Almost 30 years ago, Alec Baldwin’s profane rant in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross popularized a simple sales mantra: A.B.C.—Always Be Closing.
Baldwin’s highly quotable monologue is easily the film’s best-remembered scene. The actual advice, though? Not quite so timeless.
In 1992, “closers” weren’t competing with computers. But the rise of the Internet has given consumers an alternative way to learn about and purchase products. By 2017, nearly 70% of B2B buyers said they’d rather research a product online than talk to a sales rep.
Doing a “hard sell” isn’t easy if people feel they don’t even need to talk to you. So what should you do instead?
Put. That coffee. Down... and let's talk about why the 2020 ABCs of sales is Always Be Customer-oriented.
Why the “Always Be Closing” methodology is outdated
Alec Baldwin’s character embodies the stereotypical aggressive, hot-shot salesman. He has slicked-back hair and a gold Rolex watch “that costs more than your car.”
No surprise that his “always be closing” system doesn’t take into account the buyer’s needs. Instead, it’s entirely focused on what the seller wants—to sell as much as possible.
In his pep talk to struggling sales reps, Baldwin says that “only one thing counts in this life: get them to sign on the line which is dotted.” He’s explicitly endorsing a high-pressure sales technique.
Three decades ago, that may have been the secret to bigger commissions. But today, consumers are smarter, savvier, and harder to push around.
Buyers take control of the sales process
According to CSO Insights, most buyers have already done their research before sales reps contact them. Buyers see less of a need for sellers because they can learn about products and businesses online.
- Over 70% of B2B buyers have fully defined their needs before connecting with a rep
- Nearly 50% of them have already identified specific solutions
- Only 23% of B2B buyers consider sales reps a top resource for solving business problems
- Even worse, just 32% of buyers say that reps “exceed their expectations.”
So how can salespeople prove their value when talking to skeptical prospects? Certainly not by aggressively pushing them to sign on the dotted line.
To be of any use, sellers actually need to be as accommodating and customer-oriented as possible.
How to “Always Be Customer-oriented” in 2020
Being customer-oriented isn’t just about being kind and friendly (though that’s certainly part of it). It’s also about leveraging technology to understand your leads on a meaningful level and find ways of connecting that are convenient for them.
Do your homework
With consumers doing so much research on their own, sales reps need to go the extra mile to prove to prospects that they can still be of value. One way to do that? Understand their needs better than anyone else.
If you make contact with a potential buyer over email, ask some preliminary questions before your first call with them. In light of the pandemic, you might ask how COVID-19 has affected their business. Do some research and see what you can find online about how their organization and industry have fared recently.
Listen, listen, listen
In your first conversation, be sure to keep your focus on the buyer’s needs, not your own. Spend less time pitching and more time listening. Ask open-ended questions that give the prospect room to explain their unique goals, obstacles, and pain points.
Be empathetic and understanding when a buyer is describing their challenges, and resist the urge to immediately pitch a solution. You’re still trying to feel things out, and in all likelihood, so is the prospect—don’t be too eager to close quickly.
If you take time to build a relationship, you can help close the “apathy gap” that makes many modern buyers feel like sales reps aren’t necessary to the process.
Embrace digital communication
The sales world had already been moving toward digital customer communication in recent years. But because of COVID-19 and the corresponding remote work revolution, that trend has accelerated exponentially:
- Pre-pandemic, 52% of sales managers believed that traditional sales methods were more important to their customers than digital interactions
- But now, 66% of sales leaders now say the new digital approach is equally or more effective than traditional sales methods
- Almost 90% of B2B sales have moved to a videoconferencing, phone, and web sales model
Digital communications were born of necessity. But they also happen to be more convenient, meaning they fit perfectly with the customer-oriented approach. Just make sure that whatever digital channels you’re using to connect deliver on the promise of speed and reliability.
Live chat is a perfect example of a communication channel that can provide quick answers with minimal effort on the part of customers. In fact, McKinsey found that 33% of B2B buyers rank the live chat option as one of their top requirements for an exceptional supplier.
Make the new ABC as easy as 123
“Always be customer-oriented” requires a lot more patience and effort than “always be closing.” After all, it takes time and research to understand and connect with leads. Luckily, there are tools that can speed up the process.
With a sales CRM like Zendesk Sell, you can easily find and qualify prospects and stay better connected with potential and active customers. And Zendesk Reach saves reps hours of manual prospecting work by automating lead generation and engagement.
Take advantage of this technology, so your sales team has more time to focus on what matters: building relationships with leads and—yes, eventually—closing.