If you asked 100 organization heads what they want in a sales partner (i.e. an outsourcing situation), I bet 70 or more would say “closers.” But what if that idea misses the point?
There’s actually a book on selling called Never Be Closing, as opposed to the oft-cited Always Be Closing? The authors — Tim Hurson and Tim Dunne; they also work with ThinkX Consulting, which appears to be out of Toronto — did an interview with Hubspot’s blog too. Here’s a golden nugget:
A lot of the negative attitude has to do with what we call the Stranger’s Dilemma. We’re all strangers at first, and for good or ill, people don’t necessarily trust strangers. Ironically, many of the techniques salespeople are taught actually reinforce the problem. Many closing techniques are designed to manipulate clients into saying things they don’t want to say. But there’s a better way to deal with the Stranger’s Dilemma: Stop being a stranger. Make it clear your aim is to help your clients. Our whole book is about how you can do that — not through trickery, but by replacing the focus on Always Be Closing with a focus on Always Being Useful.
That quote comes from Gallup research. The research says that 7 of the 10 least-trustworthy professions involve sales or selling as the primary component of their job.
Why is the attitude so negative? The answer’s above. People think “sales” is one thing, but it’s really just providing value and adding context on who you are and why you care to a situation — and really, while human relationships can be challenging propositions, the base idea of sales shouldn’t be so fraught and confusing. It’s actually fairly simple. There are steps and processes, yes, but ultimately you are just proving the value of something to someone else.
On the “closing” front, obviously closing is important. Everyone wants to get the sale and make the money. But think about this too: if the goal is to provide value, and the moment you get paid is referred to as “closing” (i.e. the end of something), how does that imply value? Shouldn’t you constantly be building the relationship, as opposed to thinking of how to “close” it?
Maybe that’s semantics, but it makes some sense.
Back in their Hubspot interview, they talk about another concept that I think has some value: the structured debrief. They apply it to sales, but you can apply it to anything.
Essentially, after something happens in your life, you sit down and talk through a series of questions about what happened, how it happened that way, why it happened that way, where things could go better the next time, etc. It requires a degree of inward-facing honesty that maybe only a small percentage of humans actually have, but it’s a good idea in theory: look inward and try to figure out, “What just happened and what can I take from that the next time I do this?” (I used to do that all the time when I was teaching public school, and I honestly think it made me a better teacher in my second year.)
The structured debrief has value in the outsourcing ecosystem. You want a partner in sales who is willing to sit down and review processes and best practices to try and make more revenue the next time, right? Not someone who just dives headlong into the next sales cycle without thinking on how to do it better?