The 8 Best Consultative Selling Techniques
By Jud Travis
Don’t waste time being annoyed by your prospects. Sure, many can be very demanding, but an effective sales philosophy has been created to proactively take charge of the market’s expectations—and that is consultative selling. It’s quickly becoming the go-to sales method of major startups and businesses. Consultative selling focuses on establishing practicality and confidence with potential buyers. Their needs are addressed before a solution is put on the table. There are two objectives when it comes to consultative selling: (1) building the relationship; (2) providing the correct product.
A recent study suggests fewer than half of consumers think that sellers do all it takes to figure out what works best for buyers. Consultative selling is a solution to this dilemma. It offers a methodology for effective time management so that mismatched solutions are eliminated and customer needs are maximized. This sales philosophy makes the seller get to the bottom of customer needs very quickly and positions the salesperson to offer necessary solutions.
Implementing consultative selling is easy as long as salespeople use the following techniques:
1) Balance Questions with Valuable Information
A sale cannot take place without having a grasp of the customer’s needs. Realize those needs by implementing attentive questioning. Study after study proves that customers think that the greatest need for improvement is in salespeople’s understanding of the customer’s business and industry. Sellers often offer solutions that do not benefit the customer; however, asking questions to buyers takes up a lot of time and asking too many questions will make the customer feel annoyed. The solution is to provide insights during a rep’s questioning. Insights are the rationale behind the questions and establish authenticity. They will keep the buyer engaged, which is crucial when selling over the phone.
Salespeople must always keep the end goal in mind—which is to offer the customer a unique solution that correlates to the person or business’ pain points. Though a rep is likely to have some information about his/her leads in advance, it would be foolish for a rep to assume that he/she knows everything there is to know and that questioning is not necessary. Salespeople need to always prepare to ask many open-ended questions—who, what, when, why, where, and how—which will allow them ample time to figure out pain points. Reps should try to avoid questions that begin with “Are”, “You”, “Do” and “Can.” Those questions usually lead to simple yes or no answers, which salespeople want to avoid at all costs as they acquire useful information about the buyer. Instead, reps must channel their inner philosopher and ask Socratic questions. These are questions that can get to the truth of the matter quickly. Have salespeople utilize the following six types of Socratic questions with their prospects:
-Questions that establish an explanation. For example, “Why do you think that? What does that mean for you? How can this apply to your business?”
-Questions that investigate assumptions. For example, “What should we assume about that? You must be feeling that…? What do you think would take place if…?”
-Questions that gather motives and verification. For example, “What do you think causes this to happen? Why? Why did that that take place? What’s an example of that?”
-Questions about the perspective of the buyer. For example, “Another way of viewing this is…does this seem likely? What other ways of looking at this exist? What if you approached it with… and…?”
-Questions that deal with ramifications and results. For example, “What are you getting at? What do you think would happen next? How does…influence…?”
-Questions about your questions. For example, “Am I providing you potential solutions? Why not?”
Though it’s important to have a list of effective questions and a script, train your reps to not read verbatim so that the customer doesn’t feel like he/she is being interrogated. The consultative method creates a fluid conversation that appears natural to the customer. Actively listening and planning before the calls will set up your reps to converse appropriately while determining pain points. Responsive questioning will often get the reps to figure out a different solution than what the rep first had in mind. Prospects usually become an open book during consultative selling due to the conversation feeling authentic and not scripted at all. Your reps should (1) keep questions open-ended and (2) actively listen.
Pre-framing is a procedure that helps reps proactively address objections and concerns before the sale is threatened. Seasoned salespeople utilize pre-framing to affect the outcome of the conversation by ensuring potential customers are aware of what will happen before it happens and what that truly means. For example, the rep could say, “I’m aware this is a bit out of your price range, but if I made the product 15% off, would you consider making a purchase?” What this does is provides reps an advantage in negotiations by keeping them in control while doing away with the customer’s possible lack of certainty and hesitation before those negative emotions are established.
3) Create Trust
While the majority of customers usually don’t mind engaging salespeople remotely, building trust without being face-to-face with a potential buyer can be challenging. Sellers have the ability to beat this obstacle by creating trust that’s knowledge-based—which is created by setting themselves up from actions that correlate to the seller’s words. Most importantly, sellers must make a follow-up after the call. What’s said during the follow-up isn’t even that important. The purpose of the follow-up is to prove to the buyer that the salesperson cares for the buyer’s well-being. It’s rather simple: the reps must prove that their word is their bond. This legitimizes the product or service’s worth, as well as the rep’s and that of the company he/she represents. A recent survey of over 1,200 businesses proves salespeople who create a trust with buyers will see dramatically improved results.
4) Own the Conversation
Effective dialogue is vital to consultative selling; however, sellers must be on a mission to keep the conversation going. Buyers must realize they’ve linked up with a person that can offer solutions for a company’s pain points. Reps must prepare to provide examples of pertinent work in the buyer’s industry. Additionally, the salesperson’s messaging needs to be succinct and brief. Effectively taking ownership creates a climate of authenticity. When salespeople have masterful control of the conversation, they shape the conversations to be in their favor; but keep in mind, control doesn’t equate to domination. Salespeople need to be relaxed and not overly aggressive. Make sure your reps find the perfect balance between ownership and being at ease.
5) Take the Time to Listen
Way too many reps ask the right questions because they’re supposed to, rather than having genuine interest in what the prospect will say. It’s human nature to be thinking about what to say to the buyer next but reps must reframe their approach by making it their mission to solve buyer’s problems. They must be sincere and that sincerity will be noticed by prospects. Taking the time to listen may make the salesperson realize that the solution they had in mind is wrong and the prospect is in need of a completely different service or product. You have to train your reps to slow their roll and ask three-deep questions to get to the bottom of the prospect’s issues and dire needs; however, they can’t just sit back and let prospects blabber on for twenty minutes. Reps must politely steer the conversation back to figuring out a solution rather than hearing a long story about how a prospect’s Sunday golf outing went.
6) Embrace Feedback
Bad feedback does not exist. Even aggressive or, in some cases, hostile customer objections, benefit both the seller and his/her organization. When prospects offer concern, they’re providing valuable information for how procedures can improve; therefore, the seller and higher-ups must take all feedback seriously and take notes on everything. Reps must not be scared to ask the buyer if the solutions offered met the person’s needs. Asking for the buyer’s opinion proves that the salesperson is committed to working together, which is key to the consultative selling process. Receiving feedback is also key to figuring out solutions that may not have been apparent at first.
7) Research the Prospect’s Needs
Phone conversations are usually shorter than in-person meetings; thus, the salesperson must do effective research concerning the prospect’s industry and company. Research ensures the seller will pick up essential and relevant knowledge that allows the seller to begin conversations with the most important questions first. Researching potential pain points and needs creates the chance to realize opportunities that will offer the best value. Customers are almost always receptive due to the information being so pertinent. A consultative approach ensures salespeople use a consistent method for an always-changing audience and market, become better at selling over the phone, and—most importantly—get more sales.
8) Mirror the Prospect When Closing
A correct close should feel like a natural conclusion for both the salesperson and the prospect. The rep must try and mirror the prospect’s personality and language because subconsciously establishing familiarity will generate an emotional response that prompts the buyer to act fast. Think about it- would you rather give your hard earned money to a trusted, caring friend or a complete stranger? By the time the rep is about to close, he/she should know the prospect well enough to push the correct buttons and get that much needed “yes, let me get my credit card out.”
Overall, the key to effective consultative selling is focusing on the prospect throughout the sales process from beginning to end. That focus establishes a win-win state of affairs in which the prospect feels that their needs are the main focus and the salesperson builds a relationship with a loyal customer who’s in it for the long haul. Apply these consultative selling techniques, and you’ll be hauling a lot of money into your bank.