying is truly the best alternative based on their unique buying criteria.
Putting It in Practice
So how do we make that happen? Always Be Qualifying. Even in the presentation we should be asking the right questions to make certain we are talking about the things that matter most to our buyer, and doing so in such a way that we provide the information our buyers need in order to know that we have the best solution.
This means we must:
- Ask any and all questions necessary to fully understand their criteria, including the underlying impact they are seeking by making this purchase.
- Confirm our understanding of their criteria and the impact they are seeking prior to making any recommendation so that what we are about to present is properly addressing the issues they deem important.
- Present our recommendations in terms of their criteria by organizing our presentation based on the information the buyer deems useful, not the generic presentation WE find most compelling.
Closing a sale is something that should happen naturally as the result of our solution being a good fit for the prospect and the prospect being a good fit for our solution. When we have done our jobs properly, closing the sale isn't difficult, it is the natural next step for both buyer and seller.
Replacing the ABC of selling with ABQ may not make for as dramatic a movie scene, but it will produce dramatically better results for you and your customers.
Tony Lannom is Sales Director at AXIOM Sales Force Development. He works closely with Sales Leaders, Sales Trainers, and Sales Operations teams help sellers and managers to implement a radically different sales training approach that drives top sales performance.