By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
Image courtesy of Glengarry Glen Ross, New Line Cinema
Making a decision when buying sales training or process is difficult. Often prospects aren’t focused on the business outcomes they seek. Through the years in this business I’ve often had executives tell me that their salespeople aren’t strong closers. My first inclination (that I keep to myself) is that it’s likely they aren’t very good salespeople.
Part of the problem has been the misguided emphasis people place on closing. Any seller that has seen Glengarry Glen Ross remembers Alec Baldwin’s advice on the ABC’s of selling: Always Be Closing. If only it was that easy. Wonderful endings to otherwise mediocre plays aren’t going to result in any Tony awards. Frequent closes in B2B sales can be offensive to buyers.
There are several aspects of closing that sellers are either unaware of or disregard because they have their own agendas:
- Before closing buyers should understand their desired outcomes, why they can’t be achieved today, what capabilities are needed, the potential value and the price. In many instances they will want to compare at least 2 other vendors.
- It’s demeaning when sellers try to close non-decision makers. It’s awkward to ask for orders if they aren’t authorized to commit.
- Sellers make mistakes by not getting in front of decision makers to close. Some reply upon proposals they hope decision makers will not only read but also understand.
- Sellers pressure buyers when they close prematurely. Some buyers will be “put off” and may decide not to buy. Those that are willing to buy will almost certainly expect incentives (concessions and/or discounts) for buying sooner than they expected.
- There are few instances in B2B transactions when closing and discounting will work if sellers aren’t the vendor of choice. Some sellers rationalize that is makes sense to discount even if they can’t win because the winning vendors will accept lower prices. I believe putting low-ball numbers on the street can come back to haunt sellers.
- Unfortunately the old concept of selling is alive, if not well. The thought is a seller can convince, persuade and pressure buyers into giving them the business. This flies in the face of the reality that people prefer to buy without high-pressure tactics.
There is an entirely different way to consider the ABC approach. In long buying cycles it is important to gain commitment along the way. Rather than closing for the business earlier in buying cycles, there are other commitments to ask for: access to Key Players, agreement on potential value, an estimated decisions date, agreement of buyers to spend resources in evaluating offerings, having some staff see demos, etc.
Sellers in B2B buying cycles have to get many yesses with the ultimate one being an agreement to move forward. My hope is that sellers are patient enough to wait until they’ve earned the right to ask for the business.