Selling: It’s Not as Simple as ABC

19 Feb 21

How common clichés get in the way of what sales professionals should be doing: helping their customers solve problems or improve their situations.

Sales leaders often express that their sales teams need to close more business. While these leaders may be frustrated with low win rates, this rarely has to do with how their sales people approach “closing,” but more importantly how their sales people approach “selling.”

You’ve probably heard the sales cliché “ABCs of Selling: Always Be Closing” (made famous in the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross” and, irreverently, on “Saturday Night Live.”)

You can imagine the hard-hitting sales rep arriving on the scene with his sales pitch to pound the customer into submission to close the deal (another cliché!).

While sales professionals should strive to close business, the problem with this approach is that it is all about the salesperson’s objective and not about the customer’s needs and priorities.

This approach is the antithesis of what sales professionals should do, which is help their customers solve problems or improve their situations. Instead of thinking of the sales process in isolation, it is important to think about the sales process as a way to help your customer through their purchase process.

If I come in with a “sales pitch,” it implies a one-way communication focused on closing the customer without an understanding of their situation. While sales pitches might work in some instances, they do little to build confidence or trust. Instead, it typically leaves the customer feeling pressured or manipulated.

Sales pitches often include clichés such as “we can all agree” or “I want to be honest with you” which are designed to seek agreement or build trust but in fact have the opposite effect. As opposed to promoting an effective conversation designed to understand the customers priorities, these clichés come across as cheap sales tricks focused purely on the salesperson’s desire to close.

“We can all agree” is an attempt to build consensus without hearing another person. You can use this when you have determined that you do in fact all agree. But other times, it can stifle conversation.

“I want to be honest with you” implies that you want to build trust, but it actually erodes the customer’s confidence in your trustworthiness. You can’t just throw out a statement to build trust—you have to earn it over time by following through on your commitments and adding value.

Clichés like these continue to be used as shortcuts, but they can result in lower win rates in the long run. Instead, take the time to understand the customer’s needs and get their feedback as they move through purchase process.

High-pressure sales techniques feel adversarial and typically result in a disgruntled customer who decides to take their business elsewhere. This is especially true for larger purchases where the customer is relying on the salesperson to help them make an informed purchase decision. Ironically, slowing down the sales process will improve win rates by allowing customers to articulate their needs, concerns, and ultimately result in their making an informed decision they feel good about.

Another pitfall with high-pressure tactics is that it assumes that the customer is receptive to hearing what the salesperson is “pitching.” Again, by slowing down the sales process and taking time to develop rapport and build trust, we increase the customer’s receptivity. They are more likely to share the business problem they’re trying to solve and become invested in finding a solution.

The Sales Conversation

By focusing on having a productive sales conversation, you can help customers develop the rationale for taking action as opposed to pressuring them to make a decision. Keep in mind that telling a customer they have a problem is not nearly as impactful as a customer expressing that problem themselves. Asking the right questions encourages them to share their needs, and keeps customers engaged as they go through their purchase process.

Most importantly, a collaborative sales conversation (as opposed to a “pitch”) improves how you are viewed by your customers and will result in higher “close” rates.

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