Consultative Selling: Make your clients seek YOU out
Many years ago while working at Motorola, there were many of us sales people who were experts in certain industries. For example, we knew that to be successful in sales, we needed to master step 3 of the six steps in selling which is Qualifying, as it is the most important step of all. In this step you are getting to know your clients’ business, and providing the answers in step 4 which is Demonstration. In turn, they are answering your deep rooted questions on how you can best help them. It really becomes a never-ending circle that hopefully means a long relationship with those clients.
Nowadays the term is Consultative Selling. You aren’t just there to sell a product or service; you’re there to be a resource of information for the business, a font of knowledge on the product or service your client might need. And in finding your customers’ needs, understanding them, and then helping them by demonstrating what your organization can help them with either your service or product, you have a better chance to close a deal at some point.
The more you can learn about your products, and the more benefit questions you will ask, the easier it is to sell them. That seems obvious, doesn’t it? But with so much information bombarding us, it can be tough to keep up on the latest and greatest developments in the industry we are working in. I’m here to tell you it’s time well spent. Think about it. In asking questions of your client, if you understand the industry they are in, your expertise will speak for itself because you’re asking intelligent questions that show you’ve done your homework. With this approach, your client will recognize that you spent time to understand their world, and that is a sign of respect.
At Motorola, we reps were specialists; we had so many clients in the same industry that we understood what questions to ask because we knew the industry. If you come across as an expert in their field and show the client how your organization, service or product can help them with their stated needs, what are the chances that they will refer you to others in the same field? Pretty good, I’d say. After all competitors know each other, and they do like to share referrals.
In other words, you end up having current customers prospect new clients for you. And they probably have already done the sales part in advance, telling their friend or colleague why you’re a good salesperson to work with. When the sales pitch is coming from other than the salesperson, it’s also going to carry more weight. Tell me that won’t help your productivity!
There is a rule I’ve heard of in social media that says for every 10 posts, you should only be overly promotional on two. This “80/20 rule” can apply as well to sales. In consultative selling, you’re acting as it says: a selling consultant. Consultants are there to listen first and foremost, but then also to provide sound advice. As you gain more knowledge of a client’s industry, that advice bears more weight. Somewhere in your conversations, then, a pitch to try what you have to offer comes across less as a sales pitch than a good solution for them to solve a problem. If you think about it, if you know someone who in meeting them 10 times, talks about themselves only twice, they’re far more interesting than if it’s only about them, all the time.
Finally, the consultative approach takes some of the burden off of you. Do this the next time you meet with a client, especially a new prospect: find an interesting article, or a recent news story that no doubt interests them as a business owner or manager. When you meet, talk about this development to get the conversation started. It breaks the ice if they’re a new customer, and lets them know you’re interested in their business, not just your sales quota. All this from just sharing a story. The selling part then becomes much easier.
In the end, sales is really about relationship building, and consultative sales, or qualifying for us veterans in the business, helps foster that relationship much better than a hard sales pitch. After all, people don’t just want the one-way hard sales pitch, they want to be helped. And as their consultant, it places you as such a resource that they will want to use for years to come.