At VOIQ we strive to continue learning from the smartest people in the industry, so we were thrilled when our CEO, Ricardo Garcia-Amaya, invited Jeff Krawitz to spend a full day teaching us about consultative selling. Jeff is currently an adjunct professor of Marketing & Sales at the MBA program of New York University and Columbia University as well as a Principal at CMG. The following is a summary of our collective notes on Jeff’s consultative selling technique.
To begin, we must first explain what consultative selling is not: consultative selling isn’t manipulating a lead, and it’s not selling to anyone who will listen. Instead, consultative selling is a breath of fresh air amidst all the old-school selling techniques that have given the industry a bad reputation. Consultative selling is an approach to sales that advocates for trust, honesty, and transparency. If you follow these four steps, you’ll be on your way to becoming a consultative selling master and you’ll notice that the sales you make are longer-lasting and better fits for your company. Let’s begin.
Step 1. Adopt a customer-centric attitude
Instead of working from a business-centric perspective (what does a client mean to me?) ask yourself, “how does it feel to be my client?” When you begin here, it means that you’re working towards understanding what your product means for your customers, the problems they face, the solutions they’d consider and what they value most. Remember that value varies and what’s important here is not the value you give your company but the value that your product or service will have for your customers. You can’t assume what your customers will appreciate so ask them and listen carefully because what you sell (a drill, for example), is not what they buy (the hole to hang a picture).
Step 2. Build relationships
An important part of consultative selling is becoming a trusted advisor for your leads. As the name suggests, you will often be a consultant that helps them with problems regardless of whether or not the solution is always your product or service. This means that you’ll need to have a broad range of knowledge about not only your product but also your industry. While this approach requires more work on your part, the benefit is earning a lead’s trust. It won’t go unnoticed that you have the answers to everything, and your company will reap the same reputation; after all, they’re the ones that hired and trained you. Building relationships is a long-term process; it’ll take more than a few touches, but once you’ve set a solid foundation, you can build anything from there.
Step 3. Ask the right questions
This phase is all about active listening. Ideally, you should be aiming for a talking to listening ratio of 70%:30% on the client's side. Make sure you ask open-ended questions like “Tell me more about…? How do you see ____ playing out…? How do you feel about that?” that will get your leads talking so you can zero in on their pain points. You can also personalize the conversation by using statements that build agreement and rapport like “Bianca, can we agree that…? Sam, are you comfortable with...?” Finally, don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions or be direct. Don’t forget that not everyone wants the scenic route, so be flexible and change your approach to what the customer wants. You can accomplish this by asking upfront “Do you want to go from big picture to details? Or details to big picture?”
Step 4: Persuasion
Bring steps one to three together for the final step and you should have a strong sale on your hand. Through the previous steps, you should have shifted your focus to the client instead of yourself, built a relationship with them through consultative advice and asked the right question to figure out their pain points. Gather what you’ve learned and you’ll be set to present a coherent solution to their problems. The best part about it is that you’re not making anything up or stretching any truths, you do know how you can help your leads with their pain points. When you’re at this stage, shift your attitude from one that closes sales to one that opens them. The moment you make a deal is the moment that a long-term relationship begins.
As Jeff taught us, changing the way you sell is an impactful way to improve your sales. The final activity that we did was write down our “hot lists.” After we walked through steps one to four of the consultative selling process, Jeff had us write down our action items of the most important takeaways from the workshop. We encourage you to do the same. Afterward, print them out or post them somewhere you’ll see them regularly and force them for the next month. We started to see a difference in the way we sell within a few days, and we’re sure you will too.