Posts Tagged: consultative selling

Dare to Be You

May 9th, 2012

The stereotypes and cliches about sales people and their antics are truly a part of our every day lives as we go about the act of procurement for our homes and business. The most common feedback I observe (which is sometimes good, mostly awful) is the style of a sales person. I often coach that we should learn to “sell from the heart.” Selling from the heart is about being honest, authentic and flawed in doing your sales job.

Most contemporary sales people know that they need to be “likeable” and build relationships with their prospects, ask consultative questions and have good follow-up in all of their interactions.There is much theory and debate on the “how” side of all of this. My thoughts are relatively simple and express how to sell from the heart.

  1. People don’t generally care for plastic. Being overly formal and distant (predictable behavior) does not allow the “you” to shine through. This does not mean you should be who you are on a typical Saturday night, some secrets are best kept. However, people generally do better intuitively when they think the real person has “shown up” on the call or in person. No ones like a plastic facsimile of what you think a sales person should do and say.
  2. Be wonderfully and terribly flawed. I hate perfection in a buying moment. It makes me nervous. It is OK for a sales person to not know every answer. The true magic happens when you commit to how you will get the answer and you deliver on that promise! If you are presenting and you flub, admit your mistake. A flaw or two is normal. And the typical buyer, deep down, would rather buy from reality.
  3. Selling from the heart is about being human and transparent. Corporate America requires a certain amount of method acting to fit in; I know so few people who say, when I go to work, I can be myself! Not every company requires you to adapt to the way things are done. Culture influences this, leadership style has an impact, even the clients you serve mold the company’s way of being. That is why it is so hard not to look and act like a corporate drone. But sales is different. With sales, you need moments with prospects that help establish trust. You need to be credible. Some of the best ways to earn these things is to sell from the heart. Don’t be a method actor practicing what you think your prospect wants and expects from you. Be you.
  4. Change up the selling steps. This one is so easy. When you cold call and ask for anything from your prospect, shift the paradigm. Don’t ask questions. Don’t qualify. This is what every salesperson does. It is how we as sales people are taught typically taught to sell. We can only spend time on qualified prospects and we have to ask them questions to qualify them right? Well with research tools today, qualifying is easy. Why not ask to share your company story. See if they like you and your business. Then ask to come back to gather information? Be consultative. Be different from the pack.
  5. When you go slowly, you move fast! The best way to sell from the heart is to be student of how relationships evolve. Sales people have quotas and targets. Your customers don’t care about your quotas and targets. Sales people think they have relationships. Or perhaps don’t care because they need to sell things, so who cares about the person buying? Well, I’ll bet you’ll sell a lot more when you have more meaningful relationships – relationships come when you bring value to your prospect or when you have earned credibility through your actions. So when you take the time to foster strong relationships, your start to notice the change in your sales numbers down the line.

The point is so basic and so easy. Yet not. So few go against the grain. But when you do, you stand out. Dare to be authentic and you’ll learn to sell from the heart.

Evolution of Sales

June 1st, 2011

In the ever changing business world, the sales community consistently welcomes the introduction of new sales methods. Each fresh new approach is quite effective for awhile, but without fail, the technique adopts a phrase that becomes trite, contrived, cliche… derived of no unique and specific meaning. Similar to phrases like customer service, value proposition, and features and benefits, Consultative Sales is the latest example. At first, the phrase suggested a partner who would listen, but now it’s overused and lost in the void of any real distinction.
The first sales techniques that come to mind are the used car and the door-to-door sales people. The root of sales success for these sterotypical sales people was all about volume in activity. Make more calls, knock on more doors, and as we’ve evolved, send more emails. — there is a certain base line of sales activity. Like anything, however there is a law of diminishing return. This is what was called “push selling.” It was all about features, features, features — volume begets results. But then the consumer caught on. And it did not work as well.
After push selling, the experts introduced the concept of “pull selling“. The door-to-door vacuum salesperson learned to ask questions of the potential buyer and to speak in terms of benefits, not just product features. The light weight vacuum became easy to maneuver. The long handle enabled the user to get to the top step or to move from room to room with ease. Consumers liked this approach, so selling remained this way for many years. But then the consumer caught on. And it did not work as well.
Somewhere along the line, another expert somewhere revolutionized sales organizations by introducing the concept of consultative selling. The sales process became about establishing rapport, building towards the opportunity to ask the right questions and listening. “Find and probe for the pain” became the mantra — all you had to do to close was describe how your product could solve your customers pain point. And for a long time, customers liked it. And then they caught on. They always catch on. One advancement leads to the counter. One adjustment in technique leads to an adaptive change in behavior by the buyer.
Today everyone sells in a consultative fashion, it has become all about asking questions. But have you earned the right? Are your questions asked a benefit to the prospect, or are they self-serving? I think the problem is one of timing. When you ask a girl to marry you on the first date, it rarely goes well. Good questions can only be asked when the audience is willing and interested in answering them, and that interest comes from some semblance of a relationship — whether you’re dating or selling. Consult Ed Wallaces book, “Business Relationships that Matter.” Ed points out that one must establish technical and soft skills to become a trusted advisor and that one must advance beyond an acquaintance relationship. This becomes the art and science side of relationships.
So how does consultative selling become less commoditized? Less predictable? Less trite? For me, consultative sales must be about:

    1. Being a great company, with good products and services.
    2. Not being afraid to talk about #1.
    2. Making investments in relationships — giving before asking.
    3. And asking questions after seeking permission. This is a simple way to differentiate.

But then they catch on…

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