If you’ve seen the film Glengarry Glen Ross you’ll already know the phrase; Always Be Closing or ABC for short.
It’s a great film, which is fortunate as I was made to watch it, unpaid, in my first job in sales, but that’s another story.
Come to think of it, I was also left in the waiting room over an hour then asked to do a chicken impression in the interview for that job. Fun times.
I loved and embraced the philosophy of ‘ABC’ and tried to always be pursuing sales or leads throughout the course of a day. Even on a day off.
But I soon realised that to ‘Always Be Closing’ didn’t encompass what I wanted to be doing.
The Main Problems With Always Be Closing
1. It implies there’s a finish.
A conclusion. A sale or transaction or event with no regard for what follows.
Which is wrong.
There is no close. No real close. No end point without consideration of what follows.
Every interaction or engagement is just 1 small goal within a much larger goal. Not the goal itself.
Or at least it’s far more beneficial if it is.
Do you want 1 RT from someone without further promotion from them on Twitter? 1 link without any more citations on their blog? 1 client referral then no further sales leads? 1 sale without subsequent sales? 1 interaction with a person that can’t carry over to your next job or company?
You don’t achieve maximum benefit from a 1 link stand.
2. It implies you should always be trying to ‘close’ a deal or sell something
But often helping others or selflessly giving away can be far more beneficial than always trying to get a sale or acquire something for yourself.
You could argue that you incorporate giving away as part of your close but that means your only helping others in order to get something back which isn’t something I would want to be confined to.
I try to work towards being a mensch each day so this doesn’t sit well with me.
N.B. I’m not saying don’t help others or manufacture serendipity in order to gain reciprocity, that’s common sense and great business advice. What I’m saying is that to Always Be Closing confines you to ONLY EVER do that.
3. It confines you to focus on the micro rather than the macro.
If all you ever do it focus on your next ‘close’ you might look up one day and find the world has changed around you but you haven’t changed with it.
It also encourages you to try and close every lead. But not every sale is a beneficial one in the long run. Not every customer is good for your business. Customers are not always right and sometimes you have to cut some loose.
Often customers should be interviewed and screened before you take them on. Without a larger perspective you’ve nothing to measure against.
There’s other negative points but the above 3 are the main ones for me and I don’t want to create and exhaustive list of proof points here.
Instead let’s take a look at what I think is far more profitable.
Always Be Consolidating
Con•sol•idat•ing present participle of con·sol·i·date
- Make (something) physically stronger or more solid.
- Reinforce or strengthen (one’s position or power).
So to Always Be Consolidating means; to always be making something (Your brand? Your business? Your product? Your skill set? God forbid, your happiness?) stronger and strengthening your position or power.
This made far more sense to me as a strategy / philosophy.
Instead of focusing on individual sales think big picture and always be working towards achieving your goal.
You’ll still need sales to get there obviously (sales is conceptual here and could mean links, tweets, referrals, etc) but instead of always focusing on them individually, 1 after the other without concern for what follows, focus on the best possible route to achieving the larger goal and always be working towards it with a laser focus.
I really liked the recent pumpkin analogy on SEO Book they used for looking after your most valued client but it’s easy to flip the advice from being for a client to being for yourself or your brand:
Hopefully you feel this passionately about yourself and your brand already in which case implementing a mindset to Always Be Consolidating will be very easy for you to do.
Starting. Right. Now.
What Does Always Consolidating Entail?
To me it means 2 things:
- Identifying and creating opportunities
- Maximising your time, environment & resources
N.B. What it doesn’t mean is working all the time! Downtime is important and so is sleep and while some people function very well without either most people don’t. It’s about working smart.
Here’s a quick overview of each point before we look at some real life examples of consolidation.
Identifying and creating opportunities
I also love how he grabs every photo opportunity he can get with celebs.
There’s a local illustrator near us, Johanna Basford (amazing work check it out), who decided she wanted to secure Starbuck’s as a client. Every week she posted hand drawn cups along with an illustrated letter to their London and Seattle offices until she secured them.
Identifying and creating opportunities.
Once you consciously and constantly look for them it’s amazing how many you encounter or identify.
Maximising your time, environment & resources
As soon as I became a Dad I realised I needed to start multi-tasking around the house big time instead of putting the kettle on for a coffee and daydreaming until it boils I started doing as many tasks as I could during the wait.
Over the course of a year all that time adds up and so does what you’ve achieved with it.
You’ve probably heard about Joe Girard, the world’s greatest salesman, and some of his techniques before but let’s put them into context here.
When he would hand over his business card, along with payment for his bill and a large tip, he didn’t visit the restaurant to do that. He just took advantage of what he was already doing (dining in a restaurant) and found an opportunity to promote himself (handing over his card).
Similarly, when he would throw business cards into the crowd at football games he hadn’t just gone to the game to do that. He went to watch the game and took advantage of the opportunity of being surrounded by fellow supporters and prospects.
Maximise your time, environment & resources.
You might only achieve something small with each effort (handing over 1 business card) but over a period of time it all adds up. For Joe Girard it amounted to handing out 16,000 business cards a month compared to the average car salesperson who hands out roughly 500 cards a year.
Examples of consolidating
This list of examples is by no way meant to be exhaustive. How you consolidate will depend on your industry, whether you work on or offline, whether you’re an introvert who battles to talk in front of large audiences or an extrovert with eccentric methods like Joe Girard who would probably hate to be chained to a computer all day, your personal circumstances, how you want to represent your brand, how you best learn and so on.
What I hope this conceptual list does is get you thinking of more ways that YOU can consolidate.
If you’ve got examples you’d like to share please add them in comments.
Examples: Identifying opportunities
What’s funny about opportunities is they are literally everywhere. When you’re not looking for them you see NOTHING. When you actively look for them you see them ALL OVER THE PLACE!
Just try it for a month and see what happens…
You’ll notice shops that let you add your business card to their display racks, unused advertising space around town you could get cheap, empty banner space on friends sites they might let you use ’til they can find paid advertisers, easy publicity you could capitalise on, people to get pics with, opportunities to get mentioned on the radio, articles which are perfectly suited to having a link to something you’ve done and so on.
Some how to’s:
Grab pics with (famous) people
Shoemoney doesn’t know Paris Hilton and Lyndsay Walker doesn’t know Matt Cutts (she makes that very clear on her blog) but do you think people seeing these on Google image search will assume that? Do you think they will even think about it? Or try to find out? Nope. There’s inferred/assumed status right there.
Oh! She also managed to get her brand into the pic? +1 you get a link from me just for that
Turn negative situations into positive ones
This is one of my favourite things to try and do. Not only because it actually negates the thing being negative (or reduces it as much as you can) but because it’s inevitable we’ll all encounter negatives at some point which are beyond our control. When you know you can flip negatives into positives you stop worrying so much about what’s round the corner.
It’s also hard to do though. It’s easy to think clearly and objectively when you’re distanced from the situation and nice and calm but another when you’re stressed and under pressure in the middle of a shit storm. If you can’t think clearly get friends to help you brainstorm.
We’re about to move to City Centre offices as we’ve outgrown our current place. The problem is that half the town we’re in is up for rent or sale so it could take ages to get rid of this place at a decent price. We’re moving anyway as we need the space so it just means it will end up vacant for possibly years. Instead of letting it become a negative I’m going to use it as a PR opportunity and give whoever buys the place 2 round the world cruise tickets. It might not actually get the place sold but we’ll definitely get some links and PR and if it doesn’t sell it’s cost me nothing.
Examples: Creating opportunities
I think this area is directly related to your confidence and comfort zones.
Stalk Woo a potential client
I love the approach Johanna Basford took with her dream potential client Starbucks as i mentioned above. it reminds me of the guy on Shawshank Redemption who wrote a letter every week for years to get funds for a prison library. Determined. Tenacious. Focused.
If there’s a client you’d like to work with, how hard have you tried to woo them? If there’s a company you want to work for what have you done to try and get your foot in the door? If an opportunity doesn’t present itself get out there and create one for yourself.
Create your own job opportunities
Can’t find work? This web designer created a CV in the style of Amazon which went viral getting him an incredible amount of coverage in papers, websites, online journals and social media. Drool over the links – he’s not even an SEO
Adam did something similar and also got tons of support and attention.
Examples: Maximising your time
Time is precious. Why waste any of it? Look for ways to multitask or just save yourself time wherever possible.
Some how to’s:
I love going to the gym for exercise but always feel guilty about not working while I’m there (sad I know). By listening to industry podcasts I don’t feel guilty about not working and I learn a ton of stuff I don’t need to spend time reading later, freeing me up to do more work when i’m back at my desk.
I also like to keep a stash of them on my iPhone in case I have to make an unexpected trip somewhere. Kids ill and need picked up from school? Short notice meeting you have to travel too? You can maximise that time in the car instead of losing hours in the day.
Examples: Maximising your environment
We all have opportunities surrounding us in our immediate environments all the time we can take advantage of.
A quarter page advert in a local magazine or paper costs us about £500. A limited number of people see it once. Branding on a vehicle costs about the same but you can get your brand or message to your whole town for x years.
FREE Conference advertising
Do you attend conferences with hundreds of people there? Do you wear a branded T-shirt with a prominent CTA or invitation to engage with you? Ok then…
I love this use of the back of a garden shed in the town where we work. They’ve used it to advertise their slimming club. It’s a VERY busy road and gets seen day in day out by hundreds of people.
Examples: Maximising your resources
There’s so many resources we all have access to. Because we work online that’s where I find most of ours.
Grab branding opportunities
WordPress login screens come branded with their logo. We replace with our own and a support message for clients about to edit their site.
WordPress plugins allow you to upload a banner to accompany your plugin. People could use our plugins for years and never be exposed to our brand so why not get it on the banner.
Custom Twitter backgrounds give you room to promote your brand/skills/etc.
Hopefully from the above list you will start to see and create your own opportunities within your environments and situations for yourself or your brand.
Once you get into the habit of looking for and taking advantage of what’s around you it doesn’t take long to start seeing results and increasing your brand and profits.