Most of us as can recall times we have been “sold.” Salespeople pushing product, being aggressive, or being unaware of, or insensitive to our needs, leading to an unpleasant sales experience. Perhaps we walk away feeling that we didn’t get what we were looking for, or walk away without buying anything. We would have been more satisfied with the outcome if a consultative sales approach was undertaken.
Consultative sales is a benefit for any sales process. It entails selling by building relationships rather than pushing product. It involves uncovering the needs of potential customers through a series of questions, getting them to speak about what is important to them and what their needs are, and most importantly building a rapport with them. Once that relationship is established and the customer’s needs known, the salesperson can more easily suggest products or services that would help solve the customer’s problem. Instead of being pushy, a salesperson can be seen as a resource, someone with expert knowledge of what customers need, and how to get them to the right solution.
The consultative sales approach can be applied to every step of the sales process. At the earliest stage, it involves doing research before approaching a prospect, to find out such important information as company size, types of products or services they offer and who their target market is. Armed with that research, salespeople can ask the right questions of prospects, and find out what they really need.
Consultative selling is used throughout the pre-sales process, a very important and highly successful way to gain qualifying leads. According to The Harvard Business Review, a properly executed pre-sales process can increase new business 13%.
Pre-sales involves learning about leads, weeding out ones that aren’t a good fit and cultivating a relationship with prospective customers by engaging in conversation with them and asking questions, and probing for more information.
Another aspect of pre-sales that uses consultative sales to generate leads is cold calling, a process that even many of the most seasoned salespeople dislike. The defining image of cold calling is a prospect hanging up on a salesperson trying to sell a product or service over the phone. However, the use of consultative sales within the cold calling process can actually result in more pre-qualified leads. Using consultative sales in cold calls, engaging in conversation with a prospect on the phone, and learning about a prospect’s needs, goes a long way toward generating leads.
Honing skills in consultative sales and lead qualification can pave the way to better prospects, more productive sales calls, and a noticeable increase in the bottom line.