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Are the ABC’s of selling really the ticket to being a top sales performer? In my experience ABC (Always Be Closing) selling cannot be your only mantra.  Now, before you go throwing tomatoes, let me say that I love Glengarry Glen Ross, Boiler Room, and other classic sales movies just as much as the next guy/gal. Furthermore, I love the pursuit of the sale as much as anyone I have ever met—so please keep reading.

I’ve been atop the sales ranks of nearly every organization I have worked for since leaving college about 20 years ago. I’ve sold homes, cars, money, and technology. I have been fortunate enough to work with some of the largest companies in America through that process. During this time, I’ve learned from a lot of people–both good and bad practices when it comes to selling.

Based on this experience, I’ve put a different twist on the ABC’s of selling. And dare I entreat you to push this out to your sales teams, and in your own sales behaviors.  Give it a shot! I do.

Disclaimer: this is not obviously built for all sales processes, or cycles. However, all parts of this can be used at some point during all sales presentations.

The ABC’s I’m referring to go like this—

  • A – Ask
  • B – Build
  • C – Challenge

I’m sure you are looking at these three words and telling yourself, that doesn’t sound nearly as cool as Alec Baldwin spelling out the ABC’s in the classic Glengarry Glen Ross. Actually, I agree…on the other hand, the ABC’s I’m proposing here have a more direct impact on your pocketbook in today’s highly intelligent, and over pitched decision maker collective. As technology gets stronger, more companies form, and products get eerily similar, you’ve got to step up your sales game to differentiate you and your product from the others. Having a process unique to every other guy on the block can be a huge differentiator in your success. Let me explain.

A: Ask questions


I mean ask a lot of questions! As soon as you are finished with the “Hi, How are you?” start finding out about your prospect. The more information you can derive from your potential client, the better likelihood you have of later doing business with them.

Ask questions about their current procedures or services, who are your prospects working with, how much are they spending, etc. Ask the kinds of questions that give you the opportunity to see your prospects’ current situation without being intrusive.

Once you’ve done that, you now have a plethora of information when it comes time to close the business. Notate, or memorize every detail. As the conversation or process goes on, it is your job to use each question to dig deeper into the world of what will make your prospects buy later. Once you have this information, you will then be able to turn the conversation, professionally, into a process digging deeper into these issues you have discovered.


B: Build Pain


Lots of Pain. This sounds sort of dark. It’s not. During the sales cycle, you have to, at all costs, get your customer to buy into the idea that your product is superior to their existing system—not by vomiting a product pitch, but by outlining why, how, and where their current systems and processes are failing them. Show them how their current systems are costing them money and time.

For example–in the “Ask Question” phase, your prospect admits that she’s having problems prioritizing the tens of thousands of leads in her database. At this point, its not about why your demand generation tool will help with with this (natural sales response). Instead, your next task is to get the customer to tell you how often this happens, how much money it costs her for reps to be wasting time on non qualified contacts and accounts, and then ask what will happen 12-24 months down the road if this doesn’t get resolved. Pose a second question to that cadence–what amount of revenue is she missing out on annually by not fixing this yesterday?

Make it glaringly obvious by the questions, and her answers, that she has a MAJOR problem, whether she wants to admit it yet or not. The pain in not the problem, but the long term result of the problem going unattended or unfixed.  Could this company lose market share, could they lose their jobs, or even lose valuable budget or revenue for future endeavors.  THATS THE PAIN!

C: Challenge


Challenge prevailing mindsets your customers have about the buying process. If you have made it this far, and the customer is still not asking to buy, then challenge how he thinks. A true salesperson can analyze the parts of a client’s current situation, and get him to admit the solution he has been using isn’t right for him anymore.

Maybe its the wrong size for his volume, or wrong result for his need, or wrong application for his system. Challenge the CEO, challenge the CMO, challenge the guy who has always bought the same thing for 30 years. Guess what, it might not be the best fit anymore, and you can help him figure that out.

So there you have it. A fresh look on a sales classic. Practice it, use it, tailor it to your business, and sales cycle. Ask, Build, and Challenge. Give this a try on your next few pitches, and see what type of control you now have over the buying process, and the decision makers involved. Happy selling, and ABC!