What’s the difference between Consultative Selling and Normal Selling?
Normal selling is often called transactional selling. It’s like you go up to the newspaper stand, you buy a newspaper, you pay them a certain amount of money and you walk away. Sometimes we call on customers and we make a sale and they receive the product or service and they thank you and they pay you and they walk away.
A consultative salesperson however is different. A consultative salesperson sees themselves as a consultant and a consultant has certain special qualities that make them different. One is consultants are professionals. They are people who are looking for people who have problems that they can solve with their product or service. Consultants are very focused on results especially financial results. When I built my network of professional training facilitators. I taught them that their job is profit improvement. Their primary job is to go into a company and talk to the decision makers and find out how they can use their service to help their company to achieve or improve their financial results. So we say you are “Financial Improvement Specialists”.
One of the things that consultants do is, when they look at their clients, they think about their clients in terms of the long term. They see their clients as friends. They see their clients as people that they will work with for months and even years in order to help them to improve their lives and work with their special qualifications.
Now how does a consultant consult?
I’ll often ask this question. “If you hired a consultant to come in to your company and the consultant sat there. How do they consult?” After a little bit of thought people will say, “well! They would ask questions”. Yes! A consultant is a problem detective. What they’re doing is, they’re asking you questions to find out if you have a problem or need, that their special expertise can help you to solve. It’s sort of like, if you go to a doctor. The first thing that a doctor does is a complete examination. The doctor doesn’t recommend a prescription or a course of treatment. The doctor asks you a lot of questions, does a lot of tests and only then comes back with a diagnosis and says this is what I think your situation is and these are the alternatives that we have to deal with your situation.
Consultants also provide customized versus generic solutions.
A customized solution means, what we almost call a co generated solution. The solution is generated in cooperation with a customer. We don’t go in with a solution we go in and step by step as we get to understand the needs and problems and difficulties of the client. Then we start to suggest “Perhaps we could do this” or “perhaps we could do that” and the solution that they come up with is completely privatized, completely personalized to that particular company.
Their calls in consultative selling are far more interactive. There’s about a 70% rule. We say that 70% of the work of a consultant is asking questions and 30% or less is listening. As they go through the consulting process they provide insights to their prospects and customers. They ask “Have you ever thought of doing it this way” or “What if we were to approach it from this point of view?” or “Did you realize that it’s now possible to achieve your goals using this method or this technology?”. In other words they don’t tell people what to do they provide insights to demonstrate their expertise and to open the customer to the possibility, that working with you can make a big difference.
So how do you become a consultative salesperson?
Many years ago I learned this from a consultative salesperson. He said “The hardest part of becoming a consultant is having the courage to call yourself a consultant.” So after that I began to practice these words. When I met with a client and I was selling financial services, investments eventually real estate and other things.
I remember saying to the client, “Mr. prospect! Please Relax! I’m not here to sell you anything. I see myself more as a consultant that as a salesperson and all I would like to do today is, ask you some questions and see if we can help you achieve your goals in a cost-effective way. Would that be okay?” and always I found that people accept you at your own evaluation of yourself. If you tell the person you’re a consultant, they accept you as a consultant and then they wait to see if you perform as a consultant.
When you start to ask questions and take notes and ask follow-up questions and give the client lots of opportunity to talk about their problems and difficulties as they relate to your services. They see you as a consultant, they become wide open to accepting your advice. Now if you want to become a consultative salesperson, you have to take action. So what is the one action that you can take immediately based on what we’ve just talked about in this session to become a more perceived consultant in every customer interaction.