Albert Einstein’s famous “Theory of Relativity” (e = mc2) is as familiar to many millions of people as a popular modern business saying for a soda or a jingle for a chocolate bar. Although very few among these millions really understand the scientific premise of the “Theory of Relativity”: people innately understand its importance and relate it to its brilliant creator, the wild-haired genius Albert Einstein. The famous equation is energy, like H2O is water. It has been burned into the collective minds of contemporary culture even in the most scientifically challenged people.
There is a similar equation that is as relevant, contemporary and important as it relates to fading art and the ability to sell: “ABC = Always closing!” The age of instant communication, computers, teleconferencing, and electronic product displays has seen the most important business skill ever employed to generate commerce to erode dramatically. The art of selling is dying. The ability to find, cultivate, qualify, and close a sales transaction is being sacrificed on the altar of impersonal contact and fill-in-the-blank approaches.
Modernists might argue, “What if sales is a dying art? Look at the steady growth of the economy, startups, outsourcing, and emerging markets. Modern technology has facilitated this growth in a spectacular way.” I agree. Technology is wonderful. The ability to call anywhere in the world with a cell phone, receive emails 24 hours a day, and FedEx documents overnight is a breakthrough in efficiency and productivity.
However, if selling skills, particularly the art of closing the sale, were continually honed, honed, and refined across all organizations, regardless of size, how much more business would be generated? The old axiom that “nothing happens in any business until someone sells something” is as true today as ever. Combining modern technology with the application of the proven art of closing sales is a recipe for even more amazing economic growth and enrichment for every area of our society.
There are many excellent, successful, and very wealthy auto and real estate sellers. However, a visit to most auto dealerships or a home tour with the average real estate agent is all too often an exercise in frustration and a staggering window into the current poor state of sales. The ability to ask questions, listen to answers, identify customer needs, and provide answers to their needs is rarely exhibited. Salespeople want to teach and tell before learning what the customer wants to be taught and told.
Salespeople aren’t the only ones who need to hone their sales skills. No matter which direction your career path takes, you will be selling. The design engineer of an automobile company is selling his creative vision, designs and art to his supervisors and managers who will decide if his art reaches showroom floors as an automotive product. You are competing for a finite amount of production, marketing, and financing capacity with other designers. Lee Iacocca, Harley Earl, John deLorean, and Henry Ford weren’t just “car types” – they were salespeople!
Steve Jobs has launched Apple Computer twice. Once as a startup, and in a phenomenal second act, he’s resurrected the company he founded after being left for dead a decade ago. How did you do it? Excelent product? Safe. Instinct? Absolutely. But most importantly, like the face of Apple, it is always selling its brand.
In every local media market in the United States, there is an entrepreneur who becomes the face of his company, product or brand and bombards the public with sales messages. Often these companies are regional and sometimes national in scope. The important point to remember is that they all started small and local. The owner, founder, or spokesperson has been able to eliminate market clutter and be successful because they were able to identify customer needs, address those needs, and sell to the consumer that their product had unique benefits to them. Frank Perdue, the “King of the Chicken” started locally and became the face of his nationally successful company. Californians will remember the smart car salesman Cal Worthington. Mr. Worthington presented his animal-centric commercials, using dogs, lions and elephants in historic places for guests on the Tonight Show.
“Always be around” is a mantra worn with pride by all the successful businesses and salespeople I have ever met. From the initial contact with even the most disinterested customer possible, to the actual closing of the sale, successful people look for ways to help meet an identified need. This is not a hard sell. It is about providing a real benefit that the customer realizes will offer excellent value for money.
It feels great to close a sale. It is especially rewarding when you have provided a good or service that is needed, valued, and appreciated. People don’t like to be sold. They like to buy when they see how a product will benefit them. ABC is crucial to learning the REAL needs, unperceived or stated, of the client. Every question asked, every answer heard, the rating question offered, and the detail provided about a product or service is key to laying the foundation for a successful transaction.
A key part of any ABC application is “discovery.” “Discovery” is so elementary, so crucial to meeting customer needs that any inattention to the discovery process is almost always the reason for failure. “Discovery” must be practiced, it is not easily taught, and it certainly is not taught in a formulaic process. Building a relationship, chatting, relaxing and learning about the potential customer is the door to enter before discussing the product on offer. Listening during a good “discovery” will provide endless bites of information that can be used to provide the right product that is tailored to the customer’s needs.
Whether it’s selling insurance, cars, or cosmetics, working as a bank clerk, restaurant waiter, travel agent, or park attendant, there are constant opportunities to enhance your career by practicing ABC. The practitioner of this sales command will be successful. The ABC practitioner will also discover that when the time comes for the final closing, the answer is so obvious to the client that little decision is required.
Whether we cite Occam’s Razor, Moore’s Law, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, the Lord’s Commandments, ABC = “Always Closing”, or any time-honored bromide, it is wise to note the simplicity of buried logic. . Adhering to the intent of these words is invaluable in improving performance, whether it’s in science, business, sales, or life. Most people will use ABC on a daily basis; It’s a shame that more people don’t recognize that fact and live to perfect your application.