ABC – Always Be Closing. It’s been the sales war cry and tagline for sales for generations. Sales people always quote a movie like Glengarry Glen Ross and beat their chests to it. But the truth is, it’s really bad advice and total BS. If you’re ever in training for complex or technical sales in a B2B environment and someone tries to teach you this, walk out and don’t look back. The person teaching you either has no idea what they’re talking about or they’ve damaged a lot of relationships.
Complex B2B sales requires a significant amount of upfront discovery and consultative and advisory work from sales people. The very worst thing someone can do (especially with procurement) is to ‘always be closing’. In fact, a sure fire way to screw up a potentially fruitful long-term relationship is to try to ‘always be closing’. I’m a big proponent of building long-term mutually beneficial relationships (which you’ve likely gathered by now).
If sales people take the ABC approach, the likelihood of missing something important in the scope, costs, implementation, risk identification, etc is pretty high. And missing stuff like this doesn’t just have the potential to damage the relationship, but it can also put both companies at serious risk. Additionally, if there hasn’t been enough work to determine the risk profile of the work, the money attached to the work, the safety of the work or the scope of work itself, serious damage (even physical damage) could be done to both companies and potentially hurt people in the process.
But look, this isn’t just on sales. Procurement people are equally guilty of trying to close too early. It’s a responsibility on both sides of the table to ensure the deal is right and that due diligence is done. Obviously you can’t drag it on too long. And obviously there’s always going to be a certain amount of risk in many business transactions. I’m not saying that there isn’t. But I am saying that both parties have a responsibility to each other to do the up-front discovery work to make sure they’re making the right calls and putting the right deal in place. ‘Always Be Closing’ is a flawed war cry and it’s short sighted.
“So why do we tolerate this behaviour?”
In my opinion, greed and our need for immediate sales, cash flow or savings sometimes (often?) outweighs our ability think critically about full deal structure, scope, risk profiles, etc. Often hitting sales or savings targets are described as the ‘be all end all’ for sales and procurement. We all have targets that we need to hit. I get it. But should we let those targets get in front of doing the right thing for the business we’re working with and doing the right thing for the business that we’re working for?
Our collective past in North America is littered with decisions that have been made in favour of a short-term gain over long-term effects. We know where that road leads. We’ve been there. It’s not very nice.
We need to stop the ‘always be closing’ nonsense and do the up-front leg work to get a good deal (not just a quick deal) in place.