Always be closing.

The age-old adage is Sales 101. It has been the go-to motto for sales professionals for decades.

And, while the phrase might have provided inspiration when Alec Baldwin said it in Glengarry Glen Ross, research shows that the motto may be losing effectiveness. A recent study by CSO Insights indicates that successful salespeople spend, at most, 35 percent of their time actually selling, or “closing.”

The “always be closing” motto ignores buyer needs entirely and places the salesperson at the center of the sales process. But, in today’s world, it is the prospect that has a majority of the power.

Helping Before Selling

Salespeople today should follow a completely different mantra: Always be helping.

Jay Baer describes this shift perfectly in his book, Youtility, when he says:

“Stop trying to be amazing and start being useful. I don’t mean this in a Trojan-horse, ‘infomercial that pretends to be useful but is actually a sales pitch’ way. I mean a genuine, ‘how can we actually help you?’ way.”

Of course, the “always be helping” mentality doesn’t mean you stop selling. That’s your job. It is more about shifting the way you approach it. It’s about abandoning the force-feeding sales strategies to help your customer solve their complicated business problems.

How to Shift from Selling to Helping

So, how do you shift from selling to helping? Here are a couple tips to consider:

1. Listen to your prospect.

Being helpful requires knowing the problem you’re trying to help your prospect solve. It’s important to note that you’re trying to help them solve their actual problem, not the problem you think they have. That requires listening.

Identifying their specific problem not only makes you more helpful, but it also helps you avoid cultivating a bad lead that really isn’t the most qualified for your product or service.

2. Focus on providing value to your prospects.

Today’s customers are bombarded by sales messages and information about your industry. So, how do you stand out in an increasingly noisy world? Provide value in every interaction. Whether it’s sharing a free resource or providing a helpful question that customers should consider, engaging them in ways that makes them feel smarter, better equipped, or less stressed after every interaction is critical.

Shifting from ‘closing’ to ‘helping’ isn’t always easy—especially if you’ve always approached sales with a closing mentality. However, as the business world continues to evolve, those of us who learn how to “help” will be the ones closing more deals in the end.