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What Sinatra Teaches Us about Consultative Selling

frank sinatra consultative selling


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It’s been 100 years since Frank Sinatra was born, on December 12, 2015. Even though he’s been gone since 1998, he remains an icon, with a growing following. His classic sound and signature style have earned such accolades as “a voice for all generations” with “unmatched showmanship and artistry.”

Why is Frank Sinatra relevant in a blog post about consultative selling? Because he stands the test of time, as does the consultative selling framework for structuring sales calls and client meetings. In today’s socially networked world, where trending topics tend to capture the most attention, Sinatra’s legacy refutes the idea that the latest, shiniest tools are always better than the tried and true.

When it comes to successful selling over the long term, we can all take a few lessons from Sinatra:

Ol' Blue Eyes

Sinatra had a vision for what worked with an audience. He connected with people. He used all of the skills at his disposal: poise, style, phrasing, and tempo. He “killed” in concert, causing women to swoon and scream. Such engagement wasn’t by accident but, it was by drawing on his strengths and matching them to audience needs and desires.

Consultative selling also focuses on engaging the audience, in this case, prospects and clients. But, it’s more than relationship building. A true consultative approach makes the transition from product-based selling to needs-based. A consultative sales professional asks more questions, develops solutions customised to the client’s specific needs, and conducts more interactive calls. Within a consultative framework and using the Six Critical Selling Skills — presence, relating, questioning, listening, positioning, and checking — sales professionals learn to navigate conversations to better understand clients and their environment and to create and shape sales opportunities that bring mutual value.

The Voice

Sinatra’s nickname “The Voice” referred as much to his vocal abilities as his reputation as “the best American popular singer of the 20th century.” In our B2B selling environment, being “The Voice” is equivalent to becoming a trusted advisor to clients. It means that you’ve gained sufficient credibility; you have the client’s ear; they listen to you and value your input.

This is more than being a technical expert, sharing your deep knowledge of products and services with clients. Too often, technical selling can overwhelm clients, especially when sales professionals try to impress by doing a data dump, hoping something sticks. The risk is information overload for the client and a missed opportunity for the sales professional, who should have done more questioning as the basis of a needs analysis that underpins a specifically targeted solution

The Chairman of the Board

This title, bestowed on Sinatra by N.Y. radio personality William B. Williams, conveys the depth and reach of Sinatra and what we would call his brand today. More than a celebrity, Sinatra had credibility and respectability. He was a thought leader in popular culture, whose involvement in projects was highly sought.

The position of chairman is a powerful one, often attained by aggressive people who push their way to the top. For Sinatra, it was honorific. For sales professionals who adopt an aggressive approach, trying to push to a top position in a client’s buying process, there are risks. One is not recognising client discomfort with this style. Another is relying on a persona of confidence that is not shared by the client.

Truly superb sales professionals are those with an intimate knowledge of the structure of a sales call. They are in complete control at every point in the dialogue, but not overly aggressive. They know where they’re going and what they want to accomplish, taking nothing for granted. They remain focused as they probe, learn, and gain a thorough understanding of client needs before discussing any product or service.

The successful sales professional takes a consultative approach and adds real value. They leave their clients wanting more — just as Sinatra continues to do, even to this day.

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