In a previous post, I explained my many problems with the “Always Be Closing” approach to sales. In a nutshell, I find that the “ABCs of Sales” is a one-sided approach that creates the wrong dynamic for a sustainable business. The only thing it’s good for in the long term is alienating your customers.
If the “ABCs of Sales” is wrong, then what’s the alternative? I have two other acronym-ready sales philosophies for you: “Always Be Prospecting” and “Always Be Aligning.” Or, if you prefer, the ABPs and ABAs of Sales. These may not be quite as catchy-sounding as the ABCs, but they do deliver real-world results.
These two approaches complement each other, and they are meant to be used in concert. The first is a more tactical approach to generating more potential customers, while the second is a strategic, sustainable way to build lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with customers and business partners.
The ABPs of Sales
What does it mean to “always be prospecting”? Simply put, it’s the key to any kind of long-term sales success. Developing a process for identifying new prospects is the cornerstone of every successful sales strategy. Without creating new sales opportunities today, there will be no sales tomorrow, next week, or next month.
This is as true for an individual sales rep trying to feed their family as it is for a giant corporation trying to have a profitable quarter. If you want to generate sales, you need to have a steady stream of opportunities. The more prospects you have coming in, the more inertia you have to keep the sales process in motion.
You’ve probably heard the saying that “Sales is a process of controlled disqualification.” That’s absolutely true. Every “no” brings you one step closer to a “yes,” and that’s especially powerful when you, as the salesperson, are the party saying “no.” Disqualifying poorly aligned prospects is the most effective way of finding that right, truly qualified deal.
The best sales processes out there disqualify a ton of opportunities along the way to a finalized deal. In order for that system to work, you need to have megatons of prospects coming through.
The ABAs of Sales
I’ve talked a lot of about the value of alignment in business relationships in previous posts. When you can create alignment between your customers’ needs and your products and services, good things happen. But what does it mean, in practical terms, to “always be aligning”?
The “ABA of Sales” is a simple approach to sales that forces you to always seek and find that alignment between your prospects’ needs and your products or services. When paired with the ABP approach, this leads to a much more effective and comfortable way to improve your conversions. Why? Because it removes one of the biggest problems people have with the sales process.
The sales process makes most people uncomfortable. One big reason for this is the idea (not helped by the ABCs of Sales) that sales is all about getting a one-sided win for the salesperson. No one wants to feel like they’ve been tricked into buying something. If your prospect is constantly expecting to be hit with some high-pressure “finishing move” sales technique, it’s only natural that they will be guarded and defensive throughout the process.
When you change the nature of this interaction, you also change the results. By constantly seeking out alignment, making sure that both you and your prospect are on the same page and having both of your needs met along the way, that tension fades. It no longer feels like you’re setting them up to lose. By definition, alignment-based sales is a win-win relationship.
In practical terms, alignment-based sales works by asking some simple questions during the sales process. “Does this product or service actually work for both parties’ interests?” If yes, move on to the next stage. If no, and there isn’t some reasonable change that will make it work, then it’s likely that it’s not going to be a good fit. That may mean that prospect is not qualified, and there’s no benefit to trying to sell them something that simply isn’t aligned with their needs.
All along the way, you will be stopping to ask “Are we still aligned?” This is a much more natural way to do business, and it’s much more effective than trying to sell someone something that they really don’t need. Because it’s coming from a genuine place, rather than a completely self-serving “one way” perspective, it also helps build the trust you need to create a sustainable, long-term relationship with your customer.