Following these 7 consultative selling tips will help you better connect with buyers in an increasingly complicated and competitive sales environment.
7 Consultative Selling Tips for Engaging Today’s Buyers
1. Avoid Seller-Centric Behaviors
Nearly all sellers believe that they’re customer focused when, in fact, few truly are. McKinsey research found that B2B companies averaged less than 50 percent on a customer-experience index rating. Sellers facing the pressure of a more challenging world, may often dig in the heels and resort to seller-centric behaviors to try to strong-arm customers or gloss over core issues. But these behaviors only deepen mistrust. Sellers need to understand the person in the other chair. Doing so means forming an accurate diagnosis of their problem. This insight builds credibility thereby fostering trust. These steps are critical in earning the right to ask the incisive questions that bring about a dialogue.
In an increasingly digital world, this connection offers real value. A customer-focused approach must flow through your thinking, actions, and words. By getting to the core of their challenges, you’ll be better prepared to position a solution that drives real value for them.
2. Shift to a Mindset of Authenticity
Sellers must give before they get. Define your presence as one of shared commitment to the business challenges. Research from McKinsey underscores the value of this approach. After changing from transactional selling to consultative selling one company credited the move with “$500 million in new bookings and a 40% improvement in productivity.” The difference comes from deeper customer relationship. However, this depth cannot develop without authenticity.
This practice arises from the ability to accurately diagnose the buyer’s business challenges, stated needs, and unknown needs. From this point the seller can show the buyer how to effectively leverage the specific pieces of data necessary to reach a resolution. This “data distillation” is becoming increasingly important in a world awash in analytics. Data only serves the buyer when it’s relevant to their concerns. When positioning a point of view, insight, or solution, it had better be routed in that customer’s specific, priority problems or else you risk sounding inauthentic and irrelevant.
3. Lead the Conversation With A Plan
Show the customer that you value their time by offering a direct approach that starts the conversation with a clear direction. This opening will also give you an early indication of the buyer’s expectations. If your intended path is divergent from their goals for the conversation, you can adjust accordingly. A well-articulated plan sets a tone of credibility. Therefore, it’s important to prepare your remarks so that you can get to the point fast and embrace their sense of expediency.
Remember, the shortest distance for the buyer to travel is to simply stay put. A 2017 survey from Richardson Sales Performance revealed that 26% of sellers believe “combating the status quo” is the biggest challenge their buyers face when making a purchasing decision. Help reach the high “activation energy” of a sale by building your plan around a central goal of addressing opportunity costs. Even a “no decision” carries a cost.
Appeal to the buyer’s sense of practicality by focusing your solution through their lens. Some stakeholders look for technical capabilities while others need to see financial or strategic benefits. Consider all sides.
4. Build to Decisive Momentum
Guide the customer through the dialogue by eliciting feedback. Get a sense of how well they understand your solutions and ideas. This periodic checking helps move the buyer to the next step. As a seller, you aren’t simply asking for the sale once, at the end of the process. Instead, you’re asking for the buyer’s commitment incrementally throughout the journey. This practice builds decisive momentum where your alignment with the buyer makes each successive decision is easier than the last. Show the buyer your own decisiveness by coming to the conversation with a point of view.
5. Leverage Insights Gained Through Questioning
Ask smarter questions. In doing so, you’ll educate the customer by helping connect the dots with a line that traces to your solution. This process can be difficult because it forces both sides to acknowledge the stature of the business challenges. However, getting a full survey of the land avoids the false positivity that can catch both parties by surprise. Meanwhile, openness illuminates the specifics that will give you an edge over the competition.
Be prepared for buyers who are willing to answer only a few questions. Today, everybody is under pressure to do more in less time. Therefore, come ready with the best possible questions that get to the core issues fast. Questioning also affords the opportunity to float ideas. Inviting the buyer to think differently about solutions can be made less threatening when the concepts are presented as questions. Ask the buyer how they feel about your ideas. Understanding the right questions begins with a consultative approach.
6. Understand the Neuroscience Behind How Buyers Buy – Or Don’t
Buyers are human beings. And, human beings have three fundamental needs for well-being that affect how they perceive what is happening, what they listen to, and how they ultimately make decisions. The Social Determination Theory tells us that humans need Autonomy, Competence, and Relatedness. Strong questioning skills help sellers respect these needs by:
- Staying emotionally connected with the customer, which feeds relatedness
- Avoiding coming across as manipulative, which protects the customer’s sense of autonomy
- Creating a safe environment to discuss challenging or sensitive issues, which protects the customer’s sense of competency
7. Work Off Facts, Not Assumptions
Anchoring is a form of cognitive bias that describes the common, human tendency to rely too heavily on one piece of information. Sellers are especially prone to anchoring to their own assumptions when pursuing an opportunity rather than working diligently to seek out the facts through the sales conversation.
Anchors can cause sellers to miss or dismiss potentially valuable information that could help them move the sale forward and position a more compelling and valuable solution. To counteract anchoring, the best consultative salespeople mindfully engage in active listening to “tune into” new or conflicting information, as well as pursue the customer’s thinking, rather than move away from it. They aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions because they know the facts and truth for the customer will produce the most compelling value proposition.
In this video, you will explore consultative selling tips and discover a framework to structure your consultative sales conversations.
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One of the most powerful differentiators in today’s selling environment is you and your ability to build and maintain relationships with your clients. Following these tips for consultative selling will help you stand out from the competition.