The focus on consultative selling by many salespeople is often great in concept and poor in execution. This failure stems back to one issue and one issue alone—the fact that consultative selling is really about basic skills.
Too many salespeople, especially those with more tenure, are too focused on acquiring and mastering advanced sales skills. What many of them don’t realize is that the phrase “advanced sales skills” is really a misnomer. Advanced selling is really about consistently doing the basics.
Those who are achieving the best results in staffing and recruitment consistently apply the core competencies of basic selling. They don’t have to get “back to basics” from time to time, instead, consciously choosing to stay with the basics.
This approach to being at an advanced level may not seem as sexy as pursuing the complex or convoluted approaches often presented in the latest tomes on selling. However, the increased profits and commissions gained through this approach more than make up for the “dullness” of keeping selling simple.
Consultative selling, as a conceptual practice, has been around for more than a decade. However, is this what buyers really want? Do they merely want someone to consult with them, behave like a consultant, or even take a consultative approach with them? Last time I checked, consultants are still often accused of telling people what to do; most buyers aren’t interested in being told what to do.
This is why consultative selling is on the way out and Collaborative Selling in on its way in. Buyers like collaboration, not just because it’s all about them, but instead because everyone wins. They receive value while the salesperson and their company are equitably compensated, creating a more sustainable relationship. They aren’t being told what to do, instead participating in a buying experience where they are on equal footing with the collaborative salesperson. The new ABC’s of selling—Always Be Collaborating—creates a buying experience where the needs of all parties are met.
How do you create this buying experience that is integral to Collaborative Selling? I have two recommendations:
Think about positive buying experiences you personally have experienced. What made them different? Better? How will you change how you and your company sell to create this kind of experience for your buyers?
Order Sales Yoga (yes, this is a shameless plug for my book). You too should shamelessly ask people for opportunities to provide them with value. To be able to engage in collaboration, people must first know it’s worth having a conversation with you. We all must shamelessly “toot our own horns.”
SALES YOGA: A TRANSFORMATIONAL PRACTICE FOR OPENING DOORS AND CLOSING DEALS
Sell to the “er” and watch how people suddenly go from disinterest to engaged conversations that lead to sales. For example, if a prospect tells you…
…I’m happy, ask, “What would make you happier?”
…My current vendor is fast, ask, “How would you benefit if we could do it faster?
…I’m getting good service, ask, “What would make it gooder?”
Of course, there is no such word as “gooder,” so you’d say “better” instead! The point is that your prospect was not thinking about the possibility of happier, faster, or better. Your job is to get them thinking thoughts they have not yet thought. Do that and watch more dead-ends turn in to green lights, all because you asked the right question that creates new possibilities.
Ask most salespeople and they’ll tell you they engage in consultative selling. When asked how they accomplish this or ways in which they measure the effectiveness of their consultative approach, you’ll often get a convoluted answer at best. The reality is consultative selling has become another of the buzz words that people apply to a sales process that is anything but fully consultative.
To test if you are being a consultant versus just selling, try the following:
1. Engage your next three prospects in the manner you normally do.
2. Upon developing an understanding of your potential customer, mirror back what you believe to be their stated business needs.
3. Then, share the additional needs you discover that they were unaware of, and how your service will address them.
If your prospect concurs with your recap in step two, you’ve just engaged in order taking. Only when your prospective customer acknowledges the value of your assessment and proposed solution in step three can you call yourself a consultative salesperson.
Missing the mark on that third, consultative step? Not to worry. This is an indicator that it’s time to fully develop the skills of a consultative salesperson by equipping yourself with the right questions and process.