In looking for the next silver bullet for successful sales, we must be cautious not to get distracted from proven fundamentals.
Sellers do not need a radically new way of selling that contradicts or retires the principles of consultative selling. The goal of consultative selling is to focus on client needs vs. your product to ensure that your solution is relevant. If being relevant to clients still matters, then consultative selling, by definition, is still relevant.
We must remember that the philosophy, underlying psychology, and skills of consultative selling are timeless. They enable the seller to deeply understand the client’s unique situation and to tailor a solution that is in the client’s best interest by approaching the buying situation through the client’s eyes — and in doing so, the seller earns the client’s trust and business.
What is different today, in light of changes in the selling environment, is the need for sellers to have a higher-order level of skill in consultative selling to effectively leverage their knowledge, experience, and expertise to engage clients in insightful dialogue.
These higher-order skills help in the following areas:
- Building credibility and earning the right to gain the information needed to tailor their insights and ideas to ensure relevance
- Creating value in the buying experience by helping buyers to have better clarity and depth of thinking around relevant business issues and solutions so that they can achieve their business goals
- Guiding the client in making the best buying decision by understanding root causes and navigating options
- Fostering trust by focusing on the client’s needs rather than on selling a product
- Developing buyer urgency and driving opportunities to closure
With command of a higher-order level of skills, sellers can effectively differentiate themselves based on the quality of the sales dialogue itself. The moment of truth happens in the dialogue: how the client feels about the seller and the seller’s organization is the output of the dialogue. Preparation and strategy are key, but if you do not create an exceptional client experience in the dialogue, you are doomed to fail. Dialogue is the vehicle through which you create value.
The best-of-the-best sellers have always used this higher-order skill set, and in doing so have achieved trusted advisor status with their clients, in addition to exceeding their sales goals. They recognize that dialogue helps them to gain a more nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing their clients. Only then can they offer their best advice, insights, and ideas in an environment of mutual respect among business equals.
Consultative selling is the way to engage the client in a productive dialogue. And that’s something that never goes out of style.