Why sales has shifted from Always Be Closing, to Always Helping

“Always Be Closing” is a phrase Alec Baldwin’s character, Blake, a salesperson uses in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. Typical of the money hungry early 1990s, the salespeople are told they need to close every deal relentlessly, convincing clients using intimidation, arm twisting and lying.

Using a more modern example, The Wolf of Wall Street, the brokers in that were all about getting money off clients. It didn’t matter what Jordan Belfort’s team said (played by Leonardo di Caprio), so long as the money kept rolling in. Hitting sales targets is all that mattered.

Lying, hustling and swindling are some of the reasons salespeople have bad reputations. Hence the unfortunate stereotypes of the “used car salesman”, or those selling windows and doors, cheaper energy, and any number of products and services that cheat customers out of money.

Of course, most of us who work in sales know that going after the money at the expense of integrity often backfires. Always be closing (ABC), or pitching clients the way they do in The Wolf of Wall Street is an outdated approach, but what can replace it?

What is Always Be Helping?

Modern buyers don’t want to be sold to. Dale Carnegie famously said, people want to feel like they’re buying, not being sold something they might not actually want or need. This way, prospects become part of the process and you are offering them a solution that solves a problem they are having. Plus, when selling to companies this way, you

Now more than ever, buyers need to be invested in the process. Going for the hard sell doesn’t work. That won’t get buyers on-board, it will only alienate them and encourage them to go elsewhere.

Potential customers already know what they’re looking for. So although it does work, cold calling isn’t quite as effective as it once was. And even if you are using cold calling in the sales process, that only gets sales leads into the top of the funnel.

Once you’ve got leads into the funnel, you need to engage with them. Being helpful is the only way to move leads forward.

When it comes to sales, how does being helpful work in practice?

#1: Start with asking the right questions

Consultative selling is customer-centric. It means you need to understand the customers pain points, starting with asking the right questions. We’ve published articles on this, but to start you off on the right foot, here are a few examples:

  • What problem(s) are you trying to solve?
  • What has prompted you to solve this problem?
  • What happens if it isn’t solved?
  • What kind of timescale are you looking to implement?
  • What do you personally gain or lose if this is solved, or isn’t solved?
  • Do you have senior/owner or C-suite support for implementing this solution?
  • Do you have a budget for this?
  • How many people do you need to involve to sign-off on that budget?

#2: Practice active listening

One of the main problems with sales that isn’t customer centric is what the prospect says doesn’t really matter. Salespeople in movies such as Glengarry Glen Ross and Wolf of Wall Street only care about saying whatever they can to convince a sales lead to say yes.

Naturally, most of us in sales roles take a somewhat different approach. However, when you are under pressure to hit your target, you might find yourself attempting to override or ignore objections in order to get the sale.

A better approach is to practice active listening. Although simple, it can be challenging for those who aren’t used to doing this. Break it down into the following small steps, to put this into practice:

  • Ask smart questions (see above);
  • Actually listen to your prospect;
  • Confirm your understanding of what they said;
  • Ask relevant follow-up questions.

#3: Get creative with solutions

In more challenging times, customers may not want exactly what you are selling. It could be that they can only afford a lite version. Or they might want a technology solution, for example, alongside practical training and/or consultancy support.

It might be that they can only afford 60% of what you’d normally charge, but they can refer you to three other potential customers. Now is the time to get creative. Get the best deal you can, while providing the most helpful service possible for new clients.

Come up with solutions that solve the problems customers are having. Even if it means taking a somewhat different approach than normal.

#4: Ask how you can help them

Go above and beyond. Maybe they would benefit from introductions in your sector, or you know someone who needs what they are selling. Don’t simply stop with offering what you can provide, have a think about ways you can support them through your network.

Chances are, a new client could do the same in return. Now more than ever, companies helping one another is good business. We are all in this together. Help when you can, and at the same time, offer help to those that need it.

The era of “Always Be Closing” is thankfully over. Now we are living in a time when salespeople need to help prospects, because that’s how many are going to become strong long-term clients.

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