In the sales environment, there’s a shift from business- and product-centric sales approaches to customer-centric sales approaches. These approaches are used for building trust, adding value to the interaction, and fostering long-term B2B relationships. Consultative selling is a form of customer-centric sales method. It focuses on understanding the unique circumstances of the customer and offering tailored solutions that speak to the customer’s specific needs.
This article will discuss what makes consultative selling its own thing and why it can be an effective sales method.
Building trust through active listening
The heart of consulting is active listening. In order to provide sound suggestions that genuinely address the customers’ challenges, salespeople need to actively listen. Active listening involves giving the speaker your undivided attention, seeking to understand what they are trying to convey. What are their objectives? What are their requirements? What are their concerns? Active listening involves asking the right questions that allow a customer to explain what they need to. It involves confirming that your understanding of what they are saying is correct. An empathetic approach shows that you care for the customer instead of just the money they can offer. It fosters trust.
Understanding the customer’s needs and pains through probing questions
Active listening is fruitless if no one comes out of the interaction knowing something new. Failing to understand a customer – even if you actively listened the entire time – can stain the trust that was once building. Thus, a salesperson needs to know which questions to ask to understand the customer better. Not everyone is a master orator; not everyone can easily lay bare their exact thoughts.
Active listening is both listening and asking. Ask probing questions that get to the heart of what the customer wants to say. What are their issues and what are their requirements? Finding these out will help to prevent you from advising them incorrectly by offering the wrong products or services that do not help them in the way that they’d like. With consultative selling, salespeople offer solutions, not products. That’s the framing that builds a relationship with the customer.
Offering tailored solutions to show understanding
Consultative selling is not about offering a one-size-fits-all solution (even if the product or service does fit all sizes). It’s about customising the solution to uniquely fit the customer like Cinderella’s shoe. The insights gained from active listening, understanding the customer’s pain points and preferences, should give a salesperson the tools needed to offer that customised solution. At the very least, a competent salesperson knows how to make a solution feel customised.
Tailored solutions demonstrate a commitment to delivering value and offering expertise. This is how consultative selling works.
Consultative selling builds relationships and drives sales
The main benefit of consultative selling is its customer-centric focus. Rather than treating each interaction as a one-time transaction, this type of approach aims to build long-lasting relationships with customers based on trust – trust through expertise and communication. It places the salesperson as a trust advisor and partner rather than a “salesperson”. By building this trust, businesses can stand out among the competition instead of being a replaceable vendor. Where product specs can be a determining factor, so too can the expertise and care shown by a consultation be.
Also, by knowing the exact needs and challenges of the customer, a salesperson is more equipped to upsell and cross-sell. The key is knowledge of the customer and expertise to offer adequate solutions. As long as the customer feels heard and understood, they are more likely to listen to the professional. This fosters a sense of loyalty.
Furthermore, in the increasingly digitised world, there are concerns that e-commerce may eliminate the role of sales reps. With self-service, there is fear that sales reps are unnecessary, but that isn’t the case. Rather, their role is shifting towards a more consultative position. Consultative selling may be the step forward that salespeople need to take in order to remain in their positions.