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The Key to Consultative Selling: Become The Source of All Knowledge

The Key to Consultative Selling: Become The Source of All Knowledge

Tom Daly

We have all heard about consultative selling, but most of us aren’t quite sure what it is. It sure does have a loud following, though. Why the big deal? Because it works well, particularly for high ticket products and services.

So, call yourself a consultative sales professional and all your problems are solved. Right? Not really. Since the average person today is bombarded with over 6,000 sales messages per day, the prospects have become smart enough to sniff out most of the “would-be consultants” as just another one in the endless line of people trying to take their money. Like art, they may not be able to describe a consultative sales person, but they know one when they find them.

How can you tell if your prospects consider you a consultative seller, or just another peddler? Ask yourself the following two questions. What percentage of your communication with the prospect is spent talking about you and your wonderful product/service, and what percentage of your communication is spent solving the prospect’s real problem?

The RIGHT answers, if you want to leave the pack behind are: you should be spending at least 80% of your time talking about how to solve their real problem . . . and less than 20% of the time talking about you or your product/service. This is the time to be honest and rate yourself based on these ratios. Think about it, how can you truly be a consultant to the prospect or client if your only motivation is to make the sale? You might say, “Well, if he buys my product/service, then I will be solving their main problem.” That may be true, but if it were always true, and everyone instantly understood and embraced that fact, you’d never have to make sales calls because you’d already have all the business you could stand.

Here’s a better way.

The first thing you need to do is become the expert on the solution to his real problem. Now I realize that this could be a formidable task, but if you assemble the right resources, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to come off looking like a hero to your clients. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the world; you just have to have enough useful, relevant, valuable information regularly available so that you are perceived the “source of all information.” Anything short of that and you have no competitive advantages over the rest of the pack.

See if this method sounds like it might solve the problem. After you have qualified a prospect, and arrive to make your presentation, you hesitate a moment and then say, “I know you are approached by many sales people, and that it might be confusing in making a decision. Before I begin, can you tell me what you hope to accomplish with this purchase? Not just the purchase, but how you hope it will help you toward your objectives.” Then you wait, and as soon as the prospect begins speaking, take notes, making sure they know you are seriously considering their input.

If you have done your homework before the meeting, you should already have a good idea what they will tell you. You should have considered a number of options that they might need, and with the information they give you in the meeting, you should be able to narrow the choices down to something more ideal for their purposes. Your homework may also have revealed that prospects need more information than can be given in one meeting. If your research tells you this is true for anyone who buys your product/service then you will have to develop more special-purpose sales tools.

These tools can take the form of CD’s, DVD’s, targeted books, spreadsheets, Email series, or newsletters. The information contained in these tools should be very targeted at solving their problems. The medium is not important, the value of the information is critical.

But, back to the meeting. If the prospect has expressed a desire for some of the information you have researched and developed (for just this situation), then you can reach into your bag, retrieve the appropriate sales tool and say, “Here, this has a lot of good ideas in it that will make a difference in your business/lifestyle. It’s my gift to you. If you don’t mind, I’d also like to send you a monthly newsletter that gives the latest strategies and real-life examples to help/improve your business/lifestyle.” You have hit them with a great first impression, and opened the door for follow-up information and contact.

If you have really made a good impression, they may even ask you for your presentation. Do you give it? You give the presentation only if it is perfect for the prospect in front of you. If it is not perfect, tell them that it doesn’t precisely fit them and you would rather not. You and your prospect win with either decision.

After doing all the homework, how do you compare to the average salesman calling on this kind of account?

In today’s data driven world, it should be pretty easy to assemble what you need and turn it into information that is valuable for you prospects and clients. CD’s and DVD’s and the rest cost very little. Your investment is primarily time, so this method makes sense when the return on your investment is substantial. It makes even more sense, if you have a large number of prospects.

Now envision this scenario. Once you implement a program like this, when you’re going through your tickler file calling on those accounts, how do you think your call will be received by the business person? With the usual reluctance and indifference? No; instead, prospects will look forward to your call. You’ll actually have something to talk to them about besides, “Are you ready to buy yet?” There is no posture in the normal sales system. You always come off looking like you’re trying to sell something. But now when you call, it’s a whole new ballgame. You ARE the consultant. You add substantial, quantifiable value to the relationship.

So how do you make money being this “source of all information?” It’s easy. The prospects actually trust you and like you. That makes a big difference. Assuming your product/service is indeed a good buy for the client, they will eagerly spend money with you for all the effort you’ve taken to be the information source. Think about it. How many other salespeople are out there giving out FREE useful information? It’s zero. You’ll stand head and shoulders above the crowd….when you finally, really, become a consultative seller.

To see how this would work in your organization, please contact Tom Daly of BestFit Solutions at 503-206-0333.

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