“Always Be Closing” is a phrase Alec Baldwin’s character, Blake, uses in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. Blake is the epitome of the high-powered, low-empathy, money-driven salesperson and gets what he wants through fear, intimidation, and profanity-laced speeches.
After threatening and terrorizing a group of salesmen (“No women allowed in this boiler room!”), Blake gets to his point – salespeople should “ABC”: Always Be Closing.
Here, we’ll discuss exactly what ABC means, how effective it is, and explore a more modern alternative.
Although closing deals was a major focus for salespeople long before the release of this film, “Always Be Closing” was a catchy hook reps could hold onto. It required persistence, determination, and a willingness to use whatever tactics necessary to close a deal.
But is it the best sales advice for modern reps? Not necessarily.
This kind of selling may have worked in the 1980s when David Mamet penned the play the movie is based on, but fast-forward to today, and things are very different.
Today’s buyers are less susceptible to gimmicks and empty claims. They independently seek out information about products or services without ever speaking to a sales rep.
The “Always Be Closing” school of thought ignores they buyer entirely and places the salesperson at the center of the sales process, taking a brute-force approach to closing deals. This approach will fall flat for modern buyers.
Blake would never give up control of the sales process to a prospect. Yet that’s exactly what a top salesperson today needs to do.
To effectively sell, modern salespeople need to follow a totally different mantra: Always Be Helping.
Your job, of course, is still to sell. But abandon any strategies that involve force-feeding prospects a product they don’t want and don’t need. As Dale Carnegie famously said, people don’t want to be sold to – they want to feel as if they’re buying.
Seller-focused selling doesn’t play anymore in either B2B or B2C sales processes. The balance of power has been tipped away from the sales rep and toward the buyer. With the transparency and availability of information online, and the ability to tap into third-party reviews, buyers are far savvier than they used to be.
High-pressure selling has stopped working because it treats customers as interchangeable piles of money. But that’s not really true. Prospects’ situations and needs are as diverse as the people themselves, and while one buyer might be successful with your product, your offering may actually hurt another.
So, while Always Be Helping is simply the right thing to do, it’s also just better for your business. Selling to poor-fit customers is a stopgap solution that will cause customer turnover, lost income as clawback penalties, and in the most dramatic cases even shutter a business if churn gets too high.
On a less concrete scale, Always Be Closing tactics also hurt the brand. As soon as your company gains a reputation for having aggressive and selfish salespeople, it’ll be much harder to gain customers in the future — even ones you actually could have helped.
This outline lists the five things all sales reps must do in the age of Always Be Helping.
If the prospect has a problem completely out of sync with what your company offers or doesn’t need any help for the foreseeable future, get out! They don’t want to talk to you; they don’t need to talk to you, and chances are you don’t want to talk to them.
Because you can’t help everybody, and you shouldn’t be. Working with bad leads is like throwing money down the toilet. Picking who to help is a significantly better use of your time.
If you pick correctly, you’ll have no problem making 110% of your quota every month. But spending an equal amount of effort or time on every prospect – no matter how qualified or unqualified they may be – is a surefire way to continually miss the mark.
To determine where your leads are at in their journey, you can do things like track their interaction history with your business, like if they’ve opened a sales email or viewed your pricing page multiple times.
When you know where they stand, you can create a personalized sales process that speaks to their exact position. And, when you personalize, you’re championing Always Be Helping by prioritizing the customer and creating an experience based on their needs.
If you find you begin the process not speaking to a final decision maker, you don’t need to be too worried. By engaging with all the appropriate people, you can verify your solution is the right one, and you can better understand the perspectives of those involved in each step of the process, from purchase to adoption.
In addition, the information you’ve gathered in your initial research and later conversations will help you prepare for conversations with the decision-maker so you can present a value proposition that is tailored, educational, and convincing.
Always Be Helping means giving up control of the buying process. It does not, however, mean that salespeople must let prospects drive the bus. Strike a balance between how your prospect wants the process to play out and using your expertise to guide them in the right direction.
Your value in the sales process is that you, unlike your prospect, have successfully sold this product many times before. They don’t know how to get internal buy-in or structure a process that will get them the solution they need.
But you do.
Work with your prospect to understand their decision-making process and the perspectives of all relevant stakeholders, and then use that information to sell your product successfully.
Once you have built a solid foundation of trust with your buyers, you are in a stronger position to educate them on the viable solutions to their problem (likely your product) meaningfully.
Ultimately, the Always Be Helping salesperson has to establish trust and confidence before they can close the deal. Modern salespeople help their prospects connect the disparate dots to form a coherent solution. The era of the intimidating “always be closing” salesperson is officially over – and that’s a very good thing.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in July 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and freshness.