Sales is a tough business. Generating qualified leads is tough. Closing is tough. Earning commissions is tough. That’s why the movie Glengarry Glen Ross is so cut-throat, even though it’s just a regional sales office. In that movie, Alec Baldwin’s character famously tells his team that they should “Always Be Closing”. Some sales professionals are starting to re-think that advice, however, and we believe they're right to.
Rethinking sales: don’t focus on closing
As a customer, what’s your worst experience with a Sales rep? Maybe you were chased out of a car dealership by a desperate rep, maybe you once received no fewer than 44 calls in the same day. Chances are, your memory is of someone trying to “close you”. And, as a customer, it can be pretty off-putting.
Last year, Gong.io did some research into B2B Sales calls. They analyzed 42,945 “closing calls” (the final call in the sales process before the deal is clinched or lost). What they discovered was that there was almost no difference between calls where the deal was “closed” and those where the deal was lost.
Gong.io looked at the talk-to-listen ratio, the number of questions asked, and the speaker switches per minute – all aspects that should indicate the success of the call. And, all-in-all, they found it difficult to identify a meaningful difference between the calls.
What they did find was a meaningful difference in the earlier calls. They highlighted aspects such as mentioning competitors early on, rather than late (or never) being an indicator of success.
But we think there’s a bigger picture here.
Closing isn’t what it used to be
Closing feels great for the Sales rep. The adrenaline, the knife-edge feeling, the knowledge that you, single-handedly, have made the difference – it’s pretty satisfying. But it’s not the same for the prospect. In fact, for the prospect, traditional B2B sales closing can feel a bit like being chased out of the car dealership.
B2B sales is a process. It’s a journey. And it’s a lot easier to make that journey if the customer is on board from the start.
Given their incentives, it’s understandable that sales reps often treat B2B sales as a numbers game. But customers hate feeling like a number. They want to feel special. So maybe it’s time to switch to a different cliché: quality over quantity.
This Hubspot blog has a different take on Alec Baldwin’s “motivational” speech: Always Be Helping. We agree: putting the prospect first from the start is the best way to be successful. And making the prospect feel as though they are in control of the process makes everything easier for you. For one thing, a prospect who feels they came to the decision on their own is less likely to have buyer’s regret than one who felt pushed into it at the last minute.
Put the customer first
Ask your prospective customer where they see their business next year? In 5 years? What’s stopping them from getting there? Can you genuinely contribute to that effort? If you think you can, explain your product and ask if they think it will help. Don’t just tell them you have the solution. A long-term customer is better than someone who takes up the offer of a free trial and never comes back so it’s worth putting the effort in.
If you do the groundwork early on, you’ll be able to anticipate questions and potential problems and answer them during the process. So, when you get to that final call, you aren’t pressuring an increasingly-panicked prospect into making a decision they aren’t sure about. Instead, you can review the benefits of your product while gently steering them to sign the dotted line.
One last thing to remember (although, in keeping with the theme of this blog, hopefully we’ve convinced you already) is this: if you come across as desperate to “close”, it raises questions about the value of your product. Should your prospect trust you? Stay cool, calm, collected – and focused on the customer (This is actually a sales technique called "Indifference" and it’s a very effective one).
If you want to know more about the customer acquisition process, we've got a handy "Ultimate Introduction to Customer Acquisition".
And, with that, we’ll close 😃