I honestly can’t believe I’m writing about this topic again. There was a period (probably about 3 - 5 years) where I thought selling organizations had finally evolved and understood that closing is an overvalued, overfocused and overhyped part of the sales/buying process.
To be clear, if you think you have a closing problem, then I’m here to affirmatively and conclusively tell you that closing is never the problem (hell, it’s rarely even “a” problem). The problem just manifests itself at that stage of the process. The problem always - ALWAYS! - occurs earlier in the process.
I used to talk and write about this regularly. I shared the need for sales (and marketing) to educate, “peel the onion” to dig deeper and lead the way for prospects (and customers) to learn and understand more about their problems (including those they aren’t even aware of) and how to solve those problems and/or capture opportunities.
I have to admit that I enjoyed that period where I was able to focus on the more meaningful components of demand generation and sales. It’s a lot more fun (and valuable) when the focus is on what organizations and people should be doing and how to execute successfully than it is to admonish on what shouldn’t be focused.
The issue finally crossed my threshold of restraint (which has prompted this post) when I saw two statements from well-respected sales and marketing advisors:
- The first focused on defining the funnel: It starts wide at the top, with hundreds of people searching for your product. he problem with this statement is that this is not the top of the funnel, it’s the bottom - and salespeople need to learn how to tell the difference!
- The second is from a blog post about sales reps cold calling: If your sales reps are carrying a quota based on closed business, they should not be making qualifying cold calls. They need to be taking qualified leads and moving them through the sales cycle to closure. Their focus should be on one thing – closing.
These two items of examples of why, despite more money, education and effort being spent on professionalizing the sales role, salespeople are still thought of as slimy, pushy liars. If you don’t believe me, just log into LinkedIn and see how many posts slam the efforts of salespeople.
If your salespeople are focused on one thing - closing (or if you’re the salesperson and that’s what you’re focused on), do the business world and sales profession a favor and get out!
Salespeople should be focused on three things and one result.
The Three Things Salespeople Should be Focused on
- Teaching. A few weeks ago I was a part of a debate with a friend on Twitter. He was complaining about how bad buyers are and how they should spend some time to be educated. I told him that it’s sales’ role to provide that education. The most valuable (and least replaceable) component of the role of sales is to educate buyers so that they understand their situation, the context of that situation and how to best achieve their objectives. This includes teaching them how to best buy or procure. This focus is the basis of all value creation.
- Designing. The single thing I love, absolutely LOVE, about selling is that every situation is different. Every prospect, lead and/or deal is like a snowflake - fragile and unique. Too often, salespeople treat their product/service like a hammer and every prospect like they’re the exact same nail being pounded into the exact same plywood. Valuable (and successful) salespeople tailor their approach and solution (product/service) to the audience. They realize that different buyer roles (within the same company) have different viewpoints and needs and serve to bring those viewpoints together to achieve a common goal.
- Fitting. The most important (and valuable) question a salesperson can be asking themselves during the entire sales/buying process is “What’s wrong with this picture?” What indications am I seeing that this isn’t the right thing for both of us, what barriers are present and whether the timing is right. A salesperson should never ask someone to buy from them if they’re not supremely confident that what they are suggesting is the right thing for the prospect...and the right thing for the seller (and their organization).
I think I know what’s causing this problem. Business is really good again. Demand is up, money is flowing and the fish are jumping out of the water. Salespeople (and their managers and executives) are once again confusing fish jumping into salespeople’s boats with fishing.
The One Result
Salespeople (and their organizations) should be focused on delivering one result:
Enabling customers to make mutually beneficial long-term decisions.
The protocol should be Win/Win or No Deal. This focus is actually quite simple and enables everyone to treat everyone else like the human beings they are, rather than merely targets to a “number.” Keep the focus there, and you won’t have to worry about closing.