Who remembers Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross? No, not “Coffee is for closers” but “ABC – Always Be Closing!” That stuff works in films and boiler rooms but in the real world, people sometimes buy, but in spite of you pulling those stunts, not because of it.
In Sandler we teach that you close at the beginning. We call it an Up Front Contract. It’s the single most important part of the sales process. It’s where you agree at the beginning what will happen at the end.
Why do you always want to establish an up front contract at the start and end of every conversation or call?
- The contract IS the CLOSE. Close at the start when they are not expecting it or resisting it.
- The contract ensures you and your prospect start and end every interaction in an Adult to Adult. Without it, only about 15% of interactions start in Adult to Adult ego states.
- The contract protects both sides.
- The contract creates the right conditions for parity since you are never less than your prospect’s equal, even on your worst day.
- You never suffer from mutual mystification, so neither side is ever confused nor are expectations ever carelessly mismatched.
For an upfront contract to be effective the following conditions must exist.
- No wishy washy up front contract terms ever.
- Up front contract terms MUST BE:
- The contract must be MUTUALLY:
- YOU must be willing to enforce the contract terms to achieve a Win-Win or No Deal.
Without you making the effort to fulfil all 8 of these conditions, your contract will not hold water. Doing this requires you to be tough enough to plant your feet, to be ready to walk if you can’t reach an agreement that serves you both. Failing to meet these conditions means the prospect can drive a coach and horses through your contract and wriggle out, leaving you grasping at straws.
A simple up front contract follows the ANOT model.
“Actually Helen, can we agree some ground rules and and agenda before we get into the detail to make sure that we are working towards an outcome we are both happy and means our time together is well spent?”
“OK. That makes sense.”
“Naturally, you will have a lot of questions for me about who we are, what we do, what we are good at and not so good at, how much we charge, how we work, who we’ve worked for and our results? Is that a fair assumption?”
“And I have a few questions for you so that I can see your business through my eyes and we can both decide if it makes any sense to continue our conversation based on the answers we both give. Are you OK with that Helen?”
“Yes, that seems reasonable.”
“Obviously we aren’t for everyone, and not everyone is right for us, so can we agree that if either side isn’t comfortable or the answers we give to one another’s questions suggest there isn’t a good fit, that we can both walk away form this without any hard feelings and no pressure to continue? Are you comfortable telling me “no thanks” if you don’t see a fit?”
“Yes, I’d prefer we were direct.”
“Good, that’s a relief. Me too. And you’d be OK if I told you “Helen, I don’t think we can help you” or “Helen, we aren’t the right company to do what you are asking”? You wouldn’t be upset if I told you that?”
“No. Of course not. I’d rather you were up front about whether you can help so we don’t waste our time.”
“Excellent. I agree. I hate wasting other people’s time or having my time wasted too. Typically if you haven’t said “no thanks” to us and we haven’t said “we aren’t right” to you, it makes sense to agree a clear next step at the end to make sure we keep moving the conversation forwards and don’t end up wasting each other’s. Have you ever met someone, hit it off, seen a fit and because you haven’t put a clear next step in place you realise that 6 months have gone by and you did nothing so the time you had together was completely wasted?”
“Can we agree we won’t ever do that to each other Helen? We won’t waste each other’s time and we’ll put 10 minutes aside at the end to map out who does what by when to keep the dialogue moving forwards, or we agree to part as friends and end the relationship cleanly without any wated time?”
“That makes perfect sense to me. Let’s do that.”
Take a moment to dissect this conversation. Both sides have reached mutual agreement, acceptance and understanding. The terms are clear, specific and certain. And the salesperson is in a position to enforce the contract at the end in the event that Helen suggests she wants to “think it over”.
“I’m sorry Helen. I don’t understand. Has something changed?”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“Do you remember at the start of our conversation ….?”
Alec Baldwin got it wrong. ABC means always be contracting.