If there is one secret to sales success, it lies in your ability see things from your customers point of view — as well as your own. And because of this simple secret, we have an endless array of consultative selling models to choose from. The challenge with these models is that every salesperson, as well as every business, has their own way of selling.
In a previous article, we reviewed the personal selling model, which is a consultative approach. With this method, you have in-depth discussions with your client before positioning products.
Below are the core steps to the personal selling model:
Call it what you will, however, the most critical phase of personal selling is rapport building. This isn't looking around your clients office for some type of common ground, e.g. "You went to XYZ University? So did my next door neighbor!". Rather, it's attempting to position yourself as an expert early on. This is the only time you get to brag about yourself – so tell your story. Mention your skills, your training, your network. Demonstrate your credibility.
After you've done this, the most critical part of your entire approach happens: setting the agenda for your meeting. This is not one-sided — the most successful sellers ask their clients to help co-create the agenda. This way, all concerns are met.
Your discussion at this phase must find a problem or pain your client is having.
You've already done all the research, prep work and should have an idea of the problems common to the industry you serve to prime the meeting.
Avoid questions that can be answered with a yes or a no. Instead, use open-ended questions (e.g. "Tell me about your current marketing efforts" or "On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being 'problem solved', where are you currently?"). Continue to expand with statements like "tell me more."
Now it's time to bring hope to your clients perception by creating the possibility of a solution to their problem.
Project a future state where the problem is solved, and watch how their body language changes. You may get a lot more information on the types of things they need and even intelligence on how your potential solution could best be delivered.
In most consultative selling situations, you may adjourn your meeting to prepare your proposal. Remember to set the closing appointment before leaving!
Propose & Close
At this point, your client is pre-sold on your solution, however, you'll need to anticipate and prepare for objections other customers may have had. The goal here isn't to answer every objection — it's really to find out the question behind the objection. These will be unique to your industry.
Some common objections, and the unasked question behind them are: price (If I buy today, remind me again how I will benefit?); I want to think it over (Tell me again, why should I buy this?), etc.
The most overlooked phase of any consultative selling approach is what happens after the sale. It's always easier to sell more to an existing customer than to find a new one. So be sure to manage delivery of your goods or services, help your client support adoption internally of your solution, and continue to suggest value-added improvements (things you sell and things other buyers of the solution did to make it even better).
The job of any consultative selling approach is to help make your customer realize their own problems AND how much they want this problem solved. Every salesperson I've coached wants a process that's easy to understand, implement, and help them make more sales. Use this model to improve your consultative selling approach and expect incredible sales results.
Brian Farrell is the Managing Consultant @ FIND the CLIENT - a sales consulting organization providing interim sales leadership as well as training, recruitment & sales coaching for B2B sales organizations.