Are you tired of struggling to close deals and boost your sales? The answer may lie in mastering the art of consultative selling. By adopting a consultative approach, you can build stronger relationships with your customers, gain a deeper understanding of their needs, and ultimately, close more deals. In this article, we’ll reveal the 8 surprising steps you need to know to master the consultative selling process and unlock your sales success!
- What is Consultative Selling?
- Benefits of Adopting a Consultative Selling Approach
- 8 Golden Rules of Mastering Consultative Selling
- Real-Life Consultative Selling Example
- The Problem with Consultative Selling
What is Consultative Selling? Consultative Selling Definition
Consultative selling is a sales approach that involves understanding the customer’s needs and goals and providing personalised solutions that address those specific needs.
Rather than simply trying to sell a product or service, consultative selling focuses on building a relationship with the customer and providing value by offering expertise, advice, and guidance.
This methodology is ideal when leaders find their teams fall into the ‘order taker’ trap – only writing up what the customer tells them they want.
Instead, using a Consultative Selling approach, reps are taught to ask questions to uncover problems they can solve.
Ultimately, consultative sales professionals are selling solutions. You’re not selling a package, promotion, product, service, feature, or benefit. You’re selling a solution to their problem.
Benefits of Adopting a Consultative Selling Approach
Beyond the obvious fact that consultative selling focuses the sale on the customer, there are several benefits to adopting a consultative selling approach, including:
Increased customer satisfaction: By focusing on understanding and addressing each customer’s specific needs.
Improved customer retention: As consultative selling is focused on building relationships and providing value beyond just the sale.
Higher sales conversions: Speaks for itself.
Stronger customer relationships: Salespeople can build stronger customer relationships over time, increasing trust and loyalty.
Increased customer referrals: Satisfied customers are more likely to refer their friends and colleagues to a business that has provided them with personalised, value-driven solutions.
Improved reputation & authority: By focusing on providing value and building relationships, salespeople improve their reputation and become known as trusted advisors.
The 8 Golden Rules of Mastering Consultative Selling
Now you know exactly what consultative selling is, you can start to apply the 8 golden rules to your sales process. Check them out below.
1. Know Everything About Your Products
In consultative selling, understanding and addressing customers’ specific needs is the focus. But a deep understanding of the products or services sold is still important.
This allows us salespeople to build trust and credibility with customers, identify the right solution for their unique needs, answer questions and objections confidently, and demonstrate the value of our personalised solutions.
To get this product knowledge up to date as soon as possible, you could:
- Go on a plant tour
- Do a site inspection
- Talk to people in other departments
- Read your brochures and other marketing materials
- Talk to customers
- Talk to other vendors and suppliers
2. Establish a Clear Sales Roadmap
Next, it’s imperative you start off with a clear sales roadmap of your consultative selling process.
Without a clear sales roadmap, you risk losing your prospects due to skipping vital steps in the sales process.
Do you know what actions you or your prospect must take to close a sale?
Do you know where along your sales roadmap your current prospects are?
By recognising what it took to close that sale, you’ll be crystal clear about what to do next to move the sale along.
Maybe someone contacted you about your product or service and you sent them your brochure but nothing has happened since.
Should you now be scheduling a call or inviting them to visit your showroom?
3. Ask Questions
Ask probing questions to uncover problems. Prospect will not naturally tell you their problem, you are one that has to ask about what problem are they facing. Customers purchase products or services based on their problems so it’s important to know the problem and only then you can sell on the solution.
Listen more, talk less – 80/20 Rule of Selling
Too many sales professionals think they need to do all of the talking when meeting with prospects.
They tell them everything about their product or service. They dominate the conversation, leaving little time for the prospect to share anything about themselves or what they’re looking for.
The result is usually the salesperson talking themselves out of the sale.
Instead, sales professionals need to ask more questions.
Ask the prospect:
- What are you looking for?
- What they’ve tried before?
- What worked, and what didn’t work?
- What is the outcome you’re trying to achieve?
Ask probing questions. Then listen. Listen intently. Active listening, not just waiting for your chance to jump in and sell.
Once you have all of the information, you can make an informed recommendation on what product or service is the best for them.
4. Don’t Underestimate Your Customer’s Knowledge
Sales reps often underestimate your customer’s knowledge and try to smoke through them in order to close the sales.
With the world of the internet, it’s easier for them to gain the required knowledge to go about choosing the right products for them, so they know their stuff.
Underestimating a prospect’s knowledge of their pain points and potential solutions can harm your ability to build rapport and trust, miss important details, and prevent the development of customised solutions.
To succeed in consultative selling, you must treat prospects with respect and assume they have an understanding.
5. Don’t Make Assumptions
It is easy to make assumptions; it is just how the brains work.
We like to fill in the “blanks.”
As a salesperson using a consultative sales approach, you must avoid making assumptions because assumptions can lead to incorrect or incomplete information about the prospect’s needs, goals, and pain points.
Making assumptions can cause you to overlook critical details, resulting in an ineffective or inappropriate solution for the prospect.
Additionally, making assumptions can harm the salesperson’s credibility and trust in the prospect, potentially leading to a breakdown in the sales relationship.
Gathering accurate and complete information about the prospect’s situation is essential to develop a tailored solution that meets their needs and goals.
Overall, if you want to succeed with the consultative sales approach, you must adopt a curious and open mindset and gather as much information as possible to develop an effective solution.
Don’t wing it.
6. Don’t Make Things Up
The number one sin that most sales reps are guilty of doing.
We tend to portray ourselves as product experts who know a lot of things so that our customer is impressed by our knowledge.
There’s knowledge and wisdom; both are two different things.
Knowledge is about telling what you need to know, while wisdom is about telling how you should apply that knowledge.
My point? The customer can see that when you make things up.
7. Share Solutions
Share solution even the solution is not your product offering because this helps build rapport. Also, don’t just list features as a solution but also list benefits as they a saying goes:
“People want to hang the photo frame on the walls, they don’t want drills, holes, they just want the frame on the walls”-Anonymous
8. Demonstrate Value
When adopting the consultative selling approach, you want to demonstrate value by focusing on the benefits.
You aren’t selling a product or a service; you’re selling an outcome, a solution to their problem.
Nowadays, every good sales rep is selling solutions, so how is your solution better than the others?
Value. Demonstrate it to them.
Show them that you are providing more than just a solution but a companion.
Someone that will show them the way. Instead of viewing prospects as transactional customers, you sell to them once; you view them as partners in a long-term selling relationship.
Consultative Selling Example: A True Story
A consultative salesperson asks questions to uncover their prospect’s needs so they can suggest the best solution.
When I went shopping for a new video camera recently, I came across your typical ‘order taker’ and a sales professional that practices consultative selling.
Here’s my example of consultative selling in action:
I went into an electronics store to buy a new video camera. The one I was using gave me poor-quality footage, so I was looking to replace it with another camcorder that I pointed out to the salesperson.
The one I chose cost a lot more than my current video camera, so I figured the quality must be superior!
The salesperson took it down from the shelf and was ready to ring it up for me when another salesperson at the shop started talking to me.
He asked me what kind of videos I did and what I planned to use the camera for.
He wasn’t trying to take the other person’s sale. Instead, he was genuinely curious.
After talking for a bit, he found out I was only taking short videos for social media and that I wasn’t getting the results I wanted from my current video camera.
With this information, he explained that the one I was about to buy wasn’t much better than what I was using.
He suggested instead a new mirrorless camera that can record for hours with far superior video quality.
Consultative Selling Approach In Action
After listening to him more, I realised how right he was and switched to the camera he suggested, which was the same price as the one I was about to purchase.
The first salesperson is an example of your typical ‘order taker’ -he only does what the customer says.
The second salesperson practices consultative selling. They ask questions to uncover pain points and understand the customer’s needs.
If I had bought the original camcorder, there’s a very good chance I would have been frustrated and unhappy with the results and returned it the next day.
Because the other salesperson diagnosed my needs, which allowed him to ‘prescribe’ the right solution for me, I went home with a camera that exceeded my expectations.
I ended up loving my new camera so much. I bought a second one from the consultative salesperson 3 months later.
The Problem with Consultative Selling
While consultative selling is a valuable methodology that many sales professionals should adopt, there’s also a need to take it one step further.
The problem with consultative selling is that it is perceived as too passive. It gives too much control to the prospect and not enough to the salesperson.
With this in mind, many organisations are choosing to adopt more of a ‘challenger sales’ methodology. A methodology that asks lots of questions and positions the sales professional as a valuable asset, one that the prospect can’t ‘live’ without and one that can push for the sale without being aggressive.
This is a more advanced approach, so should only be applied by seasoned sales professionals.
Final Word: Master Consultative Selling; Convert More Leads
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