The Consultative Sale
To be effective at consultative selling, one must resist the urge to talk about themselves and what products they offer or how they beat their competition. While this sounds easy, many sales professionals are like order takers in that they do a great job when someone tells them what they want, but have a very difficult time offering them long term solutions to their problems. Most sales professionals have an idea of exactly what they are going to sell before they ever meet the client for the first time. They typically aren’t prepared to ask questions and learn about the prospects needs. They have a pre-designed sales presentation that is supposed to walk the prospect from beginning to end with a few pauses inserted to get prospects “approval“. We’ve all seen a “sales presentation” where the presenter asked open ended questions after highlighting a feature and/or benefit that their company offers...example, “Well as you can see we charge 10% less than one of our competitors and you would like to save money, wouldn’t you? Sure this is a technique, but come on…no one wants to be sold in this manner. There are too many professionals out there that provide solutions, not pitches.
In consultative selling, we teach our clients how to ask questions, learn about the prospects problems, discuss what issues exist that prevent them from being more productive, more profitable, close more sales and in a nutshell, what keeps them up at night. Only then do true professionals offer solutions that meet the prospects needs. When this process is done correctly, there are fewer objections to overcome and price is almost always a non-factor.
For example, I have a client that sells forklifts. There were told by the company they were calling on that they had frozen all budgets and that no new capital expenses were going to be approved until the following year. Because they were dealing with a high level decision maker, the client was able to ask questions and learn some critical data about the prospect. They learned how much fuel their existing trucks were burning on a daily basis and the how much money was being spent every year repairing brake and transmission failures. After learning about the company and how this particular prospect used its forklift fleet, my client introduced a forklift solution that burned 75% less fuel and had no brakes or transmission which eliminated thousands of dollars each year in repairs. Needless to say, they made a very healthy sale (in excess of $50,000) and since that date, the prospect has bought several more trucks from them. All of this happened because the client built a relationship from asking questions about the prospects problems and provided a solution that made sense. Just imagine what this would have looked like had the client started the conversation with how good they are or how long they have been in business. Imagine what the prospect would have thought had the salesperson started the conversation with solving a problem they didn't even know existed. Too many times I've seen salespeople lead with their Unique Selling Proposition (USP) only to be shut down by the prospect. How can you solve a problem if you don't know, or more importantly, the prospect doesn't know, exists?