Sales closing techniques

10 Closing Techniques Better than "ABC"

When it comes to salesperson culture, there are few depictions in modern film that are as iconic as one scene from 1992’s Glengarry Glen Ross. The character Blake, portrayed by Alec Baldwin, is called in to ‘motivate’ a group of salesmen. While threatening and verbally abusing them, he makes a statement: That salespeople should “ABC” — always be closing.

Alec Baldwin’s profanity-laced motivational scare tactics aside, ABC has become a widely used sales strategy in a number of sales-focused industries. In simple terms, ABC means that everything a salesperson does should be with the goal of moving a lead through the sales funnel. Additionally, it means that difficult, slow-moving, or stalled leads should be abandoned, so that the salesperson can focus all of their energies on better prospective customers. Heavily reliant on high-pressure sales tactics, ABC may seem harsh, but it works.

Or does it?

The world of sales has changed since 1992. The customers of today are much more wary of products in general, and salespeople specifically. They are less trusting of promises, and would much rather do their own research than rely on information from non-objective parties. As a result, today’s salespeople are spending less time “closing,” and more time performing administrative tasks, devising strategy, generating leads, and following up with clients. Taken altogether, these other tasks — tasks that Blake would have scoffed at — focus on the needs of the client, rather than the needs of the seller.

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Always be there for your customer.

If ABC isn’t as relevant as it once was, then it needs a replacement. How about this: Always be there for your customer. While “ABTFYC” may not be quite as memorable or clear-cut as its predecessor, but it is certainly more customer centric.

A customer-centric strategy isn’t about the products or services being offered, the business behind those products, or the sales team itself. It’s about helping the customer find the best solutions to their problems. With this in mind, here are 10 customer-centric sales closing techniques that won’t put your customers on the defensive:

1. Personalise.
High-performing sales teams are 2.8 times more likely than underperformers to say their sales organisations have become much more focused on personalising customer interactions over the past 12–18 months. By personalising your interactions with your customers, you show them that you value their needs above your own. ABC salespersons want to throw a wide net and hope for the perfect lead. Customer-centric teams create a targeted, relevant customer journey, turning every lead into the perfect lead.

2. Do your research.
Treating your leads like people (rather than numbers) means knowing enough about them to create a usable client profile. Data gathering and analytics tools can help you understand what your individual customers want. Likewise, connecting with them personally across social media and other online communities can give you a more complete picture of their situation. 67% of high-performing sales teams say social media is a very important channel for connecting with customers, and are 2.7 times more likely to say online communities are important for reaching customers.

3. Ask questions.
The main idea behind customer-centric sales is that it isn’t about ‘you,’ it’s about ‘them.’ When you communicate with your customers, don’t talk about you or your business, at least not at first. Instead, talk about the client. Ask them questions, get them to open up about what they need and the problems they face. Be an active listener, encouraging them as they share their story. Then, when appropriate, share how your product or service can offer a solution.

4. Embrace technology.
Even if you’re only working with a handful of leads at any given time, trying to keep the specifics of each relationship organised and available can be a nearly impossible job. Thankfully, CRM technology makes it easy to gather and segment lead data. CRM lead profiles ensure that you always know personal preferences, customer histories, and which clients need what solutions. Additionally, the best CRM solutions incorporate predictive AI, which high performing sales teams are 3.4 times more likely to use than underperforming teams.

5. Meet face to face.
In this era of digital communication, it can be easy to reduce people to a collection of words on an email thread, or a voice on a telephone line. Plant the seeds for a real client relationship, by making a point to meet your leads face to face. They’ll see that you value them enough to invest your time, and they’ll also be less likely to think of you as just another corporate sales drone. For even more effective meetings, do something fun and memorable — a lunch or a day at the golf course is bound to be a better experience than an hour in a stuffy office.

6. Be enthusiastic.
If your lead feels as though you are disinterested in what you have to offer, they’re certainly not going to be able to generate any enthusiasm. Be excited. Show them just how much confidence you have in your product or service, and how well it will be able to help them. Even if you’ve been selling the same thing for years, try to look at your offering through the eyes of your new lead, and you should be able to see how exhilarating the experience can be.

7. Tell a story.
There’s a reason that good storytellers are valued in almost every culture. Well-told stories create a connection of empathy, where listeners become emotionally invested in the subject matter. Salespersons who learn how to weave an engaging narrative not only build better relationships, but are also much more likely to stick in a client’s memory. After a presentation, only 5% of attendees remember stats, while 63% remember stories. Practice your storytelling, be engaging, and remember that how you say something can be at least as important as what you say.

8. Get hypothetical.
Sometimes, the only thing standing between a lead and the end of the customer journey is one or two easily addressed concerns. If this looks to be the case, put your potential customer in a hypothetical scenario. Tell them to picture all of their options, then have them imagine that each option is the same price. In this situation, which option would offer the best solution? If your offering is the best choice when price isn’t an issue, then all you have left to do is negotiate a fair cost.

9. Offer a ‘test drive.’
Imagining the effectiveness of a product or service is one thing, but experiencing it is something else entirely. If you can highlight the advantages of what you are offering, while the lead is using it, then you won’t have to ask for them to take a leap of faith.

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10. Don’t beat around the bush.
After you’ve done everything you can build the client relationship and showcase the advantages of your product or service, sometimes it all comes down to being the squeaky wheel. Ask your lead exactly what it would take for them to be willing to buy, suggest related products or services, and always remember to follow up (whether the sale is successful or not). Sometimes a lead may not be ready to buy right now, but will end up more interested at a later time, and if you’ve done your part to build a good relationship, then you’ll be the one they want to see.

With customer-centric strategies, you’ll always be closing.

ABC may seem like a powerful, confident way to approach your leads and prospects, but the reality is that ‘powerful’ and ‘confident’ are putting the emphasis in the wrong place. High-pressure sales, scare tactics, and bullying aren’t the game changers that some like to think they are, and even if they were, there'd only lead to short terms gains, followed by long term damage to your brand reputation.

The good news is that with a customer-centric sales strategy, you’ll be able to help your leads get what they want, and you’ll make more sales in the process. ABC may be outdated, but as bad as the acronym might be, always being there for your customer will put you in the best position to provide a real, valued service. That means you’ll always be closing, even if your main focus isn’t always on closing.

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