Consultative selling is a sales technique that involves fostering trust and partnerships with customers. How can this help businesses increase sales, not just in the short-term but as a long-term marketing plan? The true meaning of consultative selling is about serving the customer. Not just saying the words, but really trying to find appropriate goods or services or to solve problems for customers.
A company must be genuinely motivated to help customers for it to be most effective. Consultative selling involves being engaged in constant and informative communication with customers in order to have a feel for their needs so suitable answers can be provided to them. In a consultative selling model, the sales representative becomes a consultant. The point in this approach is to deliver solutions.
Most companies are still deeply ingrained in the approach of convincing customers that the products they sell are the best for everyone. Niche’ marketing to smaller, more tailored groups has helped change this. When customer needs are not really examined, people can be turned off by the offer because they don’t hear anything that really helps them or makes them feel valuable.
For example, an automobile sales agent is offering the latest model of a vehicle to a young couple with two small children. In the old approach, the sales agent is expected to peddle the amazing new features of the car. He tells them that it has four-wheel drive, it is capable of reaching speeds as high as 100 miles per hour, it has leather interior and a sunroof, etc.
This approach clearly disregards the customers’ needs, which is why the couple is there to begin with. Consultative selling does exactly the opposite. Instead of showcasing the benefits of the new model, the sales person talks to the couple about what they need in a new car and advises them on what type of car has those features. Additionally, the agent offers ideas they might not have considered because she has researched, or been educated in, what a family vehicle should offer. She’s likely to point out safety features, including side airbags, the ability to clean the car or get car seats in and out.
Additionally, because they are young and gas prices are so high, she will try to find a car for them with great gas mileage, even if this means something smaller (and a smaller commission) than a minivan or SUV. This is true in wireless service sales, Saas sales, IoT sales, and really any B2B sales environment. In consultative selling the sales representative is as concerned about getting a right fit for the customer as the size of their commission. Why? Because there are advantages in doing so.
Advantages of Consultative Selling
Consultative selling is part of the newer trend towards business ethics and really serving a customer or business partner. Do a Google search on “compassion and business” and there are many sites, articles, books and blogs on the topic. Tim Sander’s Love is the Killer App is a great book about compassion and business. In it he says “Those of us who use love as a point of differentiation in business will separate ourselves from our competitors just as world-class distance runners separate themselves from the rest of the pack trailing behind them.”
People sense real caring and customers are people. Like most of us they sense the false and gravitate towards the genuine. Thus, if a sales agent (and the company) operates out of real concern for the customer, they may lose sales here and there because the true genuine fit for the customer wasn’t there, but they will gain overall.
Practicing Successful Consultative Selling
When a company starts to integrate consultative selling into their sales model, the first thing to remember is service of the customer. This involves advising, problem-solving and letting the sale go if it isn’t appropriate. It is not about just selling products. Scratch that old mentality!
Develop a customer-oriented strategy that provides real returns Sales people need to receive real training in communication, empathetic listening, and consultative selling. Customers need to be routinely surveyed, contacted and respected. It sounds ironic but in consultative selling, a company should not be overly concerned about making sales.
Even if a customer decides to buy a product that could contribute offer a high profit, it should be in their best interests to do so. If it isn’t, other more appropriate options should be offered, and this includes making a call to a competitor if all in-house possibilities have been exhausted! This is the most important point to remember when practicing consultative selling. With this, you can convince a customer that the company’s highest concern is their satisfaction and not profits.
The importance and likelihood of this customer being retained for a very long time cannot be undersold.