Always Be Advancing
The opening scene of Glengarry Glen Ross is legendary. A young Alec Baldwin plays a character named Blake who is sent to straighten out a group of under-performing salespeople.
During his “motivational” speech, Blake admonishes the salespeople to remember A-B-C, always be closing and A-I-D-A, attention, interest, decide, and act.
As sales has softened, A-B-C has somehow been allowed to be turned upside down. Instead, the new mantra is N-B-C, never be closing. We know that following Blake’s instructions to “always be closing” produces a negative result on larger, complex sales. But NBC (never be closing) doesn’t do anything to produce a positive result on larger, complex sales either.
Not A-B-C, But A-B-A
In another post, I have written about Neil Rackham’s SPIN Selling. Rackham’s research found that effective salespeople didn’t close for commitments to buy on larger, complex deals. Instead, they closed for an advance; they closed for future commitments that moved the salesperson and their prospects closer to a deal.
The outcome of every sales call must include a commitment that, if obtained, moves you closer to a deal. You have to close for that commitment.
One of the keys to obtaining a commitment to advance towards a deal is to create enough value on each and every sales call to make the commitment natural and easy to commitment to. This means the client has to perceive that spending time with you is worthwhile. It also means you have to be able to describe the value that they will receive for making the future visit.
But the primary key to obtaining a commitment for a future activity is to ask for the commitment in the first place. As obvious as this point may read on your screen, the softness epidemic has resulted in a sales culture (if it can be called such) that refuses to use closing language, even when they are simply closing for a future appointment.
The inability (or unwillingness) to ask for commitments results in an inability to advance a deal. The result is sales pipelines that are full of opportunities that have been through one stage of the sales process without any commitment to taking a future action with the salesperson or their company. In most cases, the salesperson didn’t ask for a future commitment that would advance the sale.
Instead of closing for a commitment that would move them forward, the hapless salesperson left the sales call believing that they would call the client to schedule a future appointment later, or that they would send the promised information and that would advance the sale, or that the client would review something and get back with them after they had a chance to think about it or discuss it with their team.
Blake’s advice is still sound. It may not be Always Be Closing, but it is surely Always Be Advancing. And advancing still requires asking for and obtaining commitments!
Review your pipeline. Are their any deals sitting stalled in your pipeline because you left the sales call without a commitment that would advance the sale?
Ask for the Order
If what you sell is something that a client has to reorder over and over again, you are obligated as a salesperson to ask for their order on every sales call. It doesn’t matter how much they spend with your competitor, and it doesn’t matter how long they have had that relationship.
If you are sales, sell.
Your closing language doesn’t have to make you a hard, old school salesperson. You can start by saying something like: “I would very much like the opportunity to work with you and your company, and I am prepared do a great job for you. Is there anything I can help you with right now?”
For those of you still infected with the softness virus, inoculate yourself by working up to saying: “Can I have the opportunity to fill our next order?”
This is necessary, even if you are a trusted advisor.
Negative sales behaviors result in reducing the likelihood of a sale. On larger, more complex deals, asking for the commitment to buy over and over again is a negative behavior, especially when closing for the commitment is premature. To succeed in sales, you must be able to obtain commitments for something that moves you closer to deal.
It may not be A-B-C, always be closing. But it is surely A-B-A, always be advancing.
1. Does asking for and obtaining commitments to move forward have to be perceived as negative? Why?
2. Have you allowed A-B-C to become N-B-C?
3. Do you create enough value on each sales call to earn the right to ask for and to obtain a future appointment?
4. Are there stalled opportunities in your pipeline where you have left a sales encounter without obtaining a future commitment?
5. Are there stalled opportunities in your pipeline that you are waiting for a prospect to get back with you?
6. Are there stalled opportunities in your pipeline where the only commitment made was one in which you are to call the prospect in a few weeks?