Do you know a top sales rep who is a hard closer and exceeds her number every month?
I bet you do -- lots of people do.
I speak 50 times a year around the world about inbound marketing and sales -- the modern way to connect with prospects and give them control. Inbound empowers marketers and salespeople to engage prospects with a high level of knowledge and respect, provide the right resources when buyers have questions, and start business relationships, not focus on closing deals. I feel lucky to be able to help my audiences learn a new way of doing things and see real business results.
In these speaking sessions, I typically ask the audience, "Does anyone know a hard closer?"
First, I see people wince as the image of a hard-closing salesperson pops into their mind. But after a few seconds, I usually see a few cautious head nods. Then the hands start going up -- first just a handful, but eventually many people acknowledge that the old-school, aggressive salesperson still exists.
I always ask the follow up question, "Is that the way you want to buy?"
Without fail, people always answer emphatically -- no.
I also ask if interacting with a pushy salesperson would negatively influence their purchasing decision.
The answer is always the same -- yes. (Depending on what part of the country I'm in, sometimes I'll get a "Hell yes!")
Clearly, none of us want to deal with pushy salespeople and hard closing tactics, but they still exist.
There is a cost associated with a hard closing process, and in this age of open communication it also comes with a huge risk.
Sales has changed. It's about helping, not pushing and closing on the salesperson's timeline.
It's about education, not personality.
It's about providing accurate information and timely responses, not picking up lunch checks.
It's about honesty and truthfulness, not deception or tricks.
It's about building relationships, not closing deals.
Not convinced? We live in a new era of sales. Even if you don't care about doing the right thing by your customers (which you should), I hope you'll care enough about your sales success and your paycheck to update the legacy sales techniques you might still be relying on.
Why Always Be Closing Doesn't Work Anymore
1) Hard closing leads to short-term, unsustainable wins.
You might win the first deal through hard closing (but you'll probably win less and less often). But if you're aggressive and pushy, you probably won't get the second deal, the upgrade, or the add on, and you definitely won't win the long-term business relationship.
Buyers have long memories, both good and bad. As they move from one company to another, they bring their ideas, experiences, opinions, recommendations, and warnings with them. If you burn one relationship, it can have dire future consequences across multiple accounts.
2) Buyers talk to each other.
Customers compare notes all the time in all stages of the sales process.
Salespeople used to give out references at the end of the sales process when clients were in the final stages of decision. Now we give them out at the beginning, middle, end and even after the purchase. Why?
Your customers are your best salespeople. They talk about what is vital to them -- including the sales process and how the salesperson treated them.
A legacy sales person gets crushed in this environment. "Love the product, hated my salesperson" is not a review you want attached to your name. Ever.
When you take a buyer-centric approach to sales, you'll get ultra-positive reviews. And that'll bring you more business.
3) Always Be Closing ruins your personal reputation.
At HubSpot, we get rave reviews all the time. Our prospects actually take time to write our CEO love letters about how the inbound sales process is different than a traditional push. They say our salespeople are helpful, not brash; inquisitive, not condescending; that they listen, rather than tell.
Don't believe me? See for yourself.
These reviews get published on social media, on review sites, in testimonials, and are sent to individual members of the HubSpot team. In the age of flattening technological capability (there are fewer and fewer products out there that are the only ones that can complete a certain task), the appeal of doing business with a company that delivers a great customer experience is a huge competitive advantage.
4) You could be ruining your brand.
A great product with a poorly run sales process could survive, even thrive, in the 1980s because the default mindset then was "buyer beware." Today, buyers have so many options available to them that things are the exact opposite -- it's seller beware. If you or your salespeople slam deals through, you'll live with the consequences on Quora, LinkedIn, review sites like Yelp, Angie's List, and G2Crowd, and in your customer net promoter score.
Good luck to the "hard closers" in 2018: Your days are numbered.
Selling products by wheeling and dealing and pushing features belongs back in 2002. Starting a long-term relationship is the new close. We love new business. We love current business even more. Congratulations to those of you practicing inbound sales -- you have a significant competitive advantage.
Originally published Jan 13, 2017 8:30:00 AM, updated December 16 2019