The modern buyer is so demanding that a special sales philosophy has been developed to respond to market’s expectations. Praised for its educational nuances, consultative selling has swiftly become the preferred sales methodology of high-growth startups and online businesses. Curious what got everyone so excited? Learn the 7 main principles of consultative selling to jump aboard this trend without any hiccups.
What is consultative selling?
Consultative selling is a sales approach that puts the focus on the buyer’s needs and experiences over the product a company is selling. Some salespeople go so far as to call it a sales philosophy for its unwavering commitment to developing a holistic understanding of the customer’s needs, providing value and finding a customized solution. While the traditional way of selling might often be disliked for its aggressive tone, consultative selling is all about asking the right questions and really drilling down into customers’ answers.
Consultative selling is also often called solution-based selling because of its strong focus on providing a tailor-fit solution. When used in combination with content marketing, this solution-driven sales approach can make a huge impact on the whole lead generation performance. By constantly engaging customers in a dialogue, sales teams can better understand the target market’s way of thinking, the main pain points, and expectations. If sales and marketing teams manage to bring their efforts together and use this intel to create high punching lead generation and nurturing campaigns, the results can be particularly exciting.
Achieving a high Sales and Marketing alignment (SMarketing) is not the simplest of tasks, especially if both teams are using different tools. However, easy access to lead intelligence for Sales is crucial if they’re expected to adopt a consultative approach to selling. A robust CRM can unify Sales and Marketing teams by gathering all the essential information in one place, clearly defining each team’s responsibilities throughout the process and making the state of the pipeline more transparent and easier to understand. Let’s say your business uses a sales tool like Teamgate. Not only your teams get help at every stage of the sales process (we’re talking fully automated integrations, optimization hacks, and simplified processes), but they can better understand how and why leads convert and work side-by-side on future campaigns.
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Consultative selling vs. Product-based selling
Whereas consultative selling puts the emphasis on what the prospect wants and needs, trying to cater to those specific cases, product-based selling pays little to no attention to the customer’s unique requirements concentrating on showcasing the product’s best features. Strong communication is essential in consultative selling where active listening makes up the basis of the methodology, while product-based selling draws on traditional sales techniques, such as features over benefits, to try and convert leads.
With the huge demand for personalized, tailored solutions and services, consultative selling is taking the central stage. To really benefit from this sales methodology, a company must follow these seven main principles.
Providing your customers with tailored solutions means you must know everything you can about their business and be able to anticipate any and all questions a customer may ask. If you’re gathering leads through inbound marketing campaigns, you will most likely have some helpful information like company size, email preferences or social media behaviors as well as know what content is trending among your customers and therefore, what issues they’re trying to solve.
Pre-framing is a sales technique that helps salespeople address buyer objections and concerns before they become a threat to a sale. Skilled salespeople use pre-framing to influence the outcome of a conversation or experience by letting buyers know exactly what is going to happen before it happens and what it is going to mean.
An example of this technique could be something like, “I realize this is slightly above your budget, but if I extended a 10% discount, would you consider the offer?”. What it does is gives salespeople the upper hand in negotiations by letting them keep the control and eliminate potential doubts and hesitations well before they take root.
#3 Ask more questions (including Socratic questions)
Remember, the end goal of consultative selling is to offer the consumer a unique solution that addresses his pain points. Although it’s likely you’ll have some information about your leads before engaging in a conversation, it would be a huge mistake to assume you know everything that matters. Be prepared to ask a lot of open-ended questions (who, what, when, why, where, and how) that will allow you to dig to the bottom of their issues. Questions that start with words like Are, You, Do and Can lead to yes or no answers, which is not very helpful when you’re trying to build an understanding of who you’re dealing with.
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Socratic questions are also rather popular among salespeople dabbling with this sales approach. Socratic questions refer to five different types of questions developed by the great philosopher himself:
- Questions for clarification: why do you say that? What exactly does this mean? How does this relate to our discussion? Etc.
- Questions that probe assumptions: what could we assume instead? You seem to be assuming…? What would happen if…? Etc.
- Questions that probe reasons and evidence: what do you think causes to happen…? Why? Why is that happening? What would be an example? Etc.
- Questions about viewpoints and perspectives: another way of looking at this is…, does this seem reasonable? What alternative ways of looking at this are there? What if you compared … and …? Etc.
- Questions that probe implications and consequences: what are you implying? Then what would happen? How does … affect …? Etc.
- Questions about the question: what was the point of this question? Am I making sense? Why not? Etc.
#4 Let the customer speak
In sales, nothing beats great active listening skills. Letting your customers speak is probably the best advice you are going to get today. But don’t just let them jabber away — listen and document everything your leads tell you. It’s likely you’ll be able to use this information at some point during the negotiations or simply be able to inform your decisions better. Getting the customer to speak about their pain points or issues is not always easy. So if you manage to get the ball rolling, pay attention to their tone, pitch, and level of enthusiasm — this will help you read between the lines.
#5 Provide value and show expertise
One of the core features of consultative selling is providing value to the customer. As an expert in your industry, you must be prepared to answer and even consult on questions that are in no way related to your product or service. Building rapport and gaining customer trust is the only way to execute the consultative selling technique. To blow your customers’ minds, you need to find a way how to exceed their expectations. If you focus on helping the lead no matter what, you’ll quickly be able to form a positive image in their eyes and also show your expertise. If they trust you, they’ll buy from you and might even recommend your product to a friend.
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We have talked about lead qualification as a great deal. Without lead qualification, businesses often end up working cold leads. It’s a huge waste of already scarce resources and time and should not happen in organizations that have some process in place.
A qualified lead has goals, challenges to overcome, a defined timeline, and budget. Although helping unqualified leads is part of consultative selling, you should focus your time and energy on identifying the most promising sales opportunities.
#7 Use their language and close
A robust lead qualification process will ensure that the closing part is a relatively simple affair. If it’s done right, it should feel like a natural culmination for both you and the client. A top tip often shared by experienced salespeople is to try and use your potential customers’ language to prompt them to act sooner and elicit an emotional response. By the time you reach the closing point, you will know which buttons to press to get your leads to say yes.
P.s. don’t forget to work on your deal-closing line. Here’s one that’s trending right now: “You’re interested in X and Y features, right? If we get started today, you’ll be up and running by [date].”
Paired with some high-quality content, consultative selling approach has the potential to be hugely successful. As a repeatable, scaleable process, consultative selling enables salespeople to qualify leads faster, shorten the sales cycle and win more business.