As a sales professional, you would want to convert a potential sales prospect into a paying customer quickly. But are your prospect needs and concerns the central part of this conversion plan? If not, then your sales journey might get a bit difficult. There are chances that the prospects might exit your sales cycle at any stage due to dissatisfaction. For mitigating this risk, it is essential to understand your sales prospect needs and build a good rapport with them. This can be done through the medium of consultative selling.

What’s there for you in this article:

  1. What is consultative selling?
  2. Consultative approach vs. product-focused selling
  3. Powerful steps to optimize consultative selling
  4. Final Words

“Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where the two meet” – Kevin Stirtz

What is consultative selling?

Consultative selling is an approach that focuses on buyer needs. In simple terms, a sales professional acts as a consultant and helps the prospect in finding a solution for their ongoing problem. Instead of making a pitch, sales reps try to engage the buyers in a meaningful dialogue using their questioning skills. Through such substantive interaction, the sales rep discovers the prospect’s most pressing business issues. Then genuine efforts are made to overcome these issues of the sales prospect.

Consultative approach vs. product-focused selling

The significant difference between the two is that in product-focused selling emphasis is laid on the product while in consultative selling it is all about the buyers.

In product-focused selling:

  • Companies are concerned about their profits
  • ‘Self-centric’ approach
  • Sales professional speaks more and listens less
  • Sales rep highlights the product’s features
  • Sales reps assume that the prospects need the product

In consultative selling

  • Companies are focused on customer’s profit
  • ‘Customer-centric’ approach
  • Sales professional listens attentively to the prospects and asks relevant questions
  • Highlights the benefits and ROI the buyers will receive
  • Sales reps put in efforts to understand if the prospect really needs their product

It is tough to survive with a product-centric approach in the modern buying environment where the buyers are quite smart and well-informed. If you don’t pay attention to their concerns, they will instantly switch towards your competitors. And without a doubt, your competitors will be more than happy to welcome your customers.

“if you don’t take care of your customer, your competitor will”- Bob Hooey

Powerful steps to optimize consultative selling

  1. Research to gain in-depth knowledge about the prospects
  2. Carefully question your prospects
  3. Lend an ear and listen to your prospects
  4. Offer the solution to their problem
  5. Follow-up without giving up

The only way to succeed in sales is by giving the buyers more importance. Put yourself in your prospects shoes and understand their perspective. Build a bond of trust by displaying genuine interest in the prospects businesses and the problems surrounding it. Be a consultant to your prospects and direct them towards a lucrative pathway.

Below are the steps for effective consultative selling:

1. Research to gain in-depth knowledge about the prospects

Consultative selling is all about knowing your potential sales prospects.

  • What do they think?
  • What they desire?
  • What are their expectations?
  • What are their major issues?

Before you connect with the prospects, ensure you collect enough information about them. To be a sales advisor you need to dig as deep as possible. Go through their social media accounts, websites, PR and reviews posted about them on various reviewing sites.

Find out-

  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • What product do they sell?
  • What is their sales volume?
  • What kind of reviews are their customers posting about them?
  • Who are their competitors?
  • Why aren’t they able to surpass their competitors?
  • Why do they need a solution?

Answers to these questions are critical for creating a good impression on the prospects. They need to know you’ve done your homework before approaching them. Prospects prefer interacting with such sales rep’s who have the basic knowledge about their problem. Think about it, wouldn’t you like if someone knows what you need without you telling them. Make your prospects comfortable to ask more personalized questions for diagnosing their problems.

2. Carefully question your prospect

Be very cautious while questioning your clients. You can’t afford to offend or exasperate them. However, that doesn’t mean you hesitate in putting forward any specific questions. Just ensure the questions you ask are relevant.

In consultative selling, it is necessary to build a bond. The questions you ask are crucial for driving a consultative dialogue. So, they need to be thought provoking and unique to each client. This is the reason you need to pre-plan by researching about the prospects.

If you have done your research and studied their market, then you will be able to ask questions like:

  • What is the toughest part about__?
  • I read__ going on in your industry. Is it affecting your business?
  • How are you dealing with ___?
  • Can you brief me a little about your current process to handle ____?
  • I read a review posted by a client that said___. Did you ponder over?
  • Have you tried___?
  • What specific benefits do you look for in__?

Besides you can even ask direct questions to learn about the prospects:

  • Are there any business areas you are seeking to improve?
  • Are you using any solution for it?
  • What is your typical budget for___?
  • Our several clients had ___problem. Are you facing the same trouble?
  • What’s holding you back from achieving your goals?
  • Would you mind sharing the common concerns that your customer raises after using your product/service?

3. Lend an ear and listen to your prospects

Dialogue is the key to successful consultative selling. You cannot have a dialogue without listening to your clients. You have an amazing set of questions, but they need to flow in a conversation naturally at the right time. Instead of thinking what to ask next, focus on the answers of the prospects and based on that, frame the next question. These answers have a wealth of information so don’t ignore them.

The best thing to do is use a customer relationship management tool with the built-in virtual phone system. In this way, your prospects details will be in front of you to communicate more effectively. Plus, you can keep track of the conversation with them by recording the call. So, you don’t need to depend on your memory as there are chances you might forget some details. You can hear the recording at any time for understanding the concerns of the sales prospects.

Tips:

  • Take notes during the calls
  • Shut out distractions
  • Don’t interrupt your prospects
  • Allow the prospects to finish the point before asking clarifying questions
  • Show that you are listening with frequent words of acknowledgment

4. Offer the solution to their problem

Now that you have understood your prospects problems, it is time to present the solution. This is the tricky part, so act wisely. You are expected to tailor your solution to their needs.  Don’t beat around the bush, be direct and clear.

Show them:

  • What benefits they will receive, and how will the solution help them in overcoming the current issue?
  • What is the net profit they can expect from this investment?
  • How will they save their time, money and efforts?

While presenting the solution, ensure that you don’t make any promises that you can’t fulfill later. It will just spoil your image and lead to churn. Instead, try to gain your prospects confidence by accepting responsibility for the results. Clear all the doubts of your prospects; they shouldn’t take the buying decision under any pressure as it might cause a problem later. Consultative selling is all about directing the buyers, so help them until the end.

5. Follow-up without giving up

You can’t expect the prospects to purchase as soon as you present the solution. There might be more that one person involved in taking the buying decision. They will have to discuss the solution and look over various factors. This might take a little time, but that doesn’t mean you don’t follow up.

  • Don’t be pushy but send follow-up emails at certain intervals.
  • If you don’t get response, then wait but don’t abandon the sales deal. As per a research, 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up.
  • Use email tracking tool to find out if the prospects are reading your emails.
  • Send more information about the solution through newsletters to help the prospects in taking a positive decision.

Final Words

A doctor needs to diagnose a disease for prescribing a treatment. Similarly, without finding the problem, you cannot provide a solution to a potential sales prospect. Neil Rackham SPIN selling methodology can also help in discovering the business pain points of the buyers. In fact, SPIN selling explains the science behind consultative selling. There are many techniques, tools, and methodologies that can help you in capturing the sales prospect insights.

Tools like Salesmate CRM can not only help in streamlining all the information collected about a sales prospect but also aid in improving conversion. With this advanced sales tool, you can keep a track on your prospects activities, follow-up in real time, manage your sales communication, measure your team’s performance, identify risks with informative reports and integrate with your favorite third-party applications. Salesmate has a simple interface, so it is easy to adapt and use. Even Capterra, the world’s largest leading digital software review platform has awarded Salesmate as Best Value for Money and Best Ease of Use. Try it yourself for free to explore its various benefits and see how it can help your business.