As a sales professional, you want to convert a potential sales prospect into a paying customer quickly. But are the needs and concerns of your prospect 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 avoiding this from happening, 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:
- What is consultative selling?
- Consultative approach vs. product-focused selling
- Powerful steps to optimize consultative selling
- 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 sales 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.
The philosophy behind consultative selling
Consultative selling is based on a formula of strategic questioning. Socrates, the great philosopher, used strategic questioning to help his pupils solve problems, ferment complex ideas, and come to their own conclusion.
Implementing Socratic questioning while using consultative selling methodology can be really helpful. Most of the time, prospects aren’t aware of their problems. By asking strategic questions, you help the prospects put their problems in their own words.
While answering the questions, the prospects realize what their true needs and challenges are. Moreover, by listening to the prospect’s business pain points from a caring and attentive standpoint, you are building a foundation of trust. The prospects will be more interested in hearing your proposal as you’ve taken the time to hear them first.
Benefits of consultative selling
When the sales reps adopt a consultative sales approach, their mindset changes. They begin focusing on building trust-based relationships. Sales reps start asking probing questions that reveal the prospect’s current state and desired future state. Due to their courteous treatment and excellent performance they are perceived as trusted advisors by the prospects
The consultative sales methodology helps sales reps in attaining quotas, improving customer satisfaction, and increasing customer referrals.
There are several benefits of adopting the consultative sales technique.
- It helps in increasing business revenue by improving the closure rate.
- Shortens sales cycle by gaining potential buyers’ trust and confidence.
- Encourage positive word of mouth by providing an excellent buying experience.
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
Steps to implement consultative selling
- Research to gain in-depth knowledge about the prospects
- Carefully question your prospects
- Lend an ear and listen to your prospects
- Offer the solution to their problem
- 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.
- What are their strengths and weaknesses?
- What 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 reps who have basic knowledge about their problems. Think about it, wouldn’t you like it 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, don’t hesitate to ask 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 active listening. 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 to 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 sales 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.
- 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
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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. Be direct and clear.
- What benefits will they 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 prospect’s 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 sales follow-up emails at certain intervals.
- If you don’t get a response, then wait but don’t abandon the sales deal. As per research, 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up.
- Use an 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.
Consultative selling tips
Consultative selling strategy can help you build a loyal customer base if used smartly. Here are a few tips for using the consultative sales methodology effectively.
Lead the conversation with a plan
Have a proper plan before connecting with the prospect. You should be able to strike a meaningful conversation and make the prospect comfortable from the beginning. Make a list of points that you need to cover while communicating with potential buyers. Create a set of questions for uncovering the needs and challenges of the prospect.
Have evidence to back up what you say
Consultative selling is based on trust and integrity. So, during a consultative sales call, you need to prove that everything you are saying is true. If you say that your product has helped many customers solve a similar issue that the prospect is currently facing, then prove it by sharing case studies or testimonials.
Personalize the conversation at all stages of the sales process
Avoid generic content while using the consultative sales approach. Personalization is essential at all stages of the sales pipeline. Whether you are calling a prospect or sending an email, make sure you personalize your conversation. Address the prospect’s needs and concerns. Assure your prospect that you are genuinely interested in helping.
A doctor needs to diagnose a disease for prescribing 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 small business pain points of the buyers. In fact, SPIN selling explains the science behind consultative selling. There are many selling 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 track of your prospects’ activities, take follow-ups, manage sales communication, measure sales team performance with informative reports.
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.
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