In my last blog, 5 Indicators That You’re a Transactional Sales Professional, I discussed some of the common characteristics and pitfalls of transactional selling. In this article I will share with you a few ideas and examples of consultative selling.
Example Number One-Adjust Your Mindset
The first thing to understand about applying a consultative sales approach is that it is as much (and maybe more) about adjusting your mindset than it is about applying new sales skills. Consultative selling is a TWO-WAY conversation, it’s not a monologue, it’s not scripted, and the sales person certainly shouldn’t be using “tie down” questions such as “do you want to meet on Tuesday or is Wednesday better?” There is no manipulation and there are no “steps” to complete (as you see with traditional sales methodologies). Consultative selling is a real, open, honest and transparent conversation with your client about their challenges and how you and your product or service may be able to solve those challenges. Consultative selling is often counter-intuitive to “traditional” sales approaches and tactics. It’s an old cliché but oh so true-if you truly care about your customer’s business and they know it, good things will happen.
Example Number Two-Identify, Diagnose and Co-Create
As mentioned in my previous blog, consultative selling is not about leading with or talking about your products and services and internal processes. It’s about identifying the critical business issues your customer’s face and diagnosing those challenges through the effective use of probing questions while simultaneously expressing empathy for their situation so that they feel understood. After you identify and diagnose their challenges the next step is to understand the impact of the problem and then collaborate with the customer and co-create a solution. Keep in mind, to do this you must first establish credibility and trust with the customer so that they feel comfortable in sharing this information with you.
Example Number Three-Building Credibility
How do you build credibility and earn the trust of executive stakeholders you ask? This is not an all-inclusive list, but here are a few things that you must do. Executives EXPECT you to know this…
Situational Knowledge-You must be able to demonstrate that you understand what is going on in your customers business. This is the ticket to admission.
Functional Knowledge- You must be able to demonstrate that you understand what is going on in your customers industry and functional role they serve.
Technical Competency-You must bring some technical competency to the conversation
Fresh Ideas & Insight-You need to bring some ideas to the table that your customer would benefit from
Benchmarking Data-Executives love benchmarking data. You should know what kind of data they would be interested in and share it with them
Example Number Four-Understand What Your Customers Think About & How They Think
You need to understand how your customers think and what they think about. Selling becomes so much easier when you understand these two things. As a general rule, all business executives are thinking about their “current state” and their “desired future state.” Your job is to uncover what those are and what gap or pitfalls lie between their “current state” and their “desired future state.” This is accomplished through the use of effective probing questions. The gap you identify between the two is your sales opportunity.
Example Number Five-Impactful Story Sharing
All customers love to hear good, impactful success stories, especially those that are related to their desired future state. It’s the job of the sales professional to understand all of the success stories their company has to offer. More importantly, when the sales person is engaged in a conversation with a prospect it is their job to recognize which success story should be shared with the client based on their knowledge of that prospects “current state” and “desired future state.” Lastly, an impactful success story should detail the specific challenge(s) the client faced, the solution your company offered and the business benefits (quantitative preferred) the client achieved as a result from your solution.
Again, these are just a few examples of consultative selling. There are certainly numerous others but hopefully this can provide a few new “tools” for your tool box.
Over the past several years we have been hearing how our industry continues to become more and more commoditized. There are a number of reasons for this including low barriers to entry, the proliferation of the job boards and VMS systems and the rise of the CPO. But another reason why the industry has become commoditized-one that is hardly ever mentioned-is how sales professionals in the IT staffing industry sell. Part of the reason why the industry has become so commoditized is in large part can be attributed to the way in which sales professionals sell IT staffing services. Below are 5 classic signs of the transactional sales professional.
This classic transactional sales tactic is by far the most common and most deadly. “Hi Mr. customer, it’s Dan Fisher from ABC Company, I was calling to check in. Do you have any needs?”
This transactional statement (and close ended question) kills a conversation in seconds. I could go on and on about all of the reasons why you need to avoid this. If this is part of your MO, do everything in your power to stop it ASAP.
Sales Reps who push for face to face meetings on cold calls (and/or before they have earned the right for a meeting) is another classic example of transactional selling. I get it; we all want and need face to face meetings in order to build relationships. But you can’t ask for a face to face meeting before you have earned the right to that meeting.. When sales reps push and push for that meeting they inadvertently make the prospect uncomfortable. And that makes selling to that prospect even more challenging because you set the expectation that you’re a transactional sales rep. Sales is about establishing credibility and building trust.
“Mr. Customer, I saw on Indeed/Monster/Dice that you’re currently looking to hire a….” This approach (along with all of the others) tells the customer you know nothing about their business and that you have no interest in learning about their business. It also demonstrates that you’re lazy and invested zero time into the sales call. Worse of all, you sound like all of your competitors. What this approach does tell your prospect however is that you are interested in only one thing, making the transaction. Ask yourself, are you out to make the “one-time transaction,” or are you out to build a long term relationship? I suspect you want long term relationships. Assuming so, make sure your sales behavior reflects that.
Accepting a job description via email (or without actually talking with the client about the requirements) as a QUALIFIED job requirement. A job description is simply the launching point for having a conversation with your customer about their project goals, objectives and challenges they face. If you’re relying on matching buzzwords with a job description and buzzwords on a resume, you’re a transactional sales professional. Taking a client requirement is actually one of only a few opportunities to differentiate yourself from your competition, take advantage of it
Leading with and/or talking about a “broadcast message” is another classic example of transactional selling. A “broadcast message” is when the sales professional goes on and on about their products and services, or their “unique value proposition” and their explanation of why they think they are so different from their competitors. Let’s get one thing straight, (sorry if this sounds harsh) but all IT staffing firms offer the same services. And remember, all the information contained in a broadcast message can be found on your web site. If your customer has questions they will go to your web site or they will ask you. You don’t need to tell this information until they ask.
The worse thing of all about transactional selling is the message it sends to your prospects. Customers need to hear and feel that you actually care about them and their business. You can’t do that when you sell transactionally.
Greetings and happy 2012 to all! Hopefully you all finished the year strong and hit your annual goals. For Menemsha Group It was a crazy-busy end to 2011. And 2012 has been no different. That aside, we have a few updates to share with you regarding our IT staffing sales training programs and our IT staffing sales methodology. We’re also embarking upon a new project to build out a training library where we can provide “on-demand” training. We’re welcome your ideas and suggestions as we take on this initiative.
In 2011 Menemsha Group saw a dramatic increase in demand from IT staffing and consulting firms seeking web-based sales training. We also saw a big increase in demand for technology training-for both sales and recruiting. To meet those demands we began the build out of a catalog of sales training webinars and technology training webinars in which IT staffing firms/professionals can choose from. We have hosted hundreds of live webinar training sessions. In the coming months we expect to build out an entire storefront where you can download training podcasts and consume “training on demand.” This will provide employers and employees a much more flexible training model where they can consume the content and training when they want, where they want and how they want it. We’re very excited about this opportunity and look forward to building out the online storefront and overall program. As always, we welcome your thoughts, ideas and feedback as we take on this initiative.
Many of you are familiar with our proprietary sales methodology, IT Staffing Sales Plan. The methodology continues to evolve as we add new sales scripts, job aides and various sales tools to meet the ever-changing demands and challenges of selling IT staffing in today’s competitive environment. We recently renamed the methodology to IT Staffing Sales Playbook. We made this decision for two reasons. First, the methodology truly is a playbook for IT sales professionals and therefore we feel the name more accurately reflects what it is. Second and more importantly, we have spent a lot of time building out the situational learning tools, content, scripts and job aides that provide sales professionals with the opportunity and situation specific content they need in order to properly execute each step of the sale. In essence, it’s a sales enablement playbook for selling IT staffing services-regardless of where you’re at in the sales cycle. We’ve added content and re-purposed existing content to better suit the needs of the IT staffing sales professional and to better meet the challenges they face each day. To learn more, you can check out our new white paper, Optimizing Sales Performance with IT Staffing Sales Playbooks.
Lastly, you will also notice some changes to our web site. The biggest change is evident in our home page. Due to the significant increase in demand for web-based training and sales training workshops, we organized our content around those service offerings to make it a bit more user friendly. In the coming months you can expect to see a new storefront for our products which will include “on demand” training where you can download podcasts and webinars (to complement our live webinars).
Here is to a happy and prosperous 2012! We hope to hear from you.
All The best,