The role of sales professionals over time has evolved, expanded, and diversified. This is because in the previous generation, while salespeople might have sold their offerings out of the trunk, the modern sales reps have a wealth of tools and methods that make sales as an art more sophisticated, which has been aided by the onset of the robust age of business growth technology and communication advancements which is ruling our planet nowadays. Let’s take a look at consultative selling and other modern approaches to sales.
Nevertheless, “sales” can be still considered a bit of a dirty word, which obviously depends a lot on who you ask term since the term “salesman” can invoke images of cheaply dressed pretenders trying to manipulate others into shelling out their hard-earned dollars on offerings they do not require or solve problems that the consumers might not have in reality.
However, through the ages, the best salespeople understand a simple tenant of sustainable business, which states that all businesses should exist only to serve the requirements of their customers.
Now since commerce has always remained to be a function for solving problems and necessity, hence the best salespeople are those who truly believe and sell products and solutions that will solve their customer’s problems and needs, whereby in this process the sales reps can be better assumed as an advocate.
Hence the best salesperson is a person who advocates on behalf of their customers by anticipating and resolving their needs.
In modern times the consultative selling process approaches business from this perspective, which begins by asking questions to the consumers, which again always comes from a place of servitude.
What is consultative selling?
In the modern age of digitalization, the internet has bestowed an immeasurable powerful tool in the form of data collection and analysis, by which businesses are now able to reach the whole world with their offerings.
Moreover using SEO and data tools like a business CRM, companies can nowadays even log the interactions of any lead with their business websites that help in collecting valuable insights on where their leads find the most value for their offerings.
Hence to define consultative selling, it is a solution-based sales process which is both a proactive and reactive approach, whereby the selling model requires the sales reps to primarily understand what exactly they are selling and also who that offering is intended to serve in their marketplace.
Consultative selling techniques operate under the six principle which includes:
In other words, the principle that lies at the heart of the consultative sales process illustrates that the salesperson must care more about their prospect or customer than they should do about making money quickly.
Now even though this might seem to be a simple concept, but nevertheless this is indeed radical thinking, considering the world of sales where a run-of-the-mill pitch has always remained as the norm and profits drive the sales rep’s business decisions in most cases.
As per the first principle of the consultative selling process, salespersons are expected to do thorough research into the business and the industry of their prospective leads for fulfilling their customer’s needs.
Hence at this phase in the sales process the more information a salesperson has, the better it is for the sales reps, which they can start by asking some of these questions:
- What is the revenue model of my prospective lead?
- Who are the competitors of my prospective lead?
- What is the growth rate of my prospect’s industry?
- What is the type of problems similar companies are trying to solve in my industry?
Therefore, as we can see, the main objective of the researching phase in consultative selling is for your salespeople to be viewed as a resource to your leads, whereby by breaking the mold of hunting down quick conversions and easy sales, modern sales must teach their representatives to be a source of servitude and information, which can help your company to stand out with authenticity in the marketplace.
Hence when you begin this phase of the sales process, we would suggest as one of the most popular vendors of Salesforce Alternative CRM tools, businesses must start to create an account map of the prospect that will help them to understand the landscape of the prospect’s company.
This is because account maps not only help to keep information organized, but as businesses learn more about their prospect’s company they can add more notes, key players involved in the deal, and once your business uses a sales CRM sync all these new information to provide anyone within your organization the ability to easily access and share this information online so that the right people on your team are kept informed on your leads, which can set them up better for the next stage of the consultative selling process.
Under the second principle of consultative selling, now that researching on the prospect has provided your business the right insights to know your lead a little better than before, it is time now to start asking questions to better understand the needs, goals, pain-points, and challenges faced by your prospective customers.
Now, it must be remembered that in order to build trust, it is extremely critical that you should never make any assumptions of what the prospect’s answers may be, and so it is preferred that you must ask open-ended questions that will allow your prospects to volunteer information about them proactively regarding their businesses.
It is important to remember the old adage, which states: Listen not to answer, but for building sentiment.
Hence pay attention to inflections, tones, hesitations, or quick responses while speaking to your prospective customers, since these are extremely critical elements that can act as clues into what is most important to your leads for closing their deal.
Additionally, be active and never act like a passive listener.
Hence do not be waiting to respond with your normal soundbites, but rather take active notes of what your prospects are saying, which can help in pivoting the discussion that can make the leads feel that their words were fully heard and understood – which will bring us to the next principle of the consultative selling process.
Now even though sales reps are employed to close deals, but ace salespersons also need to solve problems.
Therefore it is only by teaching the prospects how they can establish a plan to address and attack their challenges, salespersons can become a business savior while also acting as a teacher to the leads.
We say this, since presenting solutions will not only help build further trust in your relationships but it even helps to drive a sense of loyalty from the customers when it comes to signing on the dotted lines.
Hence when as a sales rep and a teacher you demonstrate the ROI and explain solutions to your prospects, consider using the present vs. future-state diagrams to illustrate the lead’s systems or processes that your offering can improve with your product and services.
It must be remembered over here that as a salesperson, never show you full cards rather weight the suggestions and advice you provide against the insights you still require to gain from your prospective customers.
Consider this: might be up to this juncture, your salesperson had a productive and effective conversation with your prospective leads, but after this, at some point, the prospect reveals that their budget is non-existent, or their business is preparing for a strategic shift that will, in turn, make your offerings redundant or obsolete.
In short, what happens if you suddenly realize that you lead in spite of all your past efforts is not qualified?
Now, the answer to this question is that even though the ultimate goal of the consultative selling process is all about building relationships, but it is even about selling.
Therefore once as a sales rep you are determined that the lead is still unqualified despite all your efforts – move on.
In other words do not just keep trying to sell and close the deal just because you have already made a hefty time investment, but rather work on some other prospects, believing that the trust you have already built with the lead will help sell-in a deal if and when the fence-sitting lead becomes a qualified prospect down the road.
This is the final stage in the consultative selling strategy, whereby as a sales rep you have done your research, you have taught, and you have qualified the prospect with whatever that is needed to satisfy and provide the required solutions to your lead.
Hence closing your sale should be a fairly easy job at this point.
Remember now that your stakeholders have built a relationship with you, they have the needed budget to make a decision and the incentive to solve their problems easily, maintain a position of further serving their needs viewing your objectives through a long-term lens, and most importantly if as a salesperson you face opposition at this point, do not discount our work and give up too easily.