Consultative selling is a sales approach favoring relationship building and open dialogue to adequately meet the needs of a prospective customer. By building trust quickly a consultative selling approach can help the customer better meet her/his expectations and the salesperson hit her/his targets more effectively.
Understanding consultative selling
Spoilt for choice and with high expectations, modern consumers and businesses are extremely sensitive to traditional marketing and sales tactics. This is particularly evident when they feel pressured to buy something from an aggressive sales representative determined to make a commission.
Consultative selling focuses on the experience or interaction a potential customer has with a organisation. It is solution-based, customer-centric, and prioritizes the formation of strong relationships. Company representatives act more like advisors than salespeople, recommending value-providing solutions tailored to the individual needs of the customer.
The five steps of consultative selling
There are five steps, or guiding principles, to consultative selling:
1 – Ask the right questions
Here, the business must diagnose the root cause of a problem by asking the right questions. Open-ended questions that avoid “yes” or “no” answers encourage the lead to volunteer information themselves, which increases trust and mutual understanding.
In the B2B space, it can be helpful to peruse the company’s social pages and website to get an idea of its size, approximate turnover, core product offering, and target market. It’s also important to determine how much the customer has budgeted for a solution to avoid any unwelcome surprises later.
2 – Listen actively
Customers are always aware of their own problems, but many believe they need one solution when they need something else entirely.
Active listening helps the business read between the lines, as it were. To listen actively, the advisor needs to spend 80% of the time listening and 20% speaking. This allows them to pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues which provide important insights into their motivations for buying.
Ultimately, these motivations are based on pain points which in turn are based on emotions not always communicated in words.
3 – Educate
In the context of consultative selling, education means teaching a lead how to make an educated decision. Always assume the lead has done their research and requires help in implementing what they already know.
Education can take the form of related case studies from previous clients. Alternatively, it may incorporate a well-presented plan for addressing the problem supported by factual evidence. In any case, it is important to balance helpfulness with oversharing to avoid giving the lead everything they need for free.
4 – Customise
As a potential sale draws nearer, tailoring the customer’s experiences becomes crucial.
The key at this point is to organically suggest how certain products or services may meet the consumer’s needs. Abruptly entering into a sales pitch may pressure the lead and undo the good work done in the previous steps. Showing the product in action can help solidify this suggestion.
While the advisor is trying to make money for the business, they must remain authentic and genuine. A tailored solution must be just that: tailored. Can the business tweak its existing product or service to meet the needs of a specific customer? Can it offer an exclusive discount or promotion?
5 – Close
The chances of closing the deal are increased by following the above principles.
However, pushback may occur in certain circumstances for a variety of reasons. In this situation, it may be helpful for the advisor to broach the topic of the potential consequences of not making a purchase. What might happen if the buyer can’t reach a goal, execute on strategy, or overcome their challenges?
Above all, a successful close should feel like the natural conclusion to discussions for both the business and its new client. This increases the likelihood that the two parties are a good fit.
- Consultative selling is a solution-based, customer-centric sales approach with a core focus on building strong relationships.
- Consultative selling is underpinned by a deep understanding of the client. Avoiding open-ended questions and doing some background research on a company can go a long way to establishing trust from the outset.
- Consultative selling also advocates active listening, where 80% of the meeting is spent listening and 20% speaking. This approach allows the advisor to identify verbal and non-verbal buying motives often based on emotion.
Connected Sales Frameworks
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