As the brash, trash-talking “sales motivator” in the 1992 movie Glengarry Glen Ross, Alec Baldwin delivered the performance of a lifetime. In an epic scene, he drops a torrent of insults on a bewildered team of real estate salesmen. He tells them that in order to keep their jobs, they must “always, ALWAYS be closing.”
ABC, or “Always Be Closing,” has always been a tenet of traditional selling. The problem is that “traditional selling” has gone the way of the manual typewriter, as have most “traditional” sales teams (i.e., people whose only job function is to make a sale).
In his new book To Sell Is Human, author Daniel H. Pink argues that we are all in sales now, thanks to new technologies, volatile economies and flatter organizations. Like it or not, everyone is in the business of trying to influence other people. Whether you are a solo entrepreneur or work for a large corporation, you need broad and elastic job skills to thrive.
That’s why ABC should stand for “Always Be Connecting.”
We all need to look for opportunities to grow our networks by connecting with prospective clients, strategic partners, allies and more. People don’t want to be sold. They want to do business with people they know, trust and like. (Genuinely like, that is. Having thousands of Facebook “likes” won’t add up to much if only a handful of those people are interested in what you have to say.)
So how can you cultivate genuine connections on a daily basis? Aside from delivering stellar products and superior service, how do you connect with customers and prospects in a way that keeps them coming back and referring others? Here are three strategies that have worked well for me:
Be a Leader
Over the past decade, I’ve belonged to one networking group (Business Networking International), one professional association (The National Speakers Association), and one community service organization (The Rotary Club of Portland). I’ve had the opportunity to join many other groups, associations, and community service organizations but turned them down. Why? Honestly, I simply was not interested enough to take on leadership positions.
I’ve learned that it takes time to develop relationships of trust in any group. Serving well in a leadership position is the single best way to develop the bonds that lead to business opportunities and referrals. Meanwhile, I’ve watched others join multiple groups hoping to close a sale. Invariably, these efforts fail. People can quickly sniff out the difference between someone pursuing quick success versus someone interested in building mutually beneficial, long term relationships.
Put Technology Aside
I love my iPhone, laptop and other gizmos. However, I always put them aside when I’m at a networking event or meeting with somebody one-on-one. Nothing says “you’re not very important” as much as fiddling with a device instead of looking into the eyes of the person you are talking to.
A recent Wall Street Journal article (“Just Look Me in the Eye Already“) describes some of the workplace perils associated with a decline in eye contact, which range from coming across as careless and disrespectful to being perceived as unprepared and lacking in confidence. In an average conversation, adults make eye contact between 30% and 60% of the time. Yet 60% to 70% of the time is what is typically required to create an emotional connection, according to one of the article’s sources.
The bottom line: Don’t fall prey to FOMO, or “the fear of missing out.” If you feel compelled to check your mobile gadgets repeatedly to make sure you aren’t missing anything, you’ll be losing out on the opportunity to connect that is right in front of you.
One of my pet peeves is referring somebody and never hearing back from the person who received the referral. When I get a referral, I always make a point to call the person who took the time to refer me and let them know how much I value the trust that they’ve placed me. Then, I’ll ask why he or she made the referral. This gives me the insight that helps me prepare to turn the referred prospect into a client.
Whether or not the referred individual becomes a client, I mail a thank you card to the person who made the referral and let them know where things stand. For the past four years, I’ve been sending personal greeting cards that I create online and which are sent out in the physical mail. The feedback has been tremendous, and reaffirms a basic human principle: Everyone wants to feel appreciated.
Remember….always, ALWAYS be connecting!