“Coffee is for closers!”
Most outbound salespeople learned early on about the ABCs of sales: Always Be Closing.
The core idea behind always be closing is that you should constantly push leads to buy. In the outbound sales conception of the universe, your big job is to “overcome objections.” Sales calls and conversations that come from them are tests of endurance.
But should you always be closing? Let’s investigate how this model stands up today.
Always Be Closing Depends on Three Assumptions That Aren’t True
Sales has a reputation as a high-stress, sometimes cutthroat occupation. Since sales metrics are easy to quantify and compensation is often linked to performance, there’s a longstanding idea that the quality of a sale doesn’t matter as long as you get one.
In a bygone era of door-to-door vacuum or encyclopedia salesmen, this might have made some sense. In fact, it’s built on three assumptions modern sales pioneers would have found uncontroversial. Today, all three have transformed.
Those assumptions are:
1. “I’m One of Only a Few Vendors Who Can Solve the Customer’s Problem.”
Think about all the different products and services that came into being over the last century. For just about any specialized business tool or high-end consumer good, there was a time when there was either just one supplier or only one that was dominant.
IBM was once the king of business computing. Ford was once the only auto manufacturer.
In a world offering only a handful of alternatives, sales pros representing Company A, B, or C could always say they had a solid shot at winning an agreement or even taking business from an incumbent. They could even stake a claim competing solely on price.
That’s no longer true.
Even in the most rarefied segments of the B2B world, there are very few areas where one brand towers above the rest. Most buyers have dozens of options; some have hundreds. Unless you’re affiliated with a leading brand, most buyers don’t even know who you are.
That’s one major assumption behind “always be closing” in the dustbin of history.
2. “Leads Can Get the Facts From me Faster Than They Can Teach Themselves.”
Only 30 years ago, most people had to go to the library when they needed to look something up. Research methods for business problems were similarly analog, slow, and imprecise.
If would-be buyers wanted to verify a salesperson’s claims, they had to reach out to their own business network, consult industry periodicals, or wait for annual conferences.
Imagine having to wait days or weeks to get a fix on accurate information on a key business decision. It would be as bad as using a horse and carriage in your daily commute.
Buyers were once constrained by the time and energy they would have to invest just to get the facts in front of them. In that world, a sales pro had the advantage of being able to distill things down into an “executive summary” of the problem and its potential solutions.
Today’s B2B decision-makers have the opposite problem: They’re constrained by the number of sources they can give their attention to. There’s a whole galaxy of platforms and influencers out there and no time to spare for the biased musings of a pushy outbound seller.
In just a few days, buyers can comb through hundreds of pages of information. When it comes to cold sales, their motto is “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
3. “With Enough Persistence, Just About Anyone is a Potential Customer.”
In fact, very few people are potential customers – especially in the B2B world.
Over the last three decades, there have been some technologies so transformative, everybody needed them: Think of the computer, the printer, the coffee machine.
Today’s sophisticated SaaS solutions leverage the opposite principle. Platforms are specialized for buyers in a certain industry whose enterprise has certain characteristics.
There’s no point pursuing anyone and everyone, because many leads won’t be qualified to make a purchase. When you find leads that may be qualified, it’s still crucial to dive deep into their needs. That way, you can be confident you’ll meet their long-term needs and win ongoing subscriptions.
Long story short, you can’t always be closing on this level, either.
For 2019 and Beyond, Think ABV: “Always Bring Value”
The verdict is in. The days of always be closing are out.
Instead, today’s inbound sales teams need to always bring value. Build rapport with quality content and solution-oriented advice even before an agreement is on the table.
With that approach, you’ll build long-term relationships of trust. Those will stand the test of time and leave you the last one standing through long, complex B2B sales cycles.
In the end, buyers will always choose the vendor they trust over the one who’s believes they should always be closing!
Published on December 28, 2018