Consultative selling operates in the client’s best interest
In a world where buyers have more access to information than ever, the only true way to differentiate your organization is to present it differently— to sell consultatively. To sell consultatively, the salesperson must have a deep understanding of the challenges their prospects and clients face and their impact on the organization and them personally. They must also understand how their product or service addresses those challenges. As you approach Sales Management training, your philosophy should be the same.
Consultative selling operates in the client’s best interest like a consultant would. Helping them accomplish their goals while acting as a trusted advisor. Consultative selling allows the client to experience a collaborative approach to their pain point or need. In this circumstance, the seller takes ownership of solving the problem on behalf of the client.
That alone isn’t enough. To truly sell consultatively, the salesperson has to serve a purpose for the client that isn’t being addressed today. Selling consultatively isn’t just selling value, although that is part of it. To truly be consultative, they have to be the value. What I mean by that is they have to demonstrate the ability to understand and solve their client’s challenges and sometimes identify the challenges they didn’t even know they had.
How does one do that? By taking a genuine interest in the client’s business and them personally. The salesperson must identify the challenges they face, what’s causing them, and how they impact the client. The best consultative salespeople have a genuine curiosity and a propensity for getting to the bottom of the issue. They don’t just ask what; they ask who? how? when? why? and why not?.
Commitment to Client Success
The best consultative salespeople are also deeply committed to the success of their clients. In honoring that commitment, they might sacrifice personal comfort for doing what needs to be done or saying what needs to be said, even if they risk upsetting or offending their client (or prospective client). They might have to point out decisions the client has made that conflict with their own goals or motivations. They may have to ask a question that makes the client feel physically uncomfortable, but they do it because the answer is vital to the success of the project.
All this might sound fairly simple, and it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. So why don’t all salespeople sell consultatively? Thanks to Objective Management Group, data we have on millions of salespeople would suggest that much of this has to do with a salesperson’s mindset regarding sales – their beliefs, motivations, and attitudes about sales, commonly referred to as sales DNA.
The Importance of Effective Management
At Braveheart, after working with hundreds of salespeople and sales managers over the years, we know that mindset is absolutely one of the most profound factors that either enables or hinders a salesperson from selling consultatively. The issue doesn’t end there. In addition to what’s happening in a salesperson’s head, we know another huge factor that can impact their effectiveness in this area – their manager.
Often, a salesperson doesn’t slow down and take the time to get to the root of what’s really going on because their manager doesn’t consistently demonstrate that behavior. To build and maintain a genuinely world-class sales organization, salespeople need to sell consultatively, and managers need to manage consultatively with their salespeople. Consistently meeting one-on-one with their team members is a start. Still, these meetings sometimes consist of helping salespeople with time management issues and strategizing with opportunities or accounts, with only a side of coaching. After the meeting, the salespeople fend for themselves until the next weekly meeting. The most effective sales managers have undergone Sales Management Training and commit to utilizing consultative practices as a leader.
What does being an Effective Consultative Coach really mean?
Coaching is pretty important. Citing our Objective Management Group data, we know that if a manager spends at least half their time coaching – and coaching effectively – those salespeople can become 30% more effective at closing business. Too often, as managers, we believe we can just tell a salesperson what to do, and they will do it. Then we find ourselves frustrated at the end of the week after countless meetings with our people in which we lay out a perfect plan, get agreement from the salespeople, then find that they don’t accomplish what we planned. Why? Because we’re telling, not showing, stating, not coaching. For a salesperson to learn how to be consultative, they must buy into the transformation that occurs within their own mind when someone asks them thought-provoking, intelligent, open-ended questions.
Coaching Versus Management
Coaches focus on helping the other person to grow and think. A coach provides the space and tools to think differently, so a mentee ultimately arrives at the same outcome as an original thought. A great coach takes someone from being unconsciously incompetent to unconsciously competent.
To help illustrate this difference, let’s step onto the Lacrosse field. When managing a lacrosse team, the coach scripts a play on a whiteboard and gives literal instructions. You do this. She does that. Then they do this. As players develop Lacrosse IQ (likened to sales DNA), they understand the right thing to do in specific scenarios. They can come to a decision and make a successful real-time play organically. Players with high Lacrosse can think, what should I do now based on what I see?
Give your team- sales or lacrosse- the opportunity to make that connection in their brain. Then, create opportunities for them to practice so that when they’re under pressure – on a sales call in or in a game- they can execute. In lacrosse, a team runs drills during practice. In sales, drills are just as critical. As the sales lead, you can help your team strengthen their instinct and reflex through role play of sales scenarios.
To show a salesperson how to be consultative, a manager must pattern that behavior in their coaching conversations. Rather than swooping in with a solution when presented with a problem, the consultative coach should ask what the salesperson thinks they should do. Why should they do that? What do they expect would happen if they did, and what might happen if they didn’t? How should they do it? Who does it involve? When will they do it? You get the idea. All of the questions the salesperson should be asking their clients are questions the manager should be asking the salesperson.
Just as salespeople need to find a way to become the value for their clients, managers need to find a way to become the value for their salespeople. Become the trusted advisor to your team. Ask questions that evoke thought. Refrain from giving easy answers. Managers who do this effectively will find that- assuming no significant Sales DNA issues are at play- good and challenging questions asked of their team translate to their salespeople becoming more effective with their clients.