Forget everything you’ve learned about selling. Sales is no longer about pitching products. Sales is about consulting. Consultative selling is the new way to win in sales…
But forget everything you’ve learned about consultative selling, too. This has become an empty term, a buzzword for snappy Tweets, and so it’s lost its effectiveness. In fact, the phrase “take a consultative approach to sales” is akin to “go on a diet to lose weight.” It’s simple. It’s overused. And hardly anybody is putting it into practice.
We’ll revisit consultative selling in just a minute (because it works like a charm). But first, here’s what definitely doesn’t work in sales anymore:
- Running your prospect through an hour-long demo of your product before connecting with them as a human
- Talking at your prospect, pushing your product or service without understanding where they’re at in business and life
- Speaking more than 30% of any sales meeting you hold (your prospect should have the lion’s share of the speaking)
- Thinking you’ve lost a sale because your prospect doesn’t buy on the first, second, or third touch
That was the old way of thinking about and doing sales. What you have to realize is that the B2B sales landscape has shifted moving into 2024. People now have an aversion to being sold to. Executives have been battered by product-pitching salespeople for the past two decades now, and they are fed up. (Can you blame them?)
Thankfully, sales is still alive and well. It just looks different these days. It looks a lot more like consulting than it does anything you see on Wolf of Wall Street. When you fully grasp this and change your approach, you stand to win BIG out there. Don’t worry, I’m going to share how to do exactly that today.
The Key Benefits of Consultative Selling:
- You’ll gain a better understanding of your prospect’s goals, desires, and needs
- You’ll position yourself as a trusted advisor with their best interest in mind
- You’ll deliver actual value for your buyer with a tailor-made solution
- You’ll build a solid business relationship that lasts beyond ink-on-paper
- You will close more deals than selling the old way
You Are a Problem Solver
Your job is to solve people’s problems, plain and simple. But it’s a tall task — set apart for the most esteemed professions in society. Doctors solve problems. Lawyers solve problems. Scientists solve problems. And salespeople solve problems.
Your job is to step into the trenches with business leaders and help them see what’s possible on the other side. You deliver tailor-made solutions to complex problems. And you stick by their side until they are in the clear — even beyond.
Ask yourself, if sales is about consultative selling, what do consultants do? Well, again, you have medical consultants (doctors), legal consultants (lawyers), and sales consultants (YOU!). A consultant is a trusted advisor, someone who lends a good ear, empathizes with people, and ethically guides them to ultimately achieve a positive outcome for all parties.
And a consultant always comes to the table fully prepared. Could you imagine sitting down in a doctor’s office and being bombarded with a litany of medications before he even checks your vitals and engages in conversation? That would be no doctor at all, but a hack!
The doc needs to know about your diet, your lifestyle, your aches and pains, and loads of other information. From this back-and-forth conversation, he talks through a personalized treatment plan for you. And any good doctor seeks your buy-in. They are co-creators of your treatment plan. The most effective doctors know that this is make or break when it comes to healing patients.
And this is the essence of consultative selling. Your focus must shift from selling your product — or even selling its benefits — to seeking to understand and solve a problem.
In other words, shift your mindset from PRODUCT to PROBLEM.
The pitfalls of product pitching should be so obvious that I hesitate to even highlight them here. But I understand that some folks newer to sales (or even some sales veterans) haven’t yet learned this. The pitfalls are:
- Doesn’t prioritize relationship-building, which is the bedrock of sales
- Damages trust-building, as your prospect feels more like a target and less like a human
- Fails to address your prospect’s needs
- You miss the opportunity to differentiate yourself by showing you know about their business, role, goals, challenges, etc.
- Higher customer or client churn
Now, don’t get me wrong. You’re not there to be best friends with your prospects. And there does come a time when you will showcase your product knowledge and ask your prospect for the sale. But this is all couched in the mutual respect that you have for one another. So when you do get to the transactional point in the conversation(s), it’s green light all-systems-go. Your prospect is not only ready to hear about your solution to their problem, they are excited and chomping-at-the-bit to hear about it.
So… How DO You Consult?
There are various ways to approach a consultative sales meeting (or async communications). But first and foremost you have to listen, listen, listen. The more you listen, the more likely you are to win their business. Here are some other points to keep in mind:
- Share your professional insights, case studies, industry trends, and testimonials that show you’ve helped people in similar roles and predicaments
- Ask thoughtful and specific questions. Instead of asking closed-ended questions like “Are you satisfied with the way things are?” ask open-ended questions like “Tell me about your goals for improving your current workflow.”
- Listen and take a genuine interest in what they have to say. Show up and show that you care.
- Take a collaborative approach for ultimate buy-in, allowing your prospect to help architect their own deal
Earlier I said consultative selling has become an empty buzzword, similar to the phrase “Go on a diet to lose weight.” It’s too simple a protocol to work, right? So hardly anybody is taking action on it (look around!). But the truth is — a healthy diet can help people lose weight. Just like implementing a consultative selling approach can help more salespeople close more deals. It works … and it can transform your life. You just have to put it into practice and trust the process. You’ve got this.
Until next time…