Consultative sales (sometimes also referred to as solution selling) are the new standard in the sales world. Any salesperson who wishes to be relevant in the modern business world must know their way around them. What are the best practices when it comes to this sales method?
Consultative sales involve listening to your prospect and putting their needs and wants in front of your product. The main goal is not to manipulate them into making a purchase, but rather guide them towards solving a problem they have using your product. This usually means selling solutions through a process grounded in understanding and mutual benefit.
This post will go into what consultative sales are and list some of the best practices when it comes to this sales method. Towards the end, there will be a section where we, the PGN, introduce ourselves and let you know in what ways we can help you in mastering this sales method and ultimately putting it into practice.
What is consultative selling?
Consultative selling is usually linked to B2B sales and it involves using empathy, communication, and cooperation to make a sale rather than badgering your client through half-truths and manipulative speech into buying your product. The goal is to make the entire sales process about them and offer them real value which they will then be happy to invest in.
This kind of sales method is also closely linked and sometimes completely equated with solution selling because the consultative approach essentially consists of listening to your client's problems and trying to see if you can offer a solution.
What is the best consultative sales approach?
Although this answer may seem like a copout, there is no de facto best approach to consultative selling. There are, however, tried and true guidelines that can help anyone improve their sales methodology in this respect.
In the following section, we will give you some basic principles for consultative selling and then provide you with some general tips and mindsets so that you are aware of the best practices when it comes to this sales method and thus can design the best approach for yourself in an informed way.
This section will provide the essential principles (referenced from hubspot) that you should structure your consultative selling process around. Keep in mind that although you do not need to adhere to these to the letter, they are efficient guidelines and diverging too much from them will in most cases harm your sales.
Without further ado, let us get started:
To be able to effectively communicate with your prospects, you must research some information about them. Luckily, if you have set up your website properly, you should already have some info when it comes to what products or aspects of a product they were looking for. Once you have this knowledge, you will have a better idea of what questions they are likely to ask you so that you can more efficiently prepare yourself for giving them the help they need.
This is one of the most important principles within the consultative sales approach. By asking questions you can get information from your client that will help you guide them through the sales process. Even though you might be tempted to assume things about them from the data you acquired in the previous step, refrain from asking targeted questions and instead ask open-ended questions that start with words like what, how, and why. Allow them to freely volunteer the information. This is a key aspect of building the trust that is so important in this sales method.
The main things you are looking to find out are the lead's goals, the plan they may or may not have to achieve those goals, the challenges the fear they might face along the way, and the timeline that you have for reaching them. You also want to gauge the authority level of the person you are speaking with, whether they are an influencer, an end-user, a decision-maker, or the person who controls the budget.
Questions are an amazing sales tool. Keep on asking them throughout the process.
Listening is one of the most important tools in the great salesperson's repertoire. This does not mean merely listening passively, but rather it means active listening where you are constantly paying attention to what the other party is saying and are ready to respond or even repeat what they said. Make sure you both understand each other.
By listening carefully and documenting what you hear, you are gathering valuable information that will help you qualify the lead or work up to close. Be attentive also to non-verbal cues such as tone, pitch, and their level of enthusiasm so that you can better decide on how to proceed.
Teaching is another key aspect of consultative selling. While you are communicating with your lead, you do not simply want to be listening, but also offering knowledge that you possess relating to their issues. Note that this does not mean necessarily talking about your product but rather genuinely trying to teach them ways to overcome the obstacles they are facing.
If your product happens to come up, then great, but the main thing is to try and help.
However, do not fall into the trap of talking too much and oversharing knowledge. You should always strive to strike a healthy balance of talking and listening so that they never feel like you are either too passive or too aggressive.
As we have mentioned before in the section about asking questions, you want to always be qualifying your lead. A qualified lead is good because you know that they have goals despite the fact they may or may not have a plan. They are facing challenges you can help them overcome and they will have already given you a timeline for making your sale.
Keep in mind, though, that while you want to give most of your attention to qualified leads, you should not simply ignore your unqualified ones. Doing your best to also give them good advice will result in you staying true to your intention of providing help. Do not, however, try to close deals with unqualified leads. Doing so will simply result in an unpleasant experience for both of you.
If you have been adhering to the first five principles, then closing should not be an issue for you at all. Closing a deal with your qualified leads is usually a piece of cake since they authentically want to purchase your solution. It is not a matter of trying to force their hand. The whole process should naturally draw to a close.
However, if you do run into some resistance when trying to close, try to ask them what will happen if they are not able to achieve their goals, which should make them appreciate the solution you are offering more.
If you do your best to consistently close qualified leads which are the right fit for you and your product, then your retention rates of new customers will also be high.
Now we will go over some useful tips when it comes to consultative selling. Just like with the principles, hubspot.com has provided us with some great ones, but we will only discuss the ones which are most relevant and which were not already covered within the previous section.
That said, here they are.
Trust is of crucial importance in the modern sales landscape because communication is mostly done online and sometimes over the phone, and rarely face to face, which sometimes makes it difficult to achieve. The way to establish it is to make your actions consistent with your words. If you say that you are going to do something, do it.
Making at least one follow-up call, for example, is a great way to show goodwill to your client and let them know that you are principled and stay true to your word. What you discuss with them during this call is not that important, but the very fact that you are calling is a great step in establishing a relationship based on trust.
Let feedback guide the process
There is no such thing as bad feedback. Even complaints that your leads give you or any resistance they may have towards your product gives you valuable information that you can work with. Carefully consider every piece of information your lead gives you (be it negative or positive) and do your best to come up with an appropriate response.
The important thing is to be open and, as always, listen.
Do not sound like a salesman
This might seem like a counterintuitive tip, but try to keep the tone of the conversation as relaxed and conversational as possible. Be open about the pros but also the potential pitfalls of your product. Do not lie or modify the truth in any way.
Try and be casual but compelling, and create an environment where both you and the client can be honest about your needs and expectations.
Reach out for help
Although mastering these tips and principles are quite useful and will get you quite far, you will eventually reach a point where the best way to proceed will be to try and get assistance from those with more experience. The help you need can either be in the form of advice or even the practical kind such as connecting you with potential clients. This brings us to the final section.
How we can help
We, the Produs™ Global Growth Network (PGN Global) are a disruptive platform-based business model where experienced consultants support innovative small and medium-sized enterprises. SMEs' offerings in the PGN are competitive, high quality & high added-value, minimizing risk and wasting no time. We focus on connecting innovative tech solutions with potential business buyers.
Have you read that last part? If you are a business who sells (tech) solutions and would like to utilize your new consultative selling skills to their full potential, you will inevitably benefit from our help. Do not hesitate to get in touch with us so that we can offer you both consultative help and assist you in finding potential clients.
In this post, we have explained what consultative sales are and have listed six key principles and four useful tips to keep in mind when trying to conduct them yourself.
If you are keen on consultative sales then you should also be aware that you might sometimes need help. In this respect, we, the PGN, have got you covered. Contact us so we can sell some solutions together.