Benefits to Adopting a Consultative Sales Approach
With consultative selling the customer's needs are the focal point of the conversation, not the salesperson’s personal goal or agenda or his or her service offerings or their candidate. With consultative selling the goal is to understand the customer's goals including the problems they're trying to solve and the goals they’re trying to achieve and then co-creating a solution. When this becomes the sales reps mindset salespeople begin to effective probing questions which reveal the customers current state and desired future state and the challenges they help resolving.
In this blog post, benefits to adopting a consultative sales approach, I'm going to share with you benefits to both the seller and the buyer.
Sales professionals who have successfully made the transition to adopt a consultative sales methodology have reaped huge benefits including higher value sales (larger deal values and bigger profit margins), quota attainment and bigger commission checks, improved customer satisfaction and retention, increase in customer referrals and overall improved customer loyalty not to mention differentiation in the marketplace. You might be thinking, “Really, they accomplish all of this just by changing their sales style?” The answer is YES.
Below are examples of consultative sales conversations in which I point out the benefit to the seller and the customer for the consultative sales approach.
Sales Rep: “Mr. Customer, I'm reaching out to you today because one of the trends we are seeing in the data management space is the need to make actionable insight and data available on a mobile device for front line managers. However our customers are sharing with us they are struggling to set up their meta data repository when it comes to this task. What are you finding most challenging in this space?”
Customer: “That is interesting to hear. One of the things we have been working on to address that is….”
Remember, consultative selling implies that the sales rep acts and conducts him or herself as a consultant. I think this is a pretty good example of acting like a consultant. The rep demonstrates their knowledge of the customer's business and their role in the company when they reference "one of the trends we are seeing in the data management space is the need to make actionable insight and data available..." This sends a strong message to the customer that the sales rep "gets it." The customer is now inclined to engage with the sales rep and the sales rep is now in position to learn more about what the client is doing or not doing and uncovers challenges that can be converted into sales opportunities.
Here is the major kicker! Imaging that a sales rep from the competition called this same IT hiring manager later in the day and said "I'm calling to check in, do you have any needs?" The customer of course says "no."
Here is an IT manager telling another IT staffing sales rep "I have no needs," but the previous sales rep who applied a consultative sales approach is able to engage in a thought provoking conversation and change the customer's experience. This is differentiation! This is creating a memorable and engaging experience for the customer.
In this second example, imagine a sales rep spending one hour in a sales meeting with a new prospect and walking out of that meeting knowing nothing about how the client would buy from him or why the client would buy from him. He or she might have an order but how are they going to close the deal? They don’t know how to close the deal because they don’t know how the buyer will buy. And because the sales rep doesn't understand how the buyer will buy the sales rep can't possibly know how to compel the customer to take the next step in their purchasing process. This is a classic case of the "the job order is hot but the client goes MIA." This can be avoided.
What if the sales rep used the following consultative sales approach?
Sales Rep: “Mr. Customer I understand you need the consultant to start by "XYZ date." Part of my job as you know is to ensure we secure you the talent to get your project started and completed on time. In order to do that I know that there will be steps in your approval & purchasing process that will need to be completed before the consultant can start. For example, I know from my personal experience that most of my clients have to get approval from their HR department, their supervisor and often the CIO and of course the finance department. I also know this can take up to several weeks for all of the approvals. To ensure your project starts and is completed on time, please walk me through your purchasing process. Second, I suggest we work together to come up with a plan to ensure all of the steps are completed so that your project finishes on time. How does that sound?"
Following this approach will layout precisely what needs to happen for the deal to close. And notice the sales rep is injecting himself into the client's purchasing process. Now the sales rep who is following this consultative sales approach knows what needs to be done to win the deal and can now begin to think about how they will compel the client to completing the next step in their purchasing process. Finally, the sales rep also engages the client to take ownership of completing the steps in the purchasing process by suggesting they work on a plan together.
Benefits to Adopting a Consultative Sales Approach (for the Customer)
In each of the examples I listed above I highlighted the benefits to the sales rep for following a consultative sales approach. But it is important to note that the client also gets clear benefits when they work with salespeople who follow a consultative sales approach.
In the first example the client has the opportunity to learn from the sales rep how other companies are going about making data available on a mobile device and how they are setting up their metadata repository. This is a value add! The customer is getting better service as a direct result from the sales rep's consultative sales approach. How does the client receive value from the sales rep who calls and says "I'm checking in, do you have any needs?"
In the second example the sales rep is thinking ahead in the process AND on behalf of the client. The client is only thinking about having the consultant start. They have not thought about what needs to happen before the consultant can start. Completing all of the steps in the purchasing process however takes time to complete which could impact the start date and even the completion date of the project. This is not at the forefront of the customer's mind. By following a consultative sales approach the sales rep makes the purchasing process a top of mind priority to ensure the customer secures the talent they need in order to start and complete the project on time.
In short, benefits to adopting a consultative sales approach for the customer includes:
- Improved customer service
- Value add-the customer learns and gains valuable insights
- The customer gains a greater understanding and appreciation for their needs including the challenges that stand in their way and potential solutions to solve those challenges
- The customer has a better understanding and appreciation for their own purchasing process
- Because the sales rep is always coming from a place where they are trying to help the client, the client builds trust with their sales rep. Anyone who has ever hired a vendor for ANYTHING needs to be able to trust their vendors.
What are some other benefits of following consultative sales approach? What benefits have you experienced from applying consultative selling? What benefits have your customers experienced? Please share in the comments section below.
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.