Technology is making traditional salespeople disappear.
Between 2005 and 2017, US pharmaceutical companies laid off 66% of their salespeople.
For self-service and low-cost sales, buyers no longer need a salesperson.
They are well informed.
For sales to large companies, it’s a different story.
We need salespeople, but not the usual ones.
Although they are better informed than ever, buyers of large companies have many doubts:
- Enough information clarifies.
- Too much paralyzes.
If, 30 years ago, a purchasing department had to buy 100 computers, they couldn’t Google their specifications, but they didn’t need them either: It was IBM or Macintosh.
Today, buying business solutions is not like that, and sales representatives are responsible for accompanying the customer in finding the perfect solution to his problem. In this course we have already seen :
- How to approach the buying process of a large company.
- How to get leads through ABM (account based marketing).
- How to get leads through cold emails.
- How to qualify these customers through BANT.
It is time to accompany these leads through a process called Consultative Selling.
And that’s what we’ll talk about in this lesson.
What is Consultative Selling?
Consultative selling is when the salesperson, instead of just shipping products to potential customers, acts as a consultant.
The implementation of your product takes a back seat, while advising the customer is the main focus.
It is based on a principle that we at Efficy like very much: putting the customer at the centre of everything.
And for salespeople to do that, they need two things:
- Know your market and product very well.
- Try to understand the needs of the prospects.
Striving to understand prospects well has been misunderstood
Understanding prospects’ needs and helping them has become a priority for marketers, which is why, according to a study by Gartner:
- 86% of B2B marketers agree that “it is important to help the customer consider all their alternatives”.
- 79% say they are “very flexible with customer feedback, even if I don’t agree with the direction it takes.
- 68% believe that “giving customers more information helps them make better decisions”.
These are well-intentioned assumptions, but they lead to rather poor results.
Consultative selling is not about being helpful to the customer.
It is about understanding their problem and mastering the buying process to find a solution that solves it.
In fact, according to the same study, this helpful approach leads to 18% more buying difficulties and 50% more buying regrets .
Instead of facilitating the buying decision, salespeople who use this approach engage in over-information and paralysis. On the other hand, salespeople who empathise with their customers’ problems and then master the buying process achieve better results
Who are the best sales consultants?
According to a study published by Lynette Ryals and Iain Davies, there are 8 types of salespeople based on their abilities:
- Take agreements forward.
- Conclude the agreement in stages.
- Signing agreements.
Of these 8 types of salespeople, only 3 understand the above point and abandon the helpful approach for a more proactive one:
- Salesperson who lands a deal.
Within these three, there are also categories, and the most effective and knowledgeable are the experts.
However, they only represent 9% of sales reps.
What do salespeople do to make their consultative selling more effective?
These salespeople follow 3 steps when approaching a sale :
- Understanding customer needs
- Understanding their buying process.
- Making the proposal and educating the customer.
Understand their customers’ needs
Questions are essential, but not just any questions and not just any type of questions.
Avoid checklists at all costs. They make you look like a robot and not at all personal.
Avoid self-serving questions where there is only one answer. “If I had a solution to all your problems, would you be interested?”. What is someone supposed to say to that question, other than yes? Don’t start by setting the stage.
Even if you sense where you are going, this is the time to listen and ask questions, not give solutions.
In fact, according to Alfredo Nicolás, our Sales Manager for Spain, the key at this stage is to build trust: “The important thing at this stage is to listen and understand the needs of the other side of the table. You have to empathise with the buyers and even if you don’t have to give them solutions straight away, you can create expectations that you will offer them.
The key is how you approach the issues, you need a thread, not a checklist.
It’s like the client has a bad knee and you are the doctor they are going to see. The doctor doesn’t tell you stories, he asks you about your injury, your history, and then sets you on the road to recovery.
This builds trust, and that’s the key to this first step. The next step is to get all the parties involved around the table.
Understand the buying process
The key is to ensure that you understand who the key profiles in the procurement are and what the main issues are that may arise.
Santiago Torre, a sales manager with almost 30 years’ experience, goes into more details on these aspects: “You need to know a potential customer’s buying needs, the sooner the better.
Early on, ask them how they buy this type of product or service from your company.
Normally they will start to give you clues about their process:
- Who buys,
- How they decide,
If they don’t tell you much, ask for everything you need – without going too far – and, most importantly, if you think there might be something that’s holding you back from doing business, the sooner you know, the better, the more time you’ll have to try to change it.”
Being aware of and anticipating potential problems that may arise in the buying process is one of the distinctive skills of the ‘Expert’ archetype mentioned in the previous study.
This generates confidence in the potential customer and makes it easier to move on to the next stages of the purchase. Whether these typical barriers are of one type or another will depend on your industry, but depending on the timing of the purchase, they are the most common in most cases.
Making the proposal and educating the customer
One of the keys to successful consultative selling is, once the previous 2 steps have been completed, not to go backwards.
From there, you need to guide the customer through the buying process and persuade them to move on if they are looking for more information or want to slow down the process to evaluate other options.
One of the keys for doing this is to find your prospect’s critical events.
Imagine in our case, we are selling a CRM: If a prospect needs their sales department to be up and running by March 1 and we know that setting up a CRM will take 6 months in their case, we need to let them know: “We have already worked with over 4,500 customers and we know that to be up and running by March 1, we would have to sign off and start the project on September 1.
The customer doesn’t care about your deadlines, but he does care about his
What matters to a sales manager is that his team sells on 1 March.
With this up your sleeve, you’ll be in a better position to push the procurement forward and use the same techniques as the most successful salespeople.
What to do at this stage?
Once you’ve navigated the consultative selling process, the only thing left to do is close the sale, and that’s precisely what we’ll look at in the next lesson.
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In the meantime, if you want, you can try Efficy CRM, the most flexible sales tool on the market.
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