What is consultative selling?
Basically, it's the sales approach you're introduced to in this website.
Consultative selling, is marked by three factors:
1. The focus is on the prospect's needs, rather than on the product or service.
2. To find what the prospect's needs or objectives are, the sales person asks the right questions, and listens — really listens — to the responses. ("Really listens" means not just half-listening to hear some way of pouncing back in and taking over the discussion.)
3. The consultative sales person, having asked good questions and absorbed the prospect's responses, then — as would a good management consultant — proposes a sound, cost-effective way of filling the needs that turned up.
Sometimes it turns out that this prospect does not really need anything the consultative sales person has to offer, but so be it. The honesty in saying so helps build the kind of credibility that can pay off in the longer term, either with prospect later, or with someone they refer.
Why consultative selling is a powerful sales approach, in both the immediate and longer term
1. Your intelligent questions, perform a service for the prospect: because you as the consultant sales person work with a cross-section of users, you provide wider context drawn from a wider perspective than just this individual or this organization.
2. You develop personal credibility, by the intelligent, savvy questions you ask. Think of the prospect not just as someone who may buy from you, but even more as a client of your consultative selling probing skills.
3. Your questions may alert this prospect into becoming aware of needs that may have been there all along, but unrecognized . . . or seen as "just something we have to live with," rather than an opportunity to make things better.
If you do your sales job well, then you both help the prospect open up to these broader concepts of needs before solutions, AND show how what you offer is the best way of filling those needs.
For the reasons we discussed earlier, usually the best way of accomplishing that is by asking appropriate questions that lead the prospect to expressing the need for what you offer.
In your question-and-answer consultative selling dialogue with the Decision Maker, or prospect, you have two key objectives to accomplish.
First objective, to educate yourself about the problem and resulting needs.
Second objective — and equally important — to "bring the client with you" through your analytical process. You may already be virtually certain, from your experience with other clients, what the prospect's answers are likely to be. From that, the needs are clear . . . but typically clear only to you because — you can take credit! — you are the expert on your product and what it can do.
You may feel that some questions and answers may seem so obvious as hardly to be worth mentioning. But keep in mind that you have been through this analysis before, while it's all new to the prospect or decision maker.
By asking the questions, you get the prospect working together with you through each mental step. If you ask the right questions, you help the prospect look with fresh perspective.
Once the prospect has put into her own words sound reasons in favor of your proposal, you can then echo those words later as "authority" supporting your case. The prospect's own words, echoed back later, in which they spoke of the need, what that need is costing, and the implications flowing from it, are going to carry far more weight than anything you could say.
Besides, even though you may be totally confident that you know what the answers are going to be, you may be surprised by the responses of this unique Decision Maker and organization.
Useful question-and-answer dialogues of the kind that lead to sales don't often happen by chance. It helps to work systematically through a well-planned sequence of questions that brings out the facts of the situation, logically leading to the conclusions you seek.
The content in this post has been adapted from my books, How to Sell Face to Face: Survival Guide, and Selling 101. They are available in various e-book and paper editions; see below:
Survival Guide: Order paperback edition via Amazon
Survival Guide: Order e-book as Amazon Kindle (Amazon offers free apps that enable you to read it on your PC, Apple I-pad, I-pod, Blackberry, and others)
Selling 101 (third edition): Order e-book as Amazon Kindle (Amazon offers free apps that enable you to read it on your PC, Apple I-pad, I-pod, Blackberry, and others)