Little wonder why selling suffers from a bad rap. All too often selling is about high-pressure tactics, never taking “No” for an answer and pushing what the salesperson is selling rather than what the potential customer actually needs. Few of us enjoy that type of sales experience.
By contrast, consultative selling is a proven strategy for engaging prospective clients. Different from transactional sales tactics, consultative sales should be used in a customer facing role where a problem or need can be raised for you to offer solutions for. This could be in financial services, real estate, technology… The list goes on.
The technique fuses strategic selling, influencing skills and communication skills in one savvy approach, encouraging insightful conversation that provides value to both parties.
Taking the confrontation out of sales
There are many commercial environments where traditional selling is a dirty word, take financial services in the wake of the recent Royal Commission, for example. Regardless of your industry, your product or your service, we all need to engage with our public.
So, understanding and implementing an effective selling strategy is essential whether you are an entrepreneur, work in the public sector or operate a Not For Profit.
A consultative sales approach focuses on the experience of your potential customer during your conversation. Rather than following a predetermined sales methodology, consultative sales are about making your process lead-centric and discovering ways to provide your leads with value in long-term relationships.
If you feel compelled to focus on your numbers, your business or your product or service, look away now!
Consultative sales take time. Communicate with your customer to explore their pain points before addressing those issues with a product or sales offering. It’s a great test of your influencing skills, building trust and rapport.
Notice that this process prioritises what the potential customer wants and needs, not you hitting your arbitrary sales target.
Below, my colleague Tim Chilvers provides an eloquent explanation of why consultative selling is so valuable to both parties in business:
As Tim says, consultative selling is a customer-centric mental model. It’s about looking to close only those leads that represent a good fit for your business. It requires sound influencing skills and excellent communication skills, so make it part of your professional development plan.
How consultative sales made a difference for me
I recently experienced a consultative selling conversation myself that we can all relate to. I was due for a phone plan renewal and rang up a provider to see what they could offer.
Instead of telling me their plans upfront, she asked me about my current plan and phone use, “What’s working for you and what isn’t?”
I told her that for a while now I’ve been struggling with data usage and I always seem to go over the limit on my current plan and end up being charged a fee. I also said that I have some close friends overseas and want to have long international calls without worrying about the cost.
She asked me about my budget and what an average day might look like for my phone internet use. I said I use my phone a lot for work on the go, so I’m often using it for emails, streaming videos, calling clients and social media.
By collating all of these insights, she was able to offer me a few options in my price range that would meet my needs.
She helped to explain how each plan would help to address my concerns and suggested I take some time to think about it. She gave me her direct number in case I had more queries or concerns.
By taking off the pressure and supporting me in making the right decision for myself, I felt I could trust her and it worked, I returned to lock in a plan based on her advice later that week.
Remember, patience is the key to consultative selling so don’t expect quick wins! You’re building the basis to long term relationships which takes time… and trust.
Have you tried using a consultative selling approach in your world? Tell us about it in the comments below. We’d love to hear about your experiences.
A sure-fire technique to engage the customer and demonstrate value is by sharing a story. Business storytelling can simplify complex information and communicate outcomes in a way they can understand.
Download our complimentary ebook ‘What’s The Story?’ to learn how you can use stories to increase the quality of your communication with customers.
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.