Making The Sale

content courtesy of Hubspot

The consultative sales process is primarily focused on the experience that the potential customer feels and sees during their interactions with you. It’s about the how you find ways to provide he or she with value and make it all about them. Not your product, your business, or your numbers. The consultative sales process is most especially not about you.

Sometimes this is also referred to as solution-based selling. Solution selling is a sales methodology. Rather than just promoting an existing product, the salesperson focuses on the customer’s need and how they can resolve it with his or her product.

Notice that the emphasis is on what the potential customer wants and needs, not what you want and need from the customer.

There are six principles to the consultative sales process:

  1. Research
  2. Ask
  3. Listen
  4. Teach
  5. Qualify
  6. Close

These six principles should provide the basic outline of the consultative sales methodology that you create for your business. The methodology you create should take into account the thing you’re selling, the typical sales cycle for your business, your industry, and your buyer personas.

Research

Know your product, and know it well. You need to have enough knowledge to know whether you can offer the customer an item that will truly help them. And one which will make them satisfied with the purchase.

Salespeople should also spend some time gaining industry and general product knowledge. Nothing positions you as an expert as well as really knowing your stuff!

Ask

When you speak with the customer, be sure to ask open-ended questions. The point is to allow them to volunteer the information themselves, as result of (and contributing to) the trust you are building between you.

Ask questions that start with the words Who, What, Where, How, Why, and When. Avoid starting questions with words like Do, Are, You, and Can. These types of questions tend to lead to yes or no answers, which is exactly the sort of response you most want to avoid.

The goal of asking questions is to slowly discover what the goals are, how they might plan to reach those goals, the challenges they might face, and the timeline that’s in place for reaching them.

You also need to uncover their budget and the level of authority of the person you’re talking to.  Are they the decision maker, or the person who controls the budget? You can find this out if you ask the right questions.

Always ask questions during the consultative sales process. Questions are one of your greatest sales tools.

Listen

Always. Be. Listening. It’s the most important thing a great salesperson can do. And we’re talking here about active listening, not passive listening. You’re focused on the person talking and are ready to respond and repeat what they said. The goal is to make sure that both people understand what the other is saying.

As you practice active listening, you’ll need to really focus on everything the customer tells you. All of the information you obtain will help you qualify and/or close the sale.  You must be very attentive to their tone, pitch, and level of enthusiasm. Those elements will help you decide what your next move should be.

Practice makes perfect. Always. Be. Listening.

Teach

As you are actively listening, you need to be responding, and as you respond you should looking for opportunities to teach. But note that this is not about teaching your customer only about your product or service. It’s about helping them fill their need.

This may or may not involve using your product or service. Your focus should be to help them, no matter what.

You must balance the knowledge you give with the questions you ask and the answers you get back.

Qualify

You’re always going to be qualifying the customer. A qualified customer has goals, might or might not have a plan, definitely has challenges to overcome, a defined timeline, and budget. But keep in mind that an unqualified customer is just as good as a qualified customer during the consultative sales process. Unqualified customer give you a chance to help, be friendly, and then move on. And if you’ve acted as a teacher, they may return as a qualified customer down the road. Qualified customers, of course, give you the chance to help, be friendly, and sell. The sooner you can identify a customer that is not a right fit for your product or service, the better.

Don’t continue to try to sell to that customer; it will just hurt them, and you, in the long run.

You want to be spending the most amount of time and provide the most attention to the qualified customers.

Close

It should be fairly easy to close your qualified customers. They have a budget and have the authority to make the purchase. You’ve identified and filled their need by this time.

The closing sequence should feel natural to both you and the customer. If you’re always striving to close only those customers that are the right fit for your products and/or business, then your retention rate on those customers will also be quite high. If you have a consultative process in place you’ll enjoy solid sales to repeat customers – and also new ones, based in referrals!

Your Turn

Use these six principles to create your own consultative sales methodology. Salespeople perform at their highest output when there is a process that they can understand and repeat, and when they know they have a process that will help them close business. And your customers will never feel like they were being sold to.

The experience will be remarkable. Not ordinary, or disappointing. Your customers will feel like you and your staff understand them and are there to be helpful.

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