Consultative selling is a powerful and dynamic approach to the challenge of increasing small business sales. Times are tough, and it’s tempting to pull out all the stops and focus on the hard sell. When you strategize your selling approach, the ABCs are important (Always Be Closing) but so are the CCCs: Consult, Collaborate, and Close.
Facts, data and personal reviews about products and services are more accessible than ever before, and products and services are becoming more interconnected and complex too. Are sales experts still necessary in the digital age? They’re more important than ever before.
Strategies for Consultative Selling
Customers need good, reliable solutions that address their real-world needs. When salespeople have comprehensive product and industry information and the talent to communicate that information in customer specific ways on-the-fly, they can establish more dynamic and responsive selling relationships. It’s a strategy that turns prospects into sales. These tips will help:
- Learn everything you can about your products, accessories, your competitor’s products, and what people are saying about them on the internet and in the news. That includes how they’re installed, how they’re related to other products and industries, and what if any aftermarket products or services impact them. If potential customers know more about your product than you do, you’ve lost the sale.
- Knowledge is power, but only if it’s specific. A potential customer can read a spec sheet without your help. What he wants is a useful explanation of how those facts relate to his needs.
- Listen. People can tell when you’re actively listening and not just waiting for a chance to move to your next selling point. Prospects are offering lots of valuable information free for the taking every time they ask a question or make a comment. Learning to be a savvy listener can give you clues to when a customer’s ready for a tougher sell, a request for an order, or a gracious withdrawal.
- Provide extra value. Offering tips for solving problems, conducting mini-tutorials, or providing solution-specific sample merchandise can all be effective ways to create a consultative dynamic. When you adopt a credible consultative persona, you gain trust.
- Have a goal. Just wanting to sell doesn’t translate well to specific selling opportunities. Hone your approach, and make the prospect agree with what you’re saying as you move from point to point in your presentation. Establish a dialogue; don’t conduct a monologue. Once you’ve gained a prospect’s trust and presented the most dynamic and appropriate features of your product within the context of his specific needs, if you do have to make a concession, like offering a discount, it will seem less like haggling and more like a show of good faith.
- Treat objections like questions. When a prospect raises objections, it’s a good sign. He’s participating in an exchange that you can use to your advantage. If you’ve been accepted as an authority, your comments will carry weight, so pick your responses carefully. A customer objection can show you how to get the sale if you view it as an opportunity.
- Don’t trash the competition. As soon as you show partiality, even though it’s for a product you’re clearly paid to sell, you’ll start to lose credibility. Address each point honestly. You’ll know you’ve made a favorable impression when the prospect starts to agree with some of your observations. He may even start selling himself if you step back and give him a chance.
- Don’t over sell. People get suspicious when you push too hard, and one hallmark of an inexperienced closer is the inclination to talk too much. One of the beauties of a consultative selling approach is that by the time the close rolls around, all the hard work is done. Relax, take a deep breath, and let the prospect take it to the next level. After that, if you do need to backtrack, you won’t look like you’re scrambling.
Companies that focus their sales efforts on consultative techniques (be the expert) and collaborative strategies (we can help each other), as well as traditional selling methods, can leverage customer trust into increased sales. Even in an age where information is abundant, consultative selling is a powerful sales tool.