When the economy shrinks and more people are vying for less business, how you sell will be the difference between winning an account or not.
When people think in negative terms about sales people, they will invariably have an image of a pushy sales person who is only interested in the sale. The pushy sales person wants to sell you no matter what your needs are. In fact often they won't even know what your needs are, as they either don't take the time or know how to find out. This type of sales person is commonly referred to as an order taker/product sales person rather than as a consultative sales person, who is client and solution focused.
Clients want to deal with experts who can diagnose their challenges and come up with high level solutions to meet/solve those challenges. Clients will value an informed expert opinion when you have taken the time to listen to their needs and show that meeting those are your top priority.
The difference is simply in whether you ask more or tell more. Some sales people will talk ad nauseum about their product/service without regard to whether it interests the client. They are so in love with their product/service, that they risk alienating the client in the process. A consultative sales person will ask more questions to uncover what challenges the client is facing and come up with innovative solutions to make their life easier in terms of saving time, effort or money (or all three).
The order taker will use this process: Tell, Tell, Tell and Ask for the order.
The Consultative Sales Person's process looks more like this: Ask (about their business, challenges, goals), tell how their service/product might assist/solve their problems and then Asks for the order.
The difference is that a dialogue is entered into in the consultative process whilst only a monologue is used in the order taking process.
An example of this is that some companies prepare a presentation or proposal for a client company before they have even met with them. This will in effect turn into a monologue about your service/product which is an ineffective sales tool and shortens the sales process. First of all you have more than likely alienated the client, secondly you will not be able to optimise your chances of conversion as you have no idea what they need/want and lastly you cannot organise another meeting to present your proposal as you have already presented the first time. Statistically we know you have to have between 4-7 contacts or touch points with a client before they buy from you and now you have closed the door on one of the most powerful touch points by doing your proposal upfront. If you adopt the consultative sales process you can tailor your proposal to what the client needs, rather than adopting the "this is what we offer and we hope it fits with your needs" approach.
The client will buy from whom they believe to be experts who care about their business, not from order takers who don't take the time to understand their business.
So use powerful questions to start the dialogue with your prospective client, hear what they need and if you don't know how to solve their problem, it's more than okay to say "let me think about your situation and come back to you with some options". Clients love this attention and your genuine approach, which will guarantee you more conversions and ensure your success regardless of the economy!