The sales environment is changing. Gone are the days of accosting or soliciting customers to buy products and services, no one wants or needs to feel hassled like that anymore. The most effective salespeople are now those that show a deep understanding of what potential customers need and position themselves as a solutions provider.
This is called consultative sales, and it’s the best way to build solid, long lasting client relationships and satisfy customer needs. It’s not even really ‘selling’ to someone, it’s more like guiding, suggesting and advising them. It’s about being the go-to person they can trust that’s an expert on their industry. You have to prove that you can provide results, solutions and benefits for their unique problems and situation.
Consultative sales takes time to learn and doesn’t happen overnight. But once you’ve mastered the technique then you’ll reap the benefits – namely loyal customers who will use your services time and time again.
There are a number of different steps to the consultative sales buying cycle. Here are 5 steps that give you an idea of what it looks like:
A good salesperson will research the customer as much as possible before following up. This can involve checking out the data you’ve gathered from any forms filled in, what pages they’ve visited on your site, and what content they’re the most interested in. Google, Facebook and LinkedIn are also handy sites to use to flesh out a customer profile.
It’s all about them. Not about you. You want to create a good experience for the customer and find ways to provide them with value. It’s about their experience. Even though it might be tempting to share how clued up you are about them, keep this to yourself and let them do the talking.
Ask the right kind of questions to determine their budget, and their level of authority. Use open-ended questions that start with: who, what, where, how, why, and when, to discover what their goals are.
Being an active listener is a key skill for a consultative salesperson. But it’s also the hardest to master for some people. Active listening involves responding to the customer and repeating what they said when necessary. Be attentive to their tone and take down notes about their needs, wants and goals.
It’s important in a sales consultative process to inform potential customers of your ability to be a solutions provider. Your focus at this stage is to help the customer and show how you can help them to overcome their challenges and create a plan to reach their goals.
Don’t feel the need to close too quickly. You want secure your customer and provide them with your products and services but this should occur when it feels natural. If it’s too quick it can be uncomfortable and result in pushback.
Consultative sales training courses for strong communication skills
The important thing to remember when you’re using the consultative approach is to ensure that potential customers don’t feel as if they have been sold something. They should see you, not as a salesperson, but as a trusted advisor who has an in-depth knowledge of their industry.
If you’re a salesperson looking at improving your communication skills in order to attract new business, then checking out sales training courses that have a customer-centred focus is a good idea. Strong communication skills will help you to build client relationships and secure more sales.
As an introduction to learning more about consultative sales, our free cheat sheet will teach you the sales pitch sins to avoid. Sign up for your free copy of the 7 Deadly Sins of Pitching today!
The Colin James Method® Facilitators train corporate executives to improve their professional communication skills with a proven methodology. Our highly trained Facilitators and Coaches are recognised for their experience in their fields and have worked with many individuals and organisations around the world to master the art of communication.
Alison Carter is a facilitator and coach at The Colin James Method® and Inner Profit Pty Ltd, a vibrant leadership development company in Australia. She is a qualified Chartered Accountant who has spent over 15 years in senior financial and communication roles. She now loves to share her passion for the design and delivery of effective and engaging communications.