evolve or die

Evolve or Die Part 3: From “Always Be Closing” to “Always Be Consulting”

A few weeks ago, I spoke at the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) Leadership Summit in Chicago. I discussed how the sales landscape is changing and various ways sales organizations should think about evolving to remain successful.

Previously, I mentioned how sales reps must become even more knowledgeable about their prospects and improve collaboration across departments. In addition to these changes, sales reps must also begin to change the way they sell.  The same old selling techniques are not going to work on today’s prospects.

Always Be Closing 

“Always Be Closing” (ABC) is a saying that many sales reps are very familiar with. Unfortunately, the old school method of hard selling doesn’t work very well in this day and age. Today’s prospects are too savvy, have too much access to information and they don’t want to be pushed. They’ll buy on their own schedules.

When I worked at my previous company in the automotive industry, we attended a lot of trade shows where we had very aggressive sales reps work the booth. The reps would stand on the edge of the aisles, grab prospects and drag them to our booth. Next, they would pressure them to buy now. One time, I actually heard a rep say, “If you walk out of this booth, that deal is walking with you.”  Needless to say, it wasn’t the best experience for our customers. But, we did generate a lot of revenue at these shows. So, hard selling works, right?

Well, we took a look at the business that we generated during one of our biggest shows of the year. We sold over $1 million.  But, when we looked to see what happened to that business six months later, we saw that most of it churned. It was lost.

Basically, the prospects agreed to buy the product and signed the deal just so we would leave them alone.  As soon as they got back home, they called to cancel.

Evolve the Way We Sell

The following year, we decided to change our strategy for the same show. We decided NOT to sell. That’s right, no selling.  We didn’t even bring contracts to the booth. It was tough to stand in front of 40 sales people and tell them they could not sell our products.

Instead, we wanted them to consult with their prospects. We armed them with reports and analytics to help their prospects better understand their market and how their dealership is performing in that market versus the competition.

When the show started, dealers cautiously approached our booth expecting the hard sell treatment they had become accustomed to. Instead, they were greeted and asked if they wanted to see a scorecard of their dealership’s performance and market insights to help them improve results. Several dealers entered the booth and sat down with a rep. Two hours later, they walked out of the both after having a highly productive conversation.

As dealers started to hear about the consulting we were offering, more and more came by the booth. Before we knew it, every seat was taken and there was a long line of customers waiting for their scorecard. By the end of the show, we met with hundreds of customers and received huge accolades for the insights we provided.

The best part is that we actually sold just as much at this show, where we didn’t try to sell, as the previous show where we tried to sell.  And this time, the business actually stuck.

It goes to show you that “Always Be Closing” doesn’t necessarily work. Maybe we should change that acronym to “Always Be Consulting”?


About Andrea D.

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