Let’s be real. “Always Be Closing” (ABC) selling is not a nice way to sell to people.
What is ABC Selling?
This is a sales method that’s been made famous for decades thanks to a 1983 play called “Glengarry Glen Ross” where four real estate agents readily engage in a number of illegal and unethical acts in order to sell unsavory real estate to innocent prospective buyers.
The movie version came out in 1992 and produced this famous scene with Alec Baldwin that’s had salespeople everywhere uttering the phrase “always be closing” ever since:
Once you know this sales method originated from a play about unethical selling, it’s kind of appalling to think that it’s been applied as a sales philosophy in real businesses for years now.
Why ABC Selling Isn’t Effective Anymore
Sales “experts” have actually published books about this and why it works. But since the coming of the Information Age and the power it has given buyers in the marketplace, ABC selling is simply not a viable method for salespeople anymore. Yet salespeople still continue to use it today, attempting to use buyers as means to a profitable ends.
Nowadays, that’s just not effective. Salespeople that come into a sale with the mindset that they will continuously push the sale forward until they’ve closed it are the salespeople who get ignored. These are the salespeople you roll your eyes at or feel uncomfortable around because you get that feeling that you’re being pushed into buying.
Telemarketers are the token example of ABC selling. Think about the calls you’ve gotten in the middle of the day insisting you pause your work so you can listen to their long-winded sales pitch. Think about how these people seldom listen to your concerns, because they’re too busy pushing on through their worn-out sales script.
You immediately get the feeling from these people that they don’t care about you at all. They only care about making a sale. That’s when you’re ready to hang up on them and avoid telemarketers forever more.
It’s not just telemarketers. There are pushy salespeople in your email inbox and in person too. But no matter where you experience these salespeople, you don’t want to engage with them because they make you feel used. They make you feel like just a piece of capital to gain, rather than a human being.
I’m speaking from the buyer’s perspective because, as salespeople, it’s crucial for us to sympathize with the buyer. After all, buyers are people too.
Alternatives to the ABC Sales Method
This is why salespeople need to seek alternatives to the apathetic ABC sales method. Here are three effective alternatives to connecting with prospective buyers in the sales process:
1. Seek to Solve a Problem for the Prospect
We as salespeople need to dump the idea of “selling” to the customer. Instead, we should think of ourselves as guides to helping the customer buy.
This means recognizing that buyers are out there with problems that can be solved with your solution. But it also means recognizing that there are buyers whose problems do not align with the solutions you’re providing.
You can’t help everybody. Nor should you. Why? Because trying to solve somebody’s problem that isn’t a good fit with your solution is a waste of your time and resources. Qualified leads are key to making sales. The qualification of these leads is simply identifying if you have the right solution to a prospect’s problem or not.
With the ABC method, the buyer’s problems are rarely, if ever, taken into consideration. But this needs to be a priority. Neither buyers nor salespeople want their time wasted, so why press on with a solution if it doesn’t solve the problem?
You, the salesperson, and the buyer should be working together to solve a problem. Being mindful of this will make all the difference in finding qualified leads.
There’s no need to over-complicate things. Think about it from the buyer’s perspective. Put yourself in their shoes. Seek first to understand. If you form a connection with a prospect and actively listen to all their concerns, you will be able to not only more efficiently qualify your leads, but also better frame your proposal in a way that builds upon those concerns.
2. Meet Your Prospect Where They Are
The modern digital sales funnel has three stages:
First people become aware of your business or brand, that’s the top of the funnel where the most people are. A portion of those people in the “Awareness” stage move to the “Consideration” stage where a prospective customer engages a little more deeply with your brand to consider buying. They may spend more time on your website, reading your content, scrolling on your social media feeds, or calling to get a quote. When a prospective moves to the “Decision” stage, they decide to make a purchase from you and you engage them further to maintain their loyalty and lifetime value.
It sounds simple, yet so many salespeople fail to consider this process. Not every buyer and salesperson comes into contact at the top of the funnel, either. Every buyer is at a different place in their journey.
And this is where the ABC method fails: ABC starts with awareness then ploughs through to decision allowing little to no consideration and little engagement afterwards. It’s a very one-and-done type of sales method, and has no regard for a buyer’s prior knowledge.
So this really requires a deeper understanding of where your prospect is in their journey, meeting them wherever they are, and acting as a guide throughout the rest of journey down the funnel.
Most prospects will be at the awareness stage. At this point in the journey, the buyer wants to be educated about a solution to a problem. They need to be provided some sort of knowledge and value so that you as the salesperson are seen as a credible and source for value. At this stage in the funnel, you’ll want to provide relevant value through content and social media marketing as touch points.
However, some prospects you come into contact with will be farther down the funnel and will have more knowledge about the solutions you’re providing than those in the awareness stage of the funnel. Out of respect for the knowledge that the prospect already has, you will meet them at the consideration stage.
Those prospects at the consideration stage are warm leads so the touch points you will provide them will be nurturing— through newsletters, blog content, landing pages, and sales copy in ads or emails.
The prospects who have made it far enough down the funnel that they’re ready to make a decision are the people who you should be looking to close sales with. The touch points these prospects need are calls to action.
Once you’ve closed the sale, that’s where the ABC sales method stops. But you have to keep in touch with these customers. Not only do you want them to buy from you again but you want them to share their experience with their friends, family, and associates.
Touchpoints of engagement post sale include:
- Email Marketing
- Marketing Automation
- Public Relations and Reputation
- Retargeting Ads
Instead of thinking of sales as a mechanical series of actions that you do to customers, you should think of it as a series of responses to your customers needs and requirements— actions that you do for your customers.
Every step into the funnel is like a mini-close. If you come in with the right touch point at the right time for the right prospect, the sale will be an afterthought.
3. Customize Your Sales Process
Sales and dating have a lot in common. Every prospect is going to move through the sales process differently, and to be successful with sales you need to be able to respect that.
Some will want to take it slow while others are comfortable making the decision to buy more quickly. Just because you as the salesperson may be experienced in moving through the sales process does not mean that the buyer is too. It’s a big mistake to assume that every potential buyer you meet will be the right fit and move the same way through the sales process
As any person who’s dating to build a relationship, a salesperson should be flexible enough to allow the buyer some room to let the sales process play out.
It’s not comfortable for you as the salesperson either to put the pressure on to make a sale, so just don’t do it! By giving up control of the buying process and allowing them to come to you when they want more information, you’re acting as a helpful guide rather than a sleazy salesperson.
Side-note: This doesn’t mean you as the salesperson are obligated to let prospects run the show. You, unlike the prospect, have successfully sold this product or service many times before and they don’t know how the structured process(es) will get them the solution they need.
Work with your prospect to understand their decision making process and then use that information to sell. Like any human being, prospects need to feel like they’re being heard and respected. Forcing a cookie-cutter sales process on them just won’t work.
Crafting an individualized buyer-focused message is key to moving prospects through the funnel in a way that’s most likely to maximize sales.
The ABC sales method isn’t going to cut it anymore. It’s a waste of time, resources, and energy, it inhibits profitable growth, and is a disrespectful way to sell.
Focus on being a helpful guide to a buyer rather than a salesperson. Seek to be someone who provides solutions at the right time, in the right way, to the right person. Meet your prospects where they are in their buyer’s journey and guide them in a way that works for them as individuals. With these more attentive approaches, you set yourself up for sales success.
For more business and marketing guidance, contact CommCore Marketing a call to find out how we can help.