Old School Sales From 1980 - Is It Still Relevant?
Sometimes sales training opportunities appear in the most unlikely places. Last weekend I was walking in my neighborhood and came across a garage sale. Among the old exercise equipment, children’s toys, and patio furniture, I found something surprising: a sales training course from 1980. That’s right, ten cassette tapes promising to make me a master closer.
Could a 35 year old school sales training program still be relevant to sales people today? My curiosity was piqued, so I bought the tapes (for $1.99!) and went home to start my training.
Old School Selling: Controlling the Customer
While I was expecting the course to be a cliché ridden Glengarry Glen Ross type sales training program, I actually found much that a salesperson today could use. The course emphasized the psychology of selling and touched on topics such as becoming more assertive, reading a buyer’s hidden messages, and overcoming a seller’s inner fears and doubts. In addition, many of the closing techniques covered (the primary focus of the course) are still relevant today – assumptive close, alternate close, direct method, and so forth.
That being said, other closing techniques discussed now seem downright hokey such as the “Physical Action” close. Here sales people are advised to take an action such as pulling out a purchase agreement and start completing it. The idea is that by not asking you to stop, the buyer is actually giving you their unconscious consent to buy. Does anyone still use that one? Or my favorite, the “Gold Pen” close. Here the salesperson is supposed to change pens (presumably to the salesperson’s lucky gold pen) to signify that the buyer has agreed to buy and it is now time to sign the agreement. I am not sure how this works in the age of eSignatures.
One recurring theme that emerged from these tapes that I found praticularly dated was the heavy emphasis on using psychological tactics to “control” the buyer to in essence force a close. For example, one lesson was on different question forms designed to get the prospect to agree with you. Using negative word questions, for example, “Wouldn’t your feel more secure if you had more home insurance?” will generally illicit a positive response. Likewise, so will using “If” questions, “If I could demonstrate how this product could save you time and money, would you buy it?”
Notice how questions aren’t being asked to help the buyer understand their own needs better, or enable the salesperson develop valuable insights into a buyer’s business problems, rather they are part of a bag of tricks the seller can reach into when they need to push the buyer forward. I have no doubt that many of these techniques that now seem manipulative were widely accepted selling tactics back in the 1980s. However, today’s buyers (particularly B-to-B buyers) are sophisticated, armed with information, and, hate being sold to.
Becoming a Master Closer: Keep it Simple
So how can you become a master closer without resorting to heavy handed “old school” tricks? The most important thing to remember is that successfully closing a sale should be the natural culmination of the sales conversation between you and the buyer, rather than the result of a last minute tactic you have to use. That means that prior to closing, you have built a strong relationship with the buyer, identified the buyer’s needs with great questions, presented your solution in a compelling manner that addresses the buyer’s needs, and managed any objections. Likewise, the buyer has completed their purchase process and has acknowledged that your solution fills their need. At that point, you have earned the right to ask for the order and should do so in a simple, straightforward manner.
Becoming a master closer today doesn’t require manipulative tactics or a deep understanding of behavioral psychology, but is does require a deep understanding of your buyer’s needs and compelling solution that satisfies those needs.
Photo credit: Hk-1
About David Jacoby
As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.