Consultative Selling Factors 1/5: Customer Speaks First

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Dilbert on customersAs discussed in 5 Factors to Consider in Consultative Selling, I will dive into each factor in separate dedicated posts, to allow the opportunity of presenting the rationale for each… and also admittingly in good part due to the fact that the original post was becoming way too long for any sane person to bother reading till the end.

Lets hope the splitting of the content will incite greater interest!

  1. Customer Speaks First!

  2. Present the BIG picture….NOT products!
  3. Uniqueness
  4. Promotions
  5. Likeable

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Factors to Consider in Consultative or Solution Selling

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Solution Selling picture with trees

For anyone in solution selling aka consultative selling – the picture above speaks for itself. (click on it to see in higher resolution).

I find that it evidently highlights the difficulties of selling complex solutions, typically IT-related ones, and how each key actor in the sales and pre-sales process ‘interprets’ needs differently.  The comical part being the difference between “how the customer explained it” and “what the customer really needed“!!  This is the crux of consultative selling.

Consultative or solution selling is a major point of discussion for many corporations, especially in the IT-related sector.  Having worked in a few of them, the shift from classic or relationship-selling to consultative-selling is a ubiquitous problem, existant in all industries, including telecommunications and travel.

Managers invest heavily in training programs to coach their sales forces to shift their habits, but old habits die hard.  A possible shift can really only occur if a few variables are put into place, notably:

  • State-of-mind, because understanding there is a need to change is the first of many steps – some say its half the battle!
  • Practice, Practice, Practice! Sales is a collage of human understanding, psychology, sociology, and possibly a sprinkle of street-smarts
  • …and a sincere desire to win;

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Relationship Vs. Consultative Selling

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picture stonemen fire

Working in channel sales or indirect sales, I have the chance spending a lot of time with various sales teams.  A good part of the time is spent coaching and training the sales teams on sales techniques, but also listening & sharing of ideas on what methods for given situation works best.

It is an interesting journey! Observing sales forces transition on products, sales methodologies, or even personal sales styles. One particular transition that I have remarked and find noteworthy, is the shift from the steroetypical classic or ‘relationship selling’ to complex, solution or ‘consultative selling’.

Relationship Selling – The Classics!

Selling is one of the oldest ‘jobs’ – not the oldest job in the world of course, urban legend reserving this to another ‘sales & leisure’ category.
The first recorded sales transactions can be traced back to approximately 200 B.C with the introduction  of coin / currency, at a time when the Roman Empire started its expansion outside of its natural Italian birth-place.  And this selling method has pervaded through time and still constitutes the majority of selling activity today.

This sort of selling is simple.  Well relatively, but more importantly: the Products are Simpler!  They carry out a particular function (e.g. knife) or fulfil a basic human need (e.g. food).    No necessary need to customize anything – life as the sales person or even as the buying customer, is relatively straight forward. I need, I have, I buy, I sell!

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