Stepping up your sales techniques can bring your business into the big leagues. You have a product that helps customers, and now you need to help them understand just how it helps. The best way for them to figure that out is for you to understand exactly what they need and how your product relates. Using a consultative or needs-based sales approach can take your business to the next level.
What is Consultative Selling?
Consultative selling is a sales technique wherein the salesperson discusses the individual needs of potential customers to find the right product and/or service to meet those specific needs. The salesperson can find out what is best for the customer by asking relevant questions. The customer is the primary focus, so it is important to really understand what they want for their situation. That is why open and honest communication is the key to making consultative selling work in a mutually beneficial way.
What is Needs-Based Selling?
Needs-based selling encompasses consultative selling, and it primarily fills an already existing need. Rather than traditional selling wherein the entire market may be full of potential buyers, needs-based selling narrows down customers to only those in need of your service. It allows for a larger percentage of successful sales, and the salesperson can spend less time chasing leads and more time making sales. The primary focus of all needs-based selling is establishing a candid conversation between the customer and the salesperson.
Approach to Consultative Selling
Think about approaching consultative selling in an investigative manner. The salesperson must understand a potential customer’s specific needs, not only to make a sale but to also figure out if they offer the correct solution to fulfill the customer’s obligations. For instance, if a salesperson focuses on selling hats it does not make sense for him or her to try to sell to a customer in the market for shoes. The salesperson must ask questions and narrow down the market to find the customer most likely to purchase their product. Asking the right questions leads to a higher sales percentage and makes the most out of both parties’ time.
Consultative Sales Process
The process behind consultative selling revolves around understanding the customer who buys the product. Keeping in mind exactly who they sell to, the salesperson’s first inquiry must relate specifically to whether or not their product can satisfy the customer’s needs. As the salesperson works to understand the customer’s situation, he or she can create a unique solution to the customer’s problem.
The consultative process balances inquiries with insights, to best help customers, understand the product and why it meets their needs. Any salesperson must keep the conversation truthful and casual to create a relaxed environment where the customer does not feel overwhelmed by the situation. The salesperson works to present information that handles exactly what each customer responds to. Really listening to the customer helps establish a genuine symbiotic relationship where the customer gets the best product or service to handle their situation. Because it is based on communication and understanding, consultative sales creates value for everyone involved.
Consultative Sales Tips, Skills & Techniques
Opening up that communication between salesperson and customer requires a good deal of finesse in order to execute smoothly. Here are some tips and tricks every salesperson should keep in mind when focusing on consultative sales:
Ask, Ask, Ask
Salespeople need to ask the right questions to find the customer’s needs. Asking directly about what problem a customer needs to solve is the first step toward making sure your time is being properly spent. It could be as simple as “what do you need,” or more specific like “do you have this problem?” These questions open up for a discussion wherein the customer’s needs are promptly addressed with ease.
When a salesperson asks a question, he or she must listen as well. Listening to the customer’s anecdotes about how the problem impacts their life is the only way to understand the way that the product or service being offered will solve that problem.
Mix Inquiries with Insights
Customers want to know that they are working with a professional. By sharing their knowledge with the customer, the salesperson can guide the customer toward the needed solution. Specific insights also help both parties understand their situation and get them further toward satisfaction.
The salesperson who can give legitimate insight into the customer’s needs closes the deal more often than those who just fire blindly into the dark. Customers want to know they are making an informed and worthwhile decision, so offering personalized tidbits of information results in higher successful sales rates and higher customer satisfaction.
Consultative selling requires a large degree of knowledge about each specific product sold by the organization or business. Since open-ended engagement with potential customers can be broad, the better a salesperson understands their own product the more likely they are to meet a customer’s needs. Consultative salespeople really have to be experts in their fields in order to be the most successful.
Know Your Customer
Understanding the product is equally as important as understanding the clientele. When a salesperson understands the customer base, leads that are more likely to result in a sale can be pursued. It is imperative that consultative salespeople study and understand who buys their products, why they bought the product, and how they bought the product in order to consistently perform successful sales pitches.
Feedback from existing customers on how the product meets their needs or offers value may shed some light on advantages that even the salesperson was not aware of. Because of the innate skepticism many customers often exhibit, a well-rounded and significant understanding of who the target customer helps salespeople open routes for a genuine conversation that eases the customer into explaining their needs.
Feedback and Research
Customer feedback should be sorted through and along with relevant research. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of your product keeps you in step with the market your product is intended for. Sometimes it can be difficult to hear where your product comes up short, but having this information can keep a salesperson from talking themselves out of a sale. The feedback can also be shared with managers to result in an improved product.
Finding the specific demographic group that is more likely to buy or avoid your product can help insure that you do not waste time on dead leads. For instance, an insurance salesperson specializing in automobile insurance for seniors would be wasting time talking to customers in their 20s. You have to know who you need to talk to before you can make a sale.
Take Charge of the Conversation
Staying on the same page as the customer results in a greater opportunity for closing a deal. While it is crucial for the salesperson to listen to the customer’s needs, it is equally important that the salesperson focus on the specific benefit their product offers in relation to the customer’s needs.
Customers want a product that improves their overall quality of life, so presenting information and keeping the benefits relevant to the conversation keeps away communication breakdowns. For example, if you are selling earphones, throwing in a music reference might get a customer excited to hear that music through the earphones, but letting the conversation drift toward something like the weather is unlikely to result in any satisfactory conclusion.
Have a Plan
Like any direct sales technique, having a solid sales plan will keep the salesperson from treading water. Your end goal is always to make a sale, but you will never get there if you keep getting lost. A salesperson must plan out their questions and anticipate answers to stay on track. Think of consultative salespeople as a kind of detective. It is their duty to ask the right questions and then follow up with evidence, more questions, and then finally a verdict. Anticipation will keep you prepared wherever the conversation goes.
Consultative Sales Training
Practice makes perfect, and developing the right training technique will result in more deals closed when applying those learned techniques.
You can learn about Sales Training Programs here.
Having question based conversations amongst your sales team keeps everyone’s mind sharp and focused. The more questions they ask, the more they will understand what the customer is looking for. But it also might overwhelm the customer. Sticking to the right questions in the right order allows the salesperson to get the customer to open up about their needs and will eventually result in a sale.
Keep in mind the SPIN technique developed by Neil Rackman in his book Spin Selling. These types of questions have been shown to greatly aid the consultative sales process:
- Situation questions: Understanding the customer’s circumstances allows the salesperson to find the right product that suits their needs. Questions include: “How do you get X done?” and “Why do you perform the task in this manner?”
- Problem questions: These relate to the specific problem the customer needs to solve. These questions include: “When does this process fail?” and “What kind of issues do you experience?”
- Implication questions: Hinting to the customer about how their problem affects them allows the seller to pinpoint places that specifically appeal to the customer. Examples of implication questions include: “If you did not experience this problem, what would be improved?” and “When was the last time you experienced this problem?”
- Need payoff questions: Once the customer’s needs have been identified, the salesperson must then ask the customer whether or not the product’s specific benefit will fulfill that need. Questions include: “Would it help if…?” and “How would this product improve your situation?”
Work with your sales team to keep up with practices that work and share these with each other. The more everyone knows, the more sales they will be making. It is crucial to stay sharp and have a second opinion on what aspects of the sales technique work, and what techniques should be avoided.
Consultative Sales Examples
Consultative sales come in a variety of forms and fields. Understanding the customer’s situation is the only way to create a product that works for them. For example, insurance policies are often made to fit the specific needs of their client base. Lawyers are also excellent consultative salespeople, since their services are molded to fit around each client’s specific situation.
The retail setting is also a prime example of where consultative sales come in handy. You can find consultative sales in areas as general as hardware stores, as a customer may come in with something that needs fixing and it is the employee’s job to offer them a fitting solution. Even something like the grocery industry requires its employees to have some base level of understanding regarding their products so that they may guide customers to whatever it is they are looking for. Knowing something like the allergy information on popular foods and
allergy-friendly alternatives can result in a customer receiving the product they need and the business making a sale.
Don’t Leave Sales Up to Chance
Consultative sales is an important part of the sales process. By understanding your customers’ specific needs you can better guide them towards a proper solution. You can find places where consultative selling reigns supreme in nearly every industry because it is a proven technique that consistently works. Since making a sale is the most important part of any functional business, it is too much to risk not adequately preparing your sales team, or yourself, to follow up on the right leads and move through a proven sales process.
Wizard of Sales is here to make sure your business meets its mark. With years of experience, under our collective belt, we have the knowledge and the techniques that you need. We will work with you and your business to create a sales process that results in more closed deals so you can focus on growing your business to its fullest potential. Book a call with us today and get the business you deserve.
If you have liked this article you can try Sales Consulting here as well.