A good salesperson sells products, but a great one offers solutions. In essence, this is what consultative selling is all about.
In this era of instant communication, buyers already have a leg up on salespeople. The wide availability of internet resources means that a simple Google search may be enough for a buyer to learn about the product they’re interested in.
With basic information already on hand, B2B buyers or procurement professionals will usually engage with sales reps further into the sales process. At this point, they’ll want to learn more about how a product fits into their specific needs. To help provide answers, a company will need a salesperson that can act as an adviser rather than a pitchman.
Consultative selling provides the environment where the buyer and the B2B sales professional develop a deeper understanding of the needs that come with the intent to purchase. In short, it’s offering solutions to customers rather than products.
Maintaining a clientele that has faith in the solutions offered by a salesperson can be highly lucrative in the long term. After all, studies show that bringing in a new client is often five times more expensive than persuading an existing one to make another purchase.
Primary principles of consultative sales in B2B sales
In the B2B sales landscape, consultative selling adopts a more customer-focused approach than traditional sales. The product becomes secondary in terms of attention. This helps the B2B sales rep – be it for those in the food and beverage industry, automotive, health and beauty, etc. – develop a better understanding of the buyer’s challenges. This in turn, fosters a healthier buyer-seller relationship. Eventually, learning more about the buyer’s situation can help the seller develop and provide better solutions to their concerns.
How do B2B sales reps achieve this enlightened stage of consultative selling?
There are six elements of consultative selling that contribute to achieving synergy with the client. Let’s discuss each element one by one:
The first stage of consultative selling involves researching the buyer and company. Taking a look into the buyer’s social media public pages can provide insight into their core beliefs, values, and preferences. Well executed research can lead to a more productive and informational meeting. It also projects an image of credibility and preparedness, which can help shorten the sales cycle.
Upon meeting, it’s time to acquire firsthand information from the client. Before firing off the first question, remember to let the lead volunteer answer themselves. This means that even if the salesperson already knows the answer, the client should still be given the opportunity to answer. Letting the buyer provide the information is part of developing trust.
When trying to gauge the client’s specific needs, avoid asking “yes” or “no” questions. They tend to elicit only single-word replies, which won’t help much in the long term. Asking questions beginning with “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, or “why” can yield more comprehensive replies.
At the same time, the buyer can also learn more about the company’s purchasing process. This includes the project’s budget, the sign-off process, the signing authority, and the terms of payment. It’s best to lay these cards on the table early on.
Whether juggling tables as a server or as a psychiatrist tending to a patient, listening closely can be the difference between success and failure. In sales, listening carefully to the buyer can draw clues to best provide solutions. Active listening – rather than passive – is essential. A good rule of thumb is reiterating what the client has expressed back to them in your own words. This tactic makes the client feel heard, and also better helps the listener remember and internalize their answers.
During this stage, the buyer should actively take notes. Relying on memory alone may pose a costly mistake. It’s best to document everything and review the information later to see if something needs further clarification. At the same time, pay attention to the client’s tone. This can provide clues on whether they’re genuinely invested or just going through the motions. Knowing the difference lets the salesperson make a timely and appropriate response.
Active listening requires the listener to continually acknowledge the information being shared. At the same time, this period gives the seller a teaching opportunity. However, in consultative selling, it’s still all about the clients and their needs. This means that even during a teaching opportunity, the topic shouldn’t be about the seller’s product or service. It should be about trying to solve the buyer’s problem.
In some cases, the solution may not even require the seller’s offerings. If this is the case, it might be time to move to the next element below.
Qualifying leads is a continuous process throughout the sales journey. If the salesperson notices the client is unqualified at any time during the process, it’s time to let go. They may like the offer, but their budget and timetable may not.
However, dropping a lead doesn’t mean the end. It pays to still help the lead move closer to achieving a solution to their problems. Helping them gives the salesperson credibility that can pay off in the future.
In addition, don’t think of dropping unqualified leads as a waste of time. What’s actually wasteful is devoting further time and effort to closing a client who doesn’t have the right budget, doesn’t share the timetable, or is simply not a match for the product or service. It’s best to drop out, move on, and focus on qualified clients.
At this point, the salesperson will only have qualified leads remaining. These remaining clients have the resources and authority to seal the deal. More importantly, both the buyer and seller now view closing the sale as the natural course of action.
At the same time, salespeople shouldn’t treat closing the sale as the endpoint of the process. Rather, the client should feel that closing the deal means the start of a great working relationship. Considering that consultative selling usually involves big-ticket items (like vehicles, real estate, or investments), clients expect their sales agent to stay in touch for after-sales services or additional purchases. As long as the salesperson provides solutions, they should have no problem staying in touch.
How B2B sales reps can land more sales deals with consultative selling
Going back to the server example, who gets the most tips among baristas and waitstaff? It’s those who listen to what the customers really want, recommend fine pairings, and deliver orders as requested. Applying the consultative selling process can benefit salespeople who seek to develop better relationships with their clients. By focusing on providing solutions instead of products, they become trustworthy advisers in the eyes of their clients.
How can consultative selling land more deals? When salespeople take the time to learn and understand the big picture behind their clients’ purchases, they’re attuned to the challenges they face.
A commitment to understanding the problem and developing a solution
A commitment to understanding the client’s problem goes hand in hand with the commitment to supply the correct solution. This includes subtly showcasing the research you’ve done. It also includes ensuring the client feels heard before launching into a teaching opportunity.
A customer-centric focus on developing solutions – rather than on trading products – reassures buyers that the seller is on their side. In return, the salesperson gains a loyal customer. This solid relationship lays the foundation for more efficient reorders or purchases in the future. Repeat purchases from the same clients are some of the most lucrative opportunities a salesperson can dream of.
Benefits of consultative selling approach
Focused, healthy relationships with clients
The opportunity to develop a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship between the salesperson and the client is undoubtedly the biggest benefit of consultative selling. The actual sales aspect follows as a natural extension when the client views the salesperson as an adviser and business partner. A healthy relationship also gives both the buyer and seller a fresh perspective of each other’s roles and the best courses of action.
Consultative selling puts a premium on establishing relationships with clients. Would you rather have fewer clients with more orders, or more clients with fewer orders? Given the established relationship, sellers often enjoy access to new opportunities that surface from existing clients.
Shorter sales cycles
With the increased familiarity with the client’s needs and a greater understanding of requirements, the sales process can go faster. Heightened client trust also helps shorten the sales process time.
Consultative selling for field sales teams
Field sales teams, outside sales reps, infield sales consultants: regardless of what your company calls them, sales teams can benefit from developing consultative sales approaches to their clients. This can help them establish deeper and more meaningful relationships with their clients. In return, this can legitimately lead to increased revenues, better opportunities, and shorter sales cycles.
Sales managers can lend increased support to their field sales teams by using efficient sales management software, such as Skynamo. Skynamo enables sales representatives to schedule calls, access customer data, submit quotes, and process orders more efficiently. Meanwhile, managers can track their teams better and more accurately. This allows them to provide support wherever needed without missing a beat.
Interested to know more about how Skynamo can help make your field sales team more efficient? Let’s chat! We’ll be glad to tell you more.