It’s the mantra of the sales world: always be closing. In fact, it’s probably been part of your mindset for so long that you don’t even question it anymore.
But should you always be closing? Is there a better way to approach, serve, and delight your customers?
The truth about ABC is that it can be a pitfall you never see coming. Sure, it may not be completely ineffective—but as customer expectations change, so too must the role of ABC in your business.
A critical look at ABC
According to Investopedia, the term “always be closing” was popularized by a 1992 film. Sorry, "Glengarry Glen Ross" fans, but that’s our first problem with ABC: It’s outdated. In truth, this movie is based on an even older stage production—which means that every time you encourage or employ the ABC mentality, you’re actually using a concept coined in 1984 by David Mamet.
Sure, not all approaches have an expiration date—but this one does (at least in its current form).
That’s because the ABC mindset tends to lead to a mass-marketing approach. When your only goal is to close a deal, you neglect other customer needs and often harm the customer journey, causing you to treat everyone in the same way.
The reality is that customers don’t like being generalized. Today’s savvy, informed consumers can tell if you’re approaching them as nothing more than a potential dollar amount—and they don’t like it. Here’s this stark reality, according to Deloitte:
- 36% of customers want personalized products and services.
- 48% are willing to wait for customization.
- 20% will pay a premium for personalization.
- 22% express interest in exchanging data for a more tailored experience.
The takeaway: If you’re still using an ABC approach, you’re missing out on revenue and valuable customer data.
The alternative to an ABC mindset
The good news is that you don’t have to scramble for a better way to do things. ABC is out, and building relationships is in. But what does that mean?
Let’s start with what it doesn’t mean.
Most mass-marketing approaches are based on basic demographics, including:
Millions or even billions of people fall into the categories created by these demographics. Of course, people who live in the same place don’t always think in the same way—nor do people of the same age, gender, or income range. That’s because these things are, comparatively, out of our control, which means they don’t create a very accurate picture of who we really are.
Behavior, on the other hand, is personal—a direct result of our character. It’s defined by such individualized elements as:
By approaching customers with these factors in mind, you reduce mass marketing to a small list of highly personalized leads based on real, relevant variables. The result is a relationship based on understanding, empathy, and, of course, deep personalization.
To get data on elements like motivations and influences, you have two options: quantitative or qualitative research.
Faster and more familiar, quantitative research reports information in the language of statistical analysis. Although these measurements can be useful, they tend to lean more towards demographic data, which means they’re less insightful.
Qualitative research is the bread and butter of relationship building. The corresponding observation and interview techniques take longer, but the results are deeply insightful—and, perhaps most importantly, data is recorded in the language of your customers themselves.
To make this possible, you need to keep a few best practices in mind:
- Ask customers about their lives, values, habits, etc. before the survey begins.
- Note exactly what was said—not an interpretation.
- Ensure that your test groups are diverse enough to represent your entire audience.
- Structure questions with a hypothesis.
- Keep every question open-ended.
How to contextualize customer responses
Let’s say you’ve done your qualitative analysis and you’re thrilled with the results. How do you contextualize the data to understand customers and start building real relationships?
At Alida, we use an approach affectionately nicknamed LEMINS.
LEMINS, or Logic, Emotions, and Instinct, is a framework used to analyze customers on a deeper level than anything ABC ever brought to the table. It breaks customer behavior down into categories based on the structure of the human brain:
- Instinct is at the brain’s very center—our most basic set of instructions for seeking comfort and avoiding fear. This is what customers fall back on when they’re tired, frustrated, confused, or otherwise uncomfortable.
- Emotion is next, represented by the more complex limbic system. More effort is needed to process emotions than to act on instinct. For this reason, a customer making decisions based on emotion is engaging a part of the brain more reflective of who they really are—but they may not always realize it.
- Logic is the final and most intricate part. It requires the most energy and planning to utilize. When customers are making logical decisions, they’re doing so actively and consciously.
Once you understand where customers are coming from as they make decisions and engage in certain behaviors, you can treat them like individuals—which means there’s no room for ABC.
There’s hope for ABC
Well, not quite.
ABC in its current form is outdated—we know that. But ABC can still have a role in your creation of customer experiences; the difference is that it should be used as a foundation for building relationships instead of an approach in and of itself.
That means you can still gather demographic data to shape, inform, and guide your future marketing endeavors. Just think of this as learning more about your customers’ background before you find out who they really are.
Building better customer relationships
If you’re ready to put ABC on the backburner and focus on building relationships with your customers, you’ve come to the right place. At Alida, we’re all about letting customers use their own voices—and helping you utilize that information in smart, effective ways.
To learn more about how to build better customer relationships, explore our customer experience solutions.
Ashutosh leads CX Consulting & Services (EMEA & APAC) at Alida. He has been helping Global brands transform their customer experience, and thereby help scale up their customer acquisitions, retention, Up/ Cross Sells and Referrals. His unique 360 degree experience across Sales/ Marketing leadership, Customer Success, Brand/Product Management & Digital Transformation helps him be holistic in his approach to CX Transformation.