In the 1992 movie Glengarry Glen Ross, actor Alec Baldwin plays Blake, a hard-nosed and profane trainer sent to light a fire under a foundering real estate sales team. In one of the most famous scenes, he emasculates Jack Lemon, Alan Arkin, and Ed Harris with one of the film's most memorable lines: “A-B-C. A: Always, B: Be, C: Closing. Always be closing. ALWAYS BE CLOSING.”
The scene makes for good entertainment. And for a time, it was something of a mantra in the real world. There are those who still believe and practice it. However, the truth is, being an effective sales professional is less about focusing on closing sales than on exchanging commitments with customers.
Today's informed consumers aren't looking to be sold with fast talk or regurgitated product details. Most walk into your business already armed with information about what you sell; overzealous salespeople can turn them off by trying to show how much they know without attempting to understand the customer needs.
Potential buyers need a sales person who can be a resource and problem solver. Salespeople must be able to communicate value in the solutions they offer, gaining the customer's trust through a demonstrated understanding of the customer's needs. For the salesperson, gaining a commitment from the customer can be as straightforward as communicating the ways in which their product or service addresses the customer's needs and serves to create an ongoing relationship.
A salesperson's most powerful tool in this process is his or her communication skills. Salespeople gain the customer's commitment by communicating their own. These commitment statements convey that the salesperson is able to meet the customer's expectations, and solve the customer's problems. The salesperson offers options, support, and an ongoing relationship capped off by asking the customer for a commitment. When these things happen, the customer's commitment to buy will come as no surprise.
Customers show up at a business because they want to buy. They already have a basic interest in the products and services you offer and, very likely, some basic product knowledge. A hard sales pitch without an understanding of the customer's needs along with a solid commitment can send them to the nearest competitor.