Consultative Selling is Classic and Classy
© 2007 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.
Is Consultative Selling obsolete? Not if it will serve both the seller AND the buyer.
Many sales organizations and individual salespeople are looking for a selling system. They know that a good "fit" with a system will make them more productive. The question is, which one? It's too easy to follow the fads and invest in the latest sales approach simply because it's new. We tend to gravitate to new ideas, hoping to find the silver bullet that will make our jobs and our lives easier. That's what motivates self-proclaimed sales gurus to keep writing books and creating training courses around their "revolutionary" new sales approaches. Call it strategic, call it value-based, but in high probability their solution is just a fresh spin on the tried and true consultive approach.
I'm afraid some salespeople discount the value of Consultative Selling because it has been around a few decades. But so have tuxedos, pumps and pencil skirts. So have the precious kitchen recipes that are passed down from generation to generation because they're that good. Classics like these don't go out of date, and neither does a classic selling approach that acknowledges basic human needs and recognizes the value in having buyers and sellers work together to optimally satisfy a genuine need of the buyer. While you're looking for the perfect sales method for your situation, be sure to look beyond the latest sales concoction and consider the classic Consultative Selling.
Consultative Selling is also a classy sales approach, because of the way it prioritizes these outcomes:
1. Satisfying the Buyer's Want.
2. Establishing Relationship Value.
3. Completing the Sales Transaction.
That, by the way, is the prioritization that Consultative Selling advocates.
Some sales approaches put Completing the Sales Transaction first. Approaches that focus on closing techniques fall into this category. A transaction-focused sales approach advises us to Approach, Demonstrate, Propose and Close. Satisfying the Buyer's Want and Establishing Relationship Value are viewed as the buyer's problem.
Relationship Selling models put Establishing Relationship Value at the top. These suggest that if the salesperson develops enough acquaintances who understand what they do for a living, eventually some of them will decide to become a customer. Creating lots of "friends" and building a large social network is a noble goal, but it can take months if not years to see the payoff. Call me a cynic, but I believe most people aren't looking for more friendships to manage, especially friendships with salespeople. We all have a hard enough time now keeping up with old friends from school, our neighbors, and our extended families. Relationship Selling might feel right for salespeople who consider themselves "people persons," but may not be optimally effective for working with real prospects with real needs.
Consultative Selling is classy because it makes Satisfying the Buyer's Want the top priority. Once the salesperson is clear on what a successful outcome looks like to the buyer, the salesperson helps make that happen, even if it means suggesting a solution that blocks the opportunity to make a sale today. The salesperson becomes an advocate for the buyer. If the consultive salesperson cannot prescribe a good solution for the buyer (although it doesn't have to be the perfect solution or best solution), they will decline the sale. In this way, buyers derive value from continuing the relationship with the salesperson, whether a purchase is made today or not. Sometimes declining a sales opportunity today can result in many more fruitful sales opportunities down the road.
RESPONSIBILITIES AND ADVANTAGES.
One of the responsibilities of consultive salespeople is to never prescribe a solution without first making an accurate diagnosis. Salespeople are responsible for making sure they fully understand the buyer's wants and their current situation before they recommend any solution. Salespeople who use their expertise to take advantage of their customer undermine the efforts of all other ethical salespeople who are working to earn an honest living for themselves.
Consultative Selling has many advantages as well as responsibilities. It allows salespeople to work as a peer of the prospect, not as their servant. It encourages salespeople to operate with a high level of self-esteem and to say "No" to prospects who want to use them as doormats. Consultative salespeople emit a classy quiet confidence that promotes trust.
Consultive salespeople tend to establish relationships that buyers value. The result is the completion of many sales transactions. By focusing on Satisfying the Buyer's Want, the rest becomes automatic; Establishing Relationship Value and Completing the Sales Transaction follow like day follows night.
Before you adopt the latest and greatest "how to sell" approach, investigate the tried and true, classic and classy Consultative Selling. You may find that it's an optimal fit for the nature of your buyers, for the nature of their need, and the nature of your offering.