In the 1992 movie, Glengarry Glen Ross, Alex Baldwin plays a character named “Blake” who is a motivational sales person sent by Headquarters to fire up a four-person team selling real estate. In a memorable scene, Blake explains sales success as, “A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing, always be closing.”
Ironically, this notion is not that uncommon in sales training programs. Sales seminars mistakenly reinforce the idea that pushing a customer toward a decision leads to better sales performance.
The truth is, few customers like being maneuvered toward a sale and most can spot manipulation a mile away. In today’s technology-enabled and connected environment, information is plentiful and customers know far more about the purchases they make and the strategies salespeople employ to try to improve sales. When suspicion replaces trust, customer resistance rises and compromises the buyer-seller relationship.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, famously said, “I am not selling books; I am helping my customers make wiser buying decisions.” The success of Amazon certainly attests, at least in part, to the validity of his business model. Customers interested in a purchase want to engage in a dialogue with a sales professional, an interaction in which they take an active role. This interaction allows the customer to not only assess the proposed solution but also the trustworthiness of the sales professional.
Sales skill development programs should train salespeople to invite each customer into a dialogue, providing multiple opportunities for the customer to provide feedback. By listening to this feedback, the salesperson can hone in on the customer’s level of understanding and willingness to close the deal. A continual process of inviting customer response shifts the burden of “selling” from the salesperson (pushing a solution) to the customer (pulling the solution inward). Since people tend to more strongly support what they help create, making the customer part of the solution gets them on board, reduces resistance and moves them toward a positive decision.
Perhaps Baldwin/Blake’s sales training session would have been more successful had the “A, B, C’s” he was referring to stood for “A-B-C: Always Be Communicating!”