To traditional sellers, consultative selling can feel intimidating. Instead of maintaining power in the selling process, the seller must yield it to the buyer. It’s certainly not easy to do, but consultative selling can pay off because it provides the personalized experience that modern buyers have grown to expect today. It requires selflessness and time, but implementing consultative selling techniques can help grow an organization’s sales team, increase customer loyalty, and solve each customer’s biggest needs.
What Is Consultative Selling?
Consultative selling offers each customer a unique solution. Instead of requiring sellers to identify pain points and offer solutions, it empowers buyers to realize how the product meets their needs. Sellers used to drive the buyer to the sale, but consultative selling puts the buyer behind the wheel.
For this to succeed, sellers need curiosity. They must perfect the art of asking good questions that leave room for in-depth responses. It’s definitely not the easiest path for a sales team. It requires sellers to put their skills of persuasion and convincing on hold and replace them with a posture of empathy and helpfulness. While sellers used to focus on pulling prospects to the product, they now must provide the necessary information to empower prospects to lead themselves to the buying decision.
While this may seem daunting, it is certainly worth it. Buyers have said that the three most important elements of a sales experience are having a rep who listens to their needs, isn’t pushy, and provides relevant information. Implementing these consultative selling techniques will ensure that every sales experience meets these needs.
If your organization is looking to implement a more consultative approach to selling, here are a few best practices you can get started on today.
1. Ask Good Questions
Bad questions lead to simple answers that reveal nothing, but good questions pull out information and lead people to discover things for themselves. Developing the ability to ask good questions is crucial for consultative selling and can lead to a better bottom line.
You may be thinking that this sounds too simple, but this skill often gets overlooked in sales organizations. While sales teams may have fallen behind, groups ranging from improv comedians to Greek philosophers have been perfecting the art of asking good questions for years. In doing so, they have developed ways for the recipient of the question to think for themselves and respond accordingly.
With consultative selling, sales leaders can apply this same methodology to potential customers. By asking good questions, sellers simultaneously gain insight into the buyer and build their trust. Good questions also make prospects think, allowing them to discover and understand things about their situation they may not have thought about before. This can help them make a more educated buying decision.
Good questions should be open and give customers a chance to talk. They lead to discovery. Avoiding questions with yes or no answers will build rapport with customers as well as give you the information you need. Good questions to start with can include
- What are the biggest goals for your organization this year?
- How would your organization change if you could accomplish those goals?
- What kind of obstacles currently stand in your way?
- What do you look for when making a decision about buying a new service or product?
To develop these skills, sales training can incorporate playing “The Question Game,” where everyone converses with one another using only questions. Sales enablement teams can also help their sellers by providing them with resources that encourage them to use these kinds of questions.
2. Know Each Specific Buyer
Although every sales technique requires you to know who you are selling to, consultative selling dives even deeper into the customer’s mind. Sales enablement can make this easier by providing sellers with regularly updated buyer personas and sales content that fit each buyers unique needs. Getting into the world of every potential buyer allows sellers to treat each prospect as a unique individual rather than a metric, demographic, or market.
Before engaging with prospects, sellers should gather detailed information to better understand their specific needs and see how to best meet them. Sellers cannot rely on a formulaic, one-size-fits-all approach to prospects. Each buyer is unique and needs to be treated uniquely. What works for a large company’s account may not work for a small business leader. Sellers need to enter each sales meeting knowing exactly who they will be talking to. Knowing this can also help them prepare the right questions for each meeting.
3. Spice Up the Sales Process
Consultative selling requires sellers to get away from the sales script. While organizations need consistency, relying too heavily on scripted sales processes can lead to less memorable customer experiences, and in a time when 53% of customer loyalty is measured by the sales experience, organizations need to make sure that every experience sticks with every customer.
To create memorable experiences, organizations can spice up their sales processes with some variety. Sellers who treat each process as a unique customer experience understand the one thing that every buyer does have in common: a problem that needs solving. By adding variety and spice into the sales process, sellers show that they see each prospect as a unique person with a unique problem. This treatment creates a positive experience for customers and leaves room for them to see for themselves how the seller can solve their problems.
4. Bring on the Qualifiers
Buyers want to know that they are being heard, and sellers can prove that they are attentive listeners by weaving qualifying phrases into their conversations. These small phrases go a long way in making someone feel valued and understood.
Sellers can lead into a solution by referencing a specific point the buyer said earlier. These show that the seller is listening to the prospect and can help bring clarity and focus to the whole conversation. Some examples of qualifying phrases may include
- “You mentioned that your company…”
- “Earlier you said…”
- “I remember you bringing up…”
- “I’m asking this next question because…”
To develop this, sales leaders can take recorded sales calls and listen for consultative qualifiers, focusing specifically on how sellers ask about the prospect’s specific situation. Do they listen more than they speak? What specific words and questions do they use? How responsive are prospects to them? These are all good questions that can help sales leaders evaluate how well sellers are incorporating these practices.
Practice Makes Perfect
The craftiness of consultative selling comes from the seller’s ability to weave these practices into their sales pitch without forcing it. It takes practice, but buyers don’t want to feel interrogated. Each seller has to strategically place questions in the right places of the conversation, hearing the buyer and listening to their needs. Hardest of all, they have to hold back from immediately diving into sales mode. Listen first. Allow the buyer to recognize their need and give them space to make the buying decision themselves.
While consultative selling can take time to develop, incorporating this as an available technique into any organization’s sales process will help solve each unique problem in a unique way.