The Key to Great Sales Isn't Learning How to Close - It's Learning Your Customer
Sales Enablement
Oct 10
6 min to read

The Key to Great Sales Isn’t Learning How to Close – It’s Learning Your Customer

Sorin Paun
Sorin Paun
Co-Founder & CCO

If there’s one slogan that every salesperson knows by heart, it’s “Always Be Closing.” This ABC mantra was first made famous in the film Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) when Alex Baldwin’s character gives one of the most influential sales speeches of all time. 

It’s a catchy slogan, and one that has permeated most sales training strategies since the 1980s. The question is… does it really hold true today, with changing customer expectations and desires? 

Up to 34% of salespeople admit that it’s getting more challenging to close deals. Is this because customers are less willing to buy, or could it be that our sales tactics just aren’t hitting the nail on the head anymore? 

As one of the leading microlearning platform providers in the market, we work with sales trainers closely – and we frequently hear about changing customer expectations and sales training strategies. Today, we want to share what we’ve learned and explore why closing isn’t the end-all-be-all of sales. 

The Modern Customer Expects More 

Quote about sales

Arguably the biggest change in today’s sales is the customer’s mentality. Only about 29% of buyers want to talk to a salesperson to learn more about a product, preferring instead to do their own research. That means salespeople need to step up their game if they’re going to provide real value to a customer.

Modern customers are looking for personable, helpful salespeople they can build relationships with – not sales reps that disregard their needs for the sake of closing as quickly as possible. In other words, sales training strategies today need to focus more on listening, understanding, and benefiting the customer, rather than selling the product. Salespeople need to know how to take a consumer-centric approach and understand pain points and needs, then build relationships around these concepts.

This brings us to our next point: what if successful selling is not about closing, but about learning

A Win-Win Alternative 

Traditional sales training strategies focused on teaching salespeople how to close – but today, we need to teach them how to learn. Specifically, modern sales training should encourage people to learn about their customer’s problems and desires, then apply their knowledge of their product to benefit the buyer. 

The “Always Be Closing” school of thought ignores buyer needs and places the salesperson at the center of the sales process. The issue with that? The customer should be at the center. 

That’s why we would argue the modern salesperson’s motto should be “Always Be Learning,” rather than closing. Learn about your customer, then apply the product’s value, instead of working the equation the other way around. 

Today’s sales training strategies need to focus more on helping employees learn: 

  1. What the customer expects, wants, and needs. 
  2. What problems are keeping their customers up at night.
  3. The competition they are facing.
  4. The latest industry trends/relevant news.
  5. How they can ultimately enable their customers’ success. 

For example, look at how sales and marketing have changed dramatically in the world of automobiles. Rather than designing a car to sell to the public, most automakers are focusing on manufacturing cars that meet the modern buyer’s desired experience. Salespeople, marketers, and manufacturers are asking the golden question: “what do customers want and need from the vehicles they drive?” 

At the same time, car companies are focusing on changing global trends and societal expectations. Rather than showing customers how their vehicles fit into this modern world, they’re creating vehicles that meet eco-friendly standards, budget restrictions, and changing customer preferences. 

The bottom line is that if you want to teach someone to SELL, teach them how to CARE about their customers. What are they looking for, and what do they need? Understanding that will teach a salesperson far more than any surefire closing tactic. 

Teach Someone to Sell Quote

Sales Training Tips That Actually Work 

(1) Teach Sales Reps to Identify the Customer’s Problem 

As we mentioned, it’s crucial that salespeople understand what problem their product can and will solve for a buyer. In some ways, salespeople are like doctors – they need to diagnose the issue before they prescribe the solution. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re teaching the most charismatic, likable salesperson in the world. If their training hasn’t taught them how to learn about and address clients’ issues, they won’t be able to explain how they’ll tackle their pain points. 

(2) Educate Sales Reps on the Decision-Making Process 

Another crucial part of modern sales training strategies: teaching sales reps to understand and assess the customer buying cycle. A great salesperson doesn’t just know their customer – they can also identify where they are in their decision-making process.

Rather than focusing on closing tactics, training companies should educate sales reps on each stage of the buying process: 

  • Awareness – people realize they need a product, service, or a solution 
  • Research customers begin to look at their options 
  • Consideration – the shoppers evaluate their top choices 
  • Purchase customers turn into buyers 
  • Re-purchase customers decide if they would recommend the product or buy it again

If salespeople are truly going to learn about their customers, they need to know where they fall in these five stages. Meeting customers where they are in their process is a crucial part of any successful sale today. 

(3) Provide Guidance Specific to Your Product or Services 

Today, sales representatives aren’t necessarily selling their products – they’re selling their expertise. This requires a change in mindset, as well as a shift away from the ABC mantra. 

To create a successful salesperson, you need to help them become a trusted guide and educator. They need to understand what a customer needs, then translate their expertise into a solution for the buyer. 

Potential clients want sales representatives who actually care about them and their problems. If they wind up feeling like the seller is cold-blooded and just out for the sale, they’re less likely to finalize the purchase.  

Let Us Help Your Sales Learning Experience Pack a Better Punch 

At Code of Talent, we’re here to modernize and improve your training and learning strategies – for sales and beyond. Our platform helps bridge the gap between salespeople’s learning process and desired behavior changes, which in turn helps your business grow its revenue. 

Contact us today to learn more or schedule a tour of our microlearning platform. The world is moving fast, and if you want to keep up, you need training strategies and tools that work

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