The strategy backfires, however, because the agents use a variety of unethical approaches in order to meet their targets and not get fired.
Despite the cautionary tale, ABC became a popular strategy in the real world for all kinds of sales professionals.
ABC encourages salespeople to try desperate, largely ineffective methods such as cold calling, lying, and emotional manipulation.
In one pitiful scene, the sales executive played by Al Pacino gets a client drunk (Jonathan Pryce) and over the course of he evening breaks him down emotionally until agrees to buy some expensive investment property.
Today, most experts operating in the business world agree that ABC isn’t an effective approach. According to a 2018 study by CSO Insights, salespeople spend just 35% of their time selling or getting deals over the line.
The majority of their time is spent on sourcing leads, following up with customers, planning, strategising and completing admin tasks.
One of the main reasons for ABC’s demise is that unlike in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the modern consumer has a wealth of information and choice at their fingertips.
These days, most consumers like to shop around online, research and read reviews before they commit to a purchase. A pushy sales pitch just won’t wash.
With the internet comes a certain type of freedom.
According to a Digital Commerce 360 analysis of U.S. Department of Commerce data, a decade ago, ecommerce accounted for around 7% of total retail purchases. Online sales now represent nearly 20% of spending through all channels.
Modern alternatives to “Always Be Closing”
The film “Glengarry Glenn Ross” exemplifies the negative stereotype of the “salesman” as the predator in the used car lot waiting to overcharge a vulnerable customer — much like the Cohen Brothers did in the 1996 movie “Fargo.”
In “Fargo,” William H. Macy plays a desperate car salesman who has his wife kidnapped so he can extract a ransom from her wealthy father, but ends up getting her murdered instead.
The negative trope of the salesman isn’t a new phenomenon.
Many American high school students will find Arthur Miller’s play “Death of a Salesman” (1949) on their required reading list.
If the title is any indication, Miller portrays the sales professional in a painfully unflattering way. The play is a regular hit on Broadway and was made into a TV movie in 1985 with Dustin Hoffman in the lead role.
As a result of changes in consumer behaviour, today’s salespeople are spending less time “closing” and more time on relationship building.
Although it doesn’t have the same ring to it, perhaps “Never Be Always Closing” NBAC is a more appropriate phrase for today’s sales landscape. Never Be Always Closing is about waiting for the customer to tell you they’re ready to take the next step.
The process is more organic and the emphasis is on building brand loyalty.
Many other sales strategies and approaches have proved to be effective in business.
Value-based selling, consultative and solution selling, SPIN, and Challenger Selling are some of the most popular ways people sell products and services across a variety of industries today.
Contemporary sales strategies are heavily influenced by the following:
The most successful-commerce businesses use technology to source and nurture leads, and engage customers with their brand beyond the point of purchase.
If you have lots of leads in your pipeline, keeping a handle on them is much easier with the help of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software.
CRMs make it easy for you to qualify leads and segment data, capturing the potential customer’s information when they first interact with your brand online.
They provide an insight into customer preferences and use predictive AI to provide customers with the solutions they’re looking for.
According to Salesforce’s State of Sales report, 72% of business buyers expect vendors to personalise engagement to their needs.
Personalisation in a sales context means tailoring the buying experience to the specific needs, pain points, and challenges of the customer while making them feel valued.
A report by McKinsey Digital reveals that businesses can drive 5-15% increases in revenue and 10-30% increases in marketing efficiency through personalising the buyer experience, primarily by using technology to trigger product recommendations.
Just 15% of CMOs think their firm is on the right track when it comes to personalization though, so there’s lots of room for growth in this area.
Today’s customers expect more than a transactional relationship.
They want what most humans want: to feel a sense of belonging. They also want to buy – and buy in – to something that aligns with their own values and expectations.
70% of consumers want to support brands that address social and environmental issues, and 46% evaluate a brands’ social responsibility efforts when they look to make a purchase, according to a survey by Markstein.
In this sense, the main onus has been taken off the individual salesperson and placed on the brand as a whole.
Salespeople are leveraging online communities on social media channels like LinkedIn and Instagram to nurture and contribute to consumer communities. While this approach might not translate into immediate sales, it helps build trust and awareness.
The future of sales
One new alternative to ABC that’s currently gathering steam is “Always Be Helping” (ABH). This is where the salesperson helps the client make the right decision based on their specific needs.
In certain cases, “always be helping” might involve the sales rep recommending a product or solution that they’re not even selling.
Although this approach may seem counterproductive on the surface, it helps create a strong sense of trust that can pay off in the long run.
Always be helping starts with the identification of a problem: what does your customer need help with? Next, you ask yourself where your prospect is in the decision-making process.
Are they ready to commit to a purchase?
Previously, digital selling techniques might have been seen as a secondary strategy to more traditional methods. Today, sales organisations must be able to prioritise digital interactions, and in some cases rely on them entirely.
Use every digital tool at your disposal to find, qualify, and sell leads. Automation will also become increasingly important in the post-Covid sales economy.
“In the next three-to-five years, the sales function will be completely based upon artificial intelligence,” says Eric Quanstrom, CMO of Cience in a HubSpot article. “Specialized training will be required. More specific roles will emerge, rather than a salesperson trying to do everything. Roles may disappear entirely.”