Eight Sales Exercises To Improve Your Consultative Selling Skills
Like many who decide to go on a diet January 1st, sticking to that diet and exercise routine is difficult just like it is for IT staffing sales professionals adopting and mastering consultative sales skills. With so much to know and learn it can be down right overwhelming and even frustrating. Take it from me, it took me years to master my craft and I am still learning every day.
According to a study by CSO Insights, it takes over 10 months for a sales rep to fully adopt sales training and a sales methodology. Even after you read the books, watch the videos and go through your initial training the learning process still evolves over several additional months. In this blog I am going to share with you eight sales exercises for IT staffing sales professionals to improve their consultative selling skills.
In this blog I share with you ideas to accelerate the learning curve for adopting consultative selling skills and master consultative selling. Below are eight sales exercises to improve your consultative selling skills.
Create & Call Plan & Track & Measure How Often You Complete One
All sales reps, regardless of their sales process or sales methodology should be completing a call plan before ALL of their sales calls and sales meetings. It's real simple, if you want to have more productive conversations, land more face to face meetings, get more orders and close more deals then you need start planning your calls. When it comes to completing a call plan for consultative selling your call plan should include the following elements:
- Known Customers Goals or Challenges. Write down before you call your prospect what you know about their goals and/or challenges. Make sure you reference what know about these challenges in your conversation. For example, you might read a trigger event that tells you your prospect is looking build a data center in your market. You might say "I recently read that your building a new data center in town, what are the biggest challenges you face with achieving that goal?"
- Ideas and Insights to Share. Consultative selling means the sales rep acts as a consultant and that means you share your expertise with your client. Sales reps need to plan ahead what ideas, insights or best practices they will share with each of their customers/prospects BEFORE they call them. Write down your ideas that you will share before each call and practice out loud how you will express and share those ideas. Better yet, record yourself on your computer webcam.
- Open ended probing or discovery questions. Asking open-ended probing or discovery questions are crucial for sales professionals to understand the details of a prospect’s current situation and their desired future state including their goals and objectives. Sales reps need to document 10 open ended probing or discovery questions that can be used to open a sales call and get the client to share information with them about their business, goals, objectives and challenges. Sales people need to practice asking these questions every day with their sales manager or peers.
On a daily basis, track and measure how many call plans you complete. Make it your goal to do better today than you did yesterday.
Practice Asking Questions
At the heart of consultative selling is asking probing questioning. Specifically, asking really good questions. To improve your consultative selling skills IT staffing sales professionals need to practice creating and asking the following types of questions.
- Discovery Questions-Uncovering the Client's Current State.
- "What has changed since we last spoke?"
- "How happy are you with the results of the project thus far?"
- "How confident are you in your existing team?"
- Discovery Questions Desired Future State.
- "Where do you plan to go from here?"
- "What changes you would like to see and why?"
- Questions that Qualify "Pain" or the Compelling Event
- "What is the compelling event driving this?"
- "Who are the business drivers behind this and why is it so important to them?"
- "Why is achieving this goal or solving this problem so important?"
- Qualifying the Consequences and Client Commitment
- "What actions are you and the team committed to taking on this?"
- "What have you done thus far?"
- "When will you take action on this?
- "What would happen if you took no action and things stayed the same? Who would that impact & how?"
- Qualifying ROI
- "How much money could you save by___?"
- "How much time could you cut out of this process if you___?"
- Qualifying the Means
- "What options are you considering to fix this/achieve this goal?"
- "What plans are already in place to fix this/achieve goal?"
- Qualifying Budget
- Who else besides yourself is responsible for funding this project?
- How could you obtain funding for this project?
They key here, as with most training is repetition. Your goal should be to get to a point where you have internalized 3 or more questions for each section. You should be able to ask any of the questions with full confidence and without thinking twice about the information you're after. Practice, practice, practice.
Practice Story Sharing & Sharing Your Value Proposition
Prospective customers love nothing more than to hear a customer success story-a story highlighting how you helped another customer solve the same or similar problem and/or achieve the same goal. Sharing stories brings your service offerings and the value you have to offer to life. It is much easier for a prospective customer to envision themselves and their company working with you and your firm after they have heard how your service impacted someone else-especially someone in their same industry or using the same technology. When sharing a customer success story, your story line should follow the following format:
- Highlight the Problem: Explain the problem your customer faced before they hired you/your team/your consultant(s)
- Highlight the Solution: Explain how you and your company/consultant or team of consultants solved the problem(s). What steps were taken, what work was performed.
- Highlight the Results: Explain the quantifiable results the client received from your solution. Talk about outcomes not processes and if possible incorporate metrics or statistics that can quantify the value of your solution.
I can't overstate how important it is for sales reps to practice story telling. The first step of course is making sure you take the time to interview your clients and build your customer success stories. Assuming you have done this you need to practice this everyday until you can tell the story so an 8 year old can understand it.
Practice Writing Email Messages that Incorporate Client Success Stories
We all know how difficult it is to get decision makers on the phone let alone get a call back. As you practice your story telling you should also practice writing impactful email messages that incorporate your customer success stories. Writing this down will help train your mind which in turn will improve your email response rates and also help you accelerate the pace and effectiveness of sharing customer success stories.
Practice Leaving Voice Mail Messages that Incorporate Client Success Stories
Follow the same exercise as you did for emails only apply it to leaving voice mail messages. Leave your voice mail messages on your personal phone, for your peers, supervisor and friends. You want as much feedback as you can get. This is how you will improve.
I once read, if you want to accomplish extraordinary achievements then you have to be willing to do things you have never done before. Good luck!
What are some methods you have tried for improving your consultative selling skills? What exercises have you found most beneficial? 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.