How To Develop A Consultative Sales Approach
Earlier this week, I was asked by a colleague to describe my interpretation of what consultative selling is, and I thought I would share my response with you …
As we are all aware, getting to know the customer and understanding their needs is not a quick and easy process. Customers possess a hierarchy of needs which have to be uncovered gradually. This is why we need a new type of salesperson for a new type of customer.
So what does this new breed of salesperson look like?
For a start he or she has progressed from the more traditional, ‘lone ranger’ approach of selling to a more team-based consultative style.
By adopting a consultative approach salespeople are more able to develop and maintain long-term relationships with clients.
At the same time, organisations need to ensure that they provide their salespeople with the vital support systems and training that enable them to make the most of their knowledge and skills.
Gone are the days in which a salesperson could simply walk into an office, establish a good rapport with the client, show he/she had thorough knowledge of their products and services and clinch the sale. Nowadays, the emphasis is on establishing long-term, mutually beneficial relationships and in order to achieve this, the salesperson needs to earn the right to continue discussions with his/her client. Before they can proceed to sell their products or services, the salesperson needs to reassure the client of their integrity, reliability and ability to understand and recommend the appropriate solution.
They can do this by demonstrating:
- Up-to-date knowledge of business news and current affairs.
Best practices include – reading newspapers, magazines, journals, trade publications and other sources of business information; maintaining membership of appropriate professional organisations; acknowledging gaps in knowledge and taking steps to fill them; locating or developing databases with information on customers, their industries and their own customers.
- An in-depth understanding of the customer’s industry, company and strategies as well as an appreciation of “the big picture”.
Best practices include – gaining an understanding of the issues at all levels of the customer’s organisation including strategic, departmental and individual needs; seeking to understand the customer’s perceptions of market trends, company direction, plus potential product and service needs.
- A readiness to exchange information and ideas between the supplier and client organisation.
Best practices include – familiarising the customer with your own industry and companies; sharing useful business information even if it does not directly impact on the sales effort; demonstrating the cost-cutting or revenue producing benefits of your products and services.
- The ability to listen and absorb information.
Best practices include – refining the way you identify customer’s needs by asking the right questions and listening actively to customer comments; speaking at the listener’s level of knowledge; using stories and analogies effectively; asking for feedback on the clarity of your message.
By demonstrating comprehensive knowledge, outstanding communication skills and the proper attitude, the salesperson earns the right to move beyond the role of supplier to that of a valued business consultant.
So there you have it.