There is an old saying in the world of Sales—“ABC”—which is better known as “Always Be Closing.” It was commonly used by sales managers in the days of typewriters and photocopier selling. So let us ask ourselves—is the focus on closing just as important today?
Of course, the answer is yes—closing is still important today, but not at much as you might think. Attempting to close in each and every exchange will quickly define the salesperson as a desperate transactional seller, instead of as a consultative seller. Closing should be part of a thoughtful sales plan. Today, at least as important as closing—and maybe even more important—is the opening of sales discussions. How can opening be more important? Because in today’s competitive environment, if you do not open sales opportunities correctly or in sufficient volume, then there will not be enough opportunities to close. The better the salesperson is at opening sales cycles, the more successful that salesperson will be at closing.
The difference between opening and closing sales cycles is the difference between Creating Demand and Capturing Demand. The reason win rates are higher in Demand Creation initiated sales cycles is that the proactive sales professional has alerted or educated the buyer about initiatives or offerings that can help them improve their business before the customer has even started their buying process. Even if the customer subsequently uses the RFP process, the salesperson that started out with a Demand Creation approach will be ahead of the competition and may even be able to influence the buying criteria to be evaluated. That salesperson’s thought leadership and vision can grab the imagination or curiosity of the customer to frame up the first sales conversation. Any would-be competitors will have to match that same level of thought leadership in order to earn as much credibility from the potential customer.
Another powerful element resulting from being involved in the opening of the sales cycle is that you can handpick the Decision Makers and Influencers that will ultimately control the buying decision. Since a Demand Creation sales cycle most often involves giving birth to a new initiative outside of a company’s current procurement plans and budgets, new relationships at senior executive levels are needed to reallocate budget dollars to a new and often “unthought-of” and “unplanned-for” initiative. For this to be successful, a politically powerful customer executive is needed to command and delegate the necessary resources to support the new initiative. In the process of sharing your vision and gaining traction for the new initiative, you have premium and privileged time to create and build superior relationships with high-level executives. When these relationships, which were made during the creation of demand at the opening of the sales cycle, are protected over the course of the sales pursuit, they will constitute a “barrier of entry” to any would be competitors. To have these superior relationships with the senior executives of a company from an early stage will often translate into “competitor immunity” for a sales pursuit.
And so always remember—Strong Openers Make Great Closers!