It’s Official: “Always Be Helping” Replaces “Always Be Closing (ABC)” as Key to Business Development
Have you ever seen that great David Mamet movie Glengarry Glen Ross with that chilling scene where Alec Baldwin harangues a pathetic group of real estate salesmen to “always be closing?”
That scene captured the essence of sales approach wisdom at that time, and Janice (who is a world class sales talent) remembers going into sales meetings where “always be closing” was the driver of training, sales incentives and contests, corporate communications, and sales reporting. In my role as a marketer in days of yore, I remember being tasked with supporting the sales team with lead generation programs and sales collateral that was 100% focused on the bottom of the sales funnel.
But as buyers became more social and as product-service-performance-reputation-opinion information became easy to find and access, “always be closing” as a sales approach was knocked off its lofty perch.
It’s not about closing a prospect anymore as much as it’s about helping the prospect “self-close” by accommodating and helping them through the buying process.
A Shift in the Balance of Power
An abundance of data strongly suggests, as Dan Tyre observes, that “the balance of power has been tipped away from the sales rep and toward the buyer (who is) far savvier than they used to be.” In fact, any number of research studies show that 50-90% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer reaches out to sales.
Here’s what we wrote a few years ago in a post called Uh Oh. Your Firm’s Prospects Are Now in Charge of Marketing: “Prospects don’t want to be “sold,” they want to be helped.” For your sales team and the support they get (or don’t get) from marketing, it’s no longer a matter of “always be closing.” Moving the revenue needle is now about “always be helping” and then closing the sale. Joel Goldstein summarized this thinking very succinctly in a recent post he published called Always Be Closing vs. Always Be Helping, which we’ve excerpted at right.
Also, consider these findings from a recent DemandGen Report:
- 61% of survey respondents agreed that the winning vendor delivered a better mix of content appropriate for each stage of the purchasing process.
- 52% viewed 8+ pieces of content from the winning vendor.
- 71% emphasized the importance of relevant information.
The shift in the balance of power has serious consequences for structure and mission of sales and marketing departments along quite a number of dimensions, including content.
Ideas for “Helpful” Content
When looking at guidance about tying content to the sales funnel, everything we read is about using an appropriate content “device” at a particular funnel stage, like doing blogging at the awareness stage or a video for the consideration phase. In our opinion, too much time and energy has been devoted to aligning type of content device to the stages of sales funnel rather than strategizing how to create helpful content.
So we put together a list of ideas for writing and publishing “helpful content” that will help your prospects though the sales funnel and accommodate the movement toward securing a sale. This helpful content can be written by the marketing department, sales team, or even outside consultants, and many of the ideas can be executed through devices ranging from blogs to webinars to videos and more.
Here are ideas for content:
- Add a new voice or perspective to social discussions like those in LinkedIn groups.
- Aggregate and then publish links and results of media monitoring around a topic, issue or hot button.
- Aggregate and then publish online discussions around a particular topic.
- Aggregate blog posts around a particular topic or issue into a longer form of content like an ePaper or eBook to provide a reader with more content and context.
- Ask your client support team about issues and concerns they are hearing from clients and use that information and your insights about possible solutions to create and publish new content.
- Assemble and publish a weekly summary of top news stories in your industry.
- Build and offer some type of widget or tool like a calculator that can help a prospect understand financial impacts of a new law or regulation.
- Comment on a news story or article you find in trade press or other places visited by prospects and clients.
- Comment on excerpts from books and publish your observations and insights.
- Compile and publish a list of top people to follow on Twitter in your industry.
- Conduct a poll or survey around a single issue or topic and publish the results.
- Conduct and publish an interview an industry thought leader on a trend or issue.
- Create (and promote) a proprietary resource, like a content library.
- Create and publish a glossary of technical terms or acronyms.
- Create and publish a list of “how to” tips.
- Create content around “what not to do” guidance relative to handling an issue or pain point.
- Create flow charts that show steps and an order of activities for redressing an issue, problem or need.
- Create new content from insights you glean from keyword research and analysis that identifies hot topics or issues.
- Discuss impending, new legislation, regulation, rules or standards that will affect your industry.
- Distribute instructions or a tutorial on how to do or use something.
- Do a “behind the scenes” story that shows how you handled a hot topic or issue.
- Do a book review or assemble and deliver a list of favorite industry related books.
- Do research or a survey on how companies are handling a particular issue, pain or hot point and then publish a best practices guide.
- Explain a theory in plain, simple language that can be understood by technical and non-technical people.
- Find new ways or angles to explain ideas about solutions to pressing issues or pain points that clients and prospects may have.
- Find relevant infographics about a topic, issue or pain point and republish them on your site.
- Highlight an industry controversy and present both sides of the issue – or, pick one side and advocate.
- Offer suggestions and links to other content that will give your reader a well-rounded inventory of topic-specific insights.
- Prepare a compilation of favorite blog posts with an emphasis on a particular topic or issue with a healthy dose of other people’s blogs.
- Prepare and publish a buying guide relative to a class of products or services.
- Present a compilation and your take regarding recent, relevant industry statistics.
- Present best in class industry specific processes or procedures.
- Provide “fill in the blanks” worksheets that can help a client or prospect quickly get to the core of an issue and possible solutions.
- Publish a case study around an issue or pain point.
- Publish non-proprietary, copyright compliant schematics and blueprints.
- Publish updates to topics you may have addressed previously.
- Publish your forecast of industry trends issues or opportunities.
- Put FAQ’s on your website to present information on trends, issues or pains.
- Put together a checklist of steps, processes, pieces, etc. to help clients or prospects understand what’ may be involved in solving a particular issue or problem.
- Put together a list of the 5 or 10 most pressing problems reported by your clients and ways those issues might be redressed.
- Review and publish your take on a product or service.
- See what prospects are telling the sale team about issues and concerns they have and use that information and your insights about possible solutions to create and publish new content.
- Send an email with a weekly roundup of blog posts you’ve published, but do not republish anything that might be considered to be advertorial.
- Showcase a potential action plan and timelines that can help a prospect or client understand time and resource commitments for solving a problem.
- Sponsor a roundtable of experts around a specific issue, topic or pain point.
- Sponsor and promote a regular series of breakfasts for sharing information and ideas.
- Take a complex technical issue, simplify it, and publish your guidance.
- Write a post that’s motivational or inspirational.
- Write a step by step guide to help prospects and clients solve a problem or address an issue.
- Write a story about how a product or service works or how it’s made.
- Write about industry myths.
- Write and publish a profile on an influential person.
- Have an inventory of bottom the funnel content ready for use by your sales team. This should include:
- Company history
- Relevant case studies
- Price list
- Sample pack
- Product or service sell sheets
- Proposal templates
- Values and mission statement
Strategy First, Tactics Second
All of the items on the list presented above are about helping your prospects and clients rather than trying to directly and immediately close a sale. Also, notice that the list avoids advertorial content masked as being helpful, like “10 Characteristics of the Perfect Staffing Firm for Your Company.”
Nobody is being fooled when you go down this path.
We counsel that before you start thinking about tactics or devices, you first think about strategy by answering two questions: (1) what are the significant issues or hot buttons our clients have, and (2) what can we say or provide to help them address those issues?
You might just find that when you’re always helping, you are in fact, always closing by giving your prospects and clients the right information at the right time in their buyer’s journey.