by • February 9, 2012 • Lean startup metaComments (3)244


The ABC of selling is: Always Be Closing.

It’s provably bad advice[1] as shown by gads of research described in the must-read SPIN Selling by Neil “I have an awesome name” Rackham.

While that’s a good thing to know, I’m more interested in how this faulty advice came to dominate the sales world. As Rackham describes it, the most common thing salespeople talk about on their own time is elaborate, brilliant, and surprising closing techniques.

Why would they spend their own time obsessing about something that’s utterly ineffective?

Because closing is the only part of the process which is immediately rewarded.

Sales is not the only place this happens

Let’s say you’re out boozing and spend the better part of the evening having a wonderful conversation with an alluring stranger before plucking up the courage to ask them (in a canonical example of the implicit close): “Your place or mine?” If it works, you associate the success with the cheesy closing line, not with the longer period of conversation or the months of hitting the gym or improving your posture. You could have replaced the close with practically anything and still been successful.

It’s like the ceremonial handing-over of the king’s scepter after a losing battle: feels important, but didn’t exactly influence the outcome.

We remember and replay the knockout punch while forgetting the fight leading up to it.

Work on the real cause, not the proximate one

Unlike closing techniques, a lot of lean startup tactics are actually terrific. They can (and do) help. But we also pay far too much attention to them because they’re the most proximate thing to our funnel improvements and revenue upticks.

The real work happens while you’re laying and improving the foundation: from the short-term of deciding what to test and understanding your users to the long-term of building your team and locking in on your vision. That’s the stuff to obsess about.


[1] ABC is good advice if (and only if) you’re selling low-cost items (like cheap cameras) or are in a situation where the sale happens during one interaction and you’ll never see that customer again (like most car sales). It’s bad advice when the sale happens over multiple discussions or the relationship is important, which is something that’s true for every early-stage startup I can think of.

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3 Responses to Why ABC

  1. Sean Murphy says:

    I like the ABCD rule: Always Be Collecting Data

    See also

  2. cathy says:

    Yes ,I agree with it!