A recent study showed that for 84% of buyers, tone-deaf sales tactics that do not directly address their needs was an ongoing concern. In addition, only 62% of buyers felt that sales reps listened to their needs. 45% of buyers did not believe that sales reps did any research prior to contacting them.
To address this downfall, a relatively new term has emerged on the B2B sales scene: consultative selling. It allows you to establish a long lasting customer relationship through building value and trust in a more holistic, customer-centric way.
What is consultative selling?
Consultative selling is a relationship focused sales method aiming to nurture strong customer relationships. By taking a customer-centric approach, you can recommend a solution that adds value from the outset rather than honing in on selling a particular product or service.
Your first objective as a salesperson is to build a relationship; the second is selling a product. Consultative sales allows you to establish relationships built around trust and subject matter authority.
When using the consultative selling method, instead of adopting a product-focused approach, the sales person acts as a trusted advisor who solves meaningful problems. Consultative selling takes a long-term approach and allows sales reps to truly listen to what their customer needs. The emphasis is on the solution rather than the product or service being sold.
This lets the customer know they’re being heard and their problem is being addressed in a way tailored specifically for them.
How does the consultative sales process look?
The most important skill for you as a salesperson is your ability to resist the urge to enter into an immediate discussion about specific products or services when speaking to a prospect
What matters the most is starting with a constructive, two-way discussion that’s more about the customer and less about what you have to offer.
1. Leverage data to win trust
If you can show that you know your customer well, and are able to anticipate their needs before they have expressed them to you, then you have a much better chance of being viewed as a trusted advisor.
How can you do this? By leveraging and analyzing customer data and using it to gain actionable insights.
This approach is far more effective than simply pushing a particular product, regardless of the underlying problem.
As Alain Denzler, Product Director at Pitcher, says: “That’s the kind of discussion that wins trust. If you bring that level of data into the discussion, you’re going to differentiate yourself. Acting as a trusted advisor ultimately wins you more business.”
2. Don’t skimp on content automation
So how can we deliver a more personalized solution to customers and prospects in a way that is both quick and easy, but also relevant to the particular customer?
Obviously, face-to-face (or virtually) in your one-on-one conversations with customers. But when you need to communicate with multiple customers simultaneously, then content automation is crucial.
By delivering the right content at the right time via the right channel, to the right customer, sales reps can ensure a faster, more personalized solution to customers.
As an example, Alain explains how this would work: “[in retail], a store would get their sales data presented to them with relevant insights. This is possible today thanks to technological advances which merge customer data with marketing content into enhanced selling experiences.”
3. Treat all buyers as if they were a national key account
Buyers need to feel as if they’re important from the outset. If it’s all about the size of an order, it’ll soon show.
“If you’re a sales rep in consumer goods, you could go into an independent convenience store and perform a 360-degree business review and deliver a similar experience to if they were a national key account” says Alain.
4. Start from a position of trust
Consultative selling is a conversational sales method meaning you need to be an active listener and consider your buyer’s underlying needs.
Don’t just pitch how your product helps to achieve X objective, instead aim for an unscripted, meaningful conversation focusing on establishing an end-to-end view of your customer’s organization to build trust and assist in a future sale.
5. Anticipate solution-focused questions
It’s important that you can talk about your customers topic areas outside of your product offering. In this way, you’re more likely to be viewed as a subject matter expert.
You should be able to both sympathize with and confidently relate to your customer’s pain points – which can often take time – before exploring a targeted approach to solving them.
Top 5 benefits of a consultative sales approach
With the right mindset, selling strategies that put the customer first can produce tangible results for any organization that adopts them.
1. Shorter sales cycles
Data-driven approaches to selling will directly address the main questions the customer is asking as they decide whether or not to buy.
By using a data-driven approach, tapping into your customer insights, you already know (or should know) as much about your client so that you can understand them and their business better. You can thus spend more time building customer relationships, and less on admin. This ultimately means that your sales cycle will be reduced.
2. Stronger relationships = increased revenue
If your customer views you as a trusted advisor, rather than just a sales person, they are more inclined to seek your expertise when the need arises to explore new solutions. This uniquely positions your company allowing you to leverage your customer’s trust to increase their own revenue.
3. Gaining a competitive advantage
Consultative selling involves a lot of hard work, but in the world of sales, the path of least resistance is rarely the most effective. Customer-centric sales techniques are inherently more challenging to implement than standard product-focused approaches. Insights are tailored to each individual client, and you as a salesperson need to be hypersensitive to your prospect’s needs.
It is difficult to see how companies that don’t take the time to nurture a customer relationship can remain competitive alongside ones that adopt a customer-centric approach.
4. Build flexible and adaptable teams
Sales teams are at their best when they include flexible individuals who are comfortable conducting their own research.
The interpersonal and quantitative skills a person learns when adopting a consultative approach to sales also transfer into other commercial categories.
Sales reps gain a more rounded understanding of the sectors they’re selling to and increase their overall knowledge of the role played by key operational tools such as automation and data insights.
5. Additional customer benefits
Consultative sales strategies educate the customer throughout the buying process. There is no better way to build trust than enlightening a prospect on elements of their operation they hadn’t previously considered.
By conducting an inquisitive, open-minded approach to sales consulting, the seller promotes the journey rather than the result.
The need for consultative selling within sales organizations is great. A sales enablement solution can help reps get the tools and insights they need, when they need them.
Ideally you would employ an omni-channel platform, often used by enterprises to transform their commercial execution. It allows enterprises to be more customer centric by connecting planning, marketing and execution in a single platform. For example, Pitcher includes content automation, omnichannel execution, real-time analytics, training, coaching and much more. Our sales coaching capabilities mean that you can easily coach your sales team (e.g. in consultative selling techniques) from anywhere and at any time. Our analytics will facilitate a data-driven approach, where you can obtain actionable insights at any time.