Consultative Selling: A Fix for Challenging Times

OldStoryImageIt is no surprise than many businesses are finding it harder to close deals these days. In today’s hyper-competitive environment there are very few products left that simply sell themselves, and savvy customers are not responding to the old “used car salesman” attempts to manipulate or pressure them into purchases.

Given these challenges, it is imperative that you focus each of your salespeople on the one thing I believe will make them successful going forward: the mindset of a consultative sales expert.

For the first 10 years of my career I taught strategic sales planning and advanced consultative sales skills at some of the top companies in the world, including GE Capital, IBM, Lanier, Merrill Lynch, Verizon and many other Fortune 100 organizations. As I explained then, the elements needed to be a great consultative salesperson are not particularly complex, but it does take a dedication and effort to do them well and position yourself as a true expert and consultant. Here are the fundamentals:

1. Tell the Truth.Honesty and candor are absolutely the highest requirement for a true consultative salesperson. If a client ever catches you in a half-truth, an omitted truth, or an outright lie, the trust in your relationship will be destroyed and you will never been seen as a “trusted advisor.”

2. Preparation is Key.The number one reason executives say they refuse to see salespeople is simply “They waste my time.” To avoid being a time-waster, be extremely well prepared for every client meeting. Have an agenda, a set of key questions and an action plan of next steps should the meeting go well. Never, ever, squander a client’s precious time; it is unprofessional and shows a complete lack of respect.

3. Questions are Critical. To be a successful consultative salesperson you need to ask focused and professional questions. There is a huge difference between the salesperson who asks a customer, “How is business?” and a consultative salesperson who asks, “What do you see as the three major challenges facing your business in the next 90 to 120 days as they relate to the sort of services we provide?” A well-conceived question will yield a much more valuable answer.

4. Follow-up Fast. After a meeting in which you’ve asked absolutely superb questions, listened intently and taken very careful notes, you need to follow up immediately with a professional note or email to outline next steps and specific actions to be taken. Believe it or not, at least 50 percent of salespeople do not do this final step.

5. Master Sales Basics A-E.Several years ago I was reading a book and the author claimed he was going to divulge the four keys to creating nonstop referrals. His four super-secret ideas? A) Show up on time. B) Do what you say you will do. C) Finish what you start. D) Say please and thank you. I was absolutely flabbergasted that I had bought a book that promised me the secret to sales success only to read those for ideas—until I realized that I could not think of a single vendor I dealt with who consistently did all four of those things every time I worked with them. The one thing I’d add to his list is E) Give a little more than they expect.

I believe if you ask your team to adopt all the elements above, you not only will help them become successful consultative salespeople, you’ll create and sustain a highly successful sales effort across your entire business.

 

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