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e-book Smart Selling : The Consultative Approach

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Keep the conversation to the topics relating to the sale. If the conversation starts taking a turn in that direction, rein it in and bring it back to the topic at hand.

Guide Smart Selling : The Consultative Approach

The difference between product-based sales and a consultative sales approach is that you are not focusing your pitch on the product itself. A sale can be defined as the transfer of ownership of, and title to, property from one person to another for a price.

They want to know their purchase is going to offer them something and that it is going to be a smart buy. A values-based selling approach gives people the opportunity to see how your product makes sense for their life, which will make them much more likely to purchase. They buy a desired outcome — i. They may be asking for a drill bit, but they really want the holes they are going to make with it.

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BRIAN TRACY

These criteria are easily observable, for the most part, and both reps and their leaders habitually rely on them to predict the likelihood and progress of potential deals. Indeed, many companies capture them in a scorecard designed to help reps and managers optimize how they spend their time, allocate specialist support, stage proposals, and improve their forecasts. Our data, however, show that star performers place little value on such traditional predictors.

Instead, they emphasize two nontraditional criteria. First, they put a premium on customer agility: Can a customer act quickly and decisively when presented with a compelling case, or is it hamstrung by structures and relationships that stifle change? Second, they pursue customers that have an emerging need or are in a state of organizational flux, whether because of external pressures, such as regulatory reform, or because of internal pressures, such as a recent acquisition, a leadership turnover, or widespread dissatisfaction with current practices. Traditional solution selling is based on the premise that salespeople should lead with open-ended questions designed to surface recognized customer needs.

Insight-based selling rests on the belief that salespeople must lead with disruptive ideas that will make customers aware of unknown needs. Star performers are far more likely to be Challengers than any other type. Challengers are the debaters on the sales team. Getting the Challenger approach right requires organizational capabilities as well as individual skills. While salespeople need to be comfortable with the tension inherent in a teaching-oriented sales conversation, sales and marketing leaders must create teachable insights for them to deliver in the first place.

When handled skillfully, those insights guide the conversation toward areas where the supplier outperforms its competitors. The Challenger approach is becoming standard operating procedure in top sales organizations. Salespeople for the agricultural products and services firm Cargill discuss how price volatility in international markets causes farmers to waste time trying to predict commodity price shifts.

The subject naturally leads to a pitch for grain-pricing services, which help farmers mitigate their exposure to price fluctuations.


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Instead of leading with a discussion about the technical benefits of their products, account teams at Ciena, a global provider of telecommunications equipment, software, and services, focus the conversation on the business benefits, such as reducing operational inefficiencies in networks.

For example, they talk about how much money the customer could save by eliminating unnecessary service calls through improved network automation. And reps for the food services company Aramark use insights gleaned from serving one consumer segment say, college students to change the way prospective customers in other segments think about managing their business for example, how the military feeds its members.

One consequence of this orientation is that star performers treat requests for sales presentations very differently than average performers do. Whereas the latter perceive an invitation to present as the best sign of a promising opportunity, the former recognize it for what it is—an invitation to bid for a contract that is probably destined to be awarded to a favored vendor.

Leadership

The star sales rep uses the occasion to reframe the discussion and turn a customer with clearly defined requirements into one with emerging needs. Drawing on data that include interviews with nearly high performers worldwide, we developed a new scorecard that managers can use to coach their reps and help them adopt the criteria and approaches that star performers focus on. When its managers sit down with reps to prioritize activity and assess opportunities, the scorecard gives them a concrete way to redirect average performers toward opportunities they might otherwise overlook or underpursue and to steer the conversation naturally toward seeking out emerging demand.

A word of caution: Formal scorecards can give rise to bureaucratic, overengineered processes for evaluating prospects. Sales leaders should use them as conversation starters and coaching guides, not inviolable checklists. The scorecard below, derived from the ways high-performing reps evaluate potential customers, can help you assess whether or not to pursue a deal. As we noted earlier, in conventional sales training reps are taught to find an advocate, or coach, within the customer organization to help them get the deal done.

We heard the same list, or a variation on it, from sales leaders and trainers the world over. Each attribute can probably be found somewhere in a customer organization, but our research shows that the traits rarely all come together in one person. So reps find themselves settling for someone who has some of them. In our survey of customer stakeholders, we asked them to assess themselves according to attributes and perspectives. Our analysis revealed seven distinct stakeholder profiles and measured the relative ability of individuals of each type to build consensus and drive action around a large corporate purchase or initiative.

Still, the data clearly show that virtually every stakeholder has a primary posture when it comes to working with suppliers and spearheading organizational change. Motivated by organizational improvement and constantly looking for good ideas, Go-Getters champion action around great insights wherever they find them. Passionate about sharing insights, Teachers are sought out by colleagues for their input.

Helping the customer create a Vision of a Solution, based on value , as to how the various capabilities offered will help them achieve their needs. The Vision Group works with clients to align their sales and marketing personnel to be consultative in their approach to prospects and clients. They want their personnel to stay in alignment with buyers. Our clients tell us the key is to focus with buyers on their buying process and needs.

Helping them create a Vision of a Solution, based on value , as to how the capabilities of the products and services offered will help them achieve their compelling needs.

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Using consultative selling skills throughout the buying cycle. In this way we help clients be perceived by their customers in a highly differentiated way. Aligning your sales process with the buying process leads to the Best Buying Experience. Building trust with customers is the first step in that alignment. It requires us to make a human connection, while focusing on the buyers needs.

The missing link in effective prospecting today, and beginning a Best Buying Experience, is the art of telling stories, woven with how buyers can use your products and services to meet their needs.