For decades, a common sales mantra was to “Always Be Closing.” The Internet and social media have made this an outdated and potentially dangerous approach. Always Be Helping is the updated mantra, and it applies not only to sales, but credit and debt collections, as well as professional and personal interactions.
ABC meant that you were trying to close the deal from the very beginning. It didn’t matter if your solution matched the customer’s needs, you were just trying to get the deal done. In the pre-Internet age, it was a lot more difficult to get information and pricing on different alternatives. ABC worked well in this environment.
ABH is a completely different approach. It’s about building trust first. You become a resource. The person you are dealing with learns they can come to you to get help. This gives you a chance to learn about their problems, goals and top priorities. If you have a solution that fits their needs, you can offer it to them in the exact context and phrasing of your prospect. This is far more effective than the old approach of simply trying to close based on your sales pitch.
Of course, it is a bit trickier if the reason your solution doesn’t match your prospect’s needs is because you genuinely believe they misunderstand their situation. In this scenario, you have to challenge the person to look at the problem differently and educate them at a broader level before getting into specific solutions which includes what you offer.
The one thing you don’t want to do in an ABH world is sell a solution that doesn’t truly fit a prospect’s needs. When they realize this is what happened, all too often they go to social media and online review sites and let the whole world know. That one sale could cost you hundreds of potential future sales. And your own name could be permanently associated with your customer’s bad experience.
The ABH approach is not new for many credit professionals. They are proactive in developing trust with their internal sales department and existing customers. They listen and learn so they can then educate and be creative to solve a credit problem. They are seen as helpers, not the ‘sales prevention department.’
ABH also works for both in-house and third party collections. The more you develop trust, the more the information the debtor will share. You get to understand their true problems and then develop a mutually acceptable solution. You are helping, not closing, although the end goal is the same.
We find at our collection agency that ABH works far better than the old ABC approach of simply demanding the money or going to court. It starts with the first call, where our priority is to get engagement, not necessarily payment in full. If the money is there, we will get it during that first call. But in most cases, the debtor is struggling or there is a dispute. If we can get engagement, we can develop some level of trust, and get the debtor to explain their situation or position. The more we learn the better we can devise a workable solution. The more trust we develop, the more the debtor is willing to listen to our perspective. It takes a lot more effort than an ABC approach, but it leads to our much higher success rate (85% on large viable claims).