In many sales methods, the focus is on selling a product or service. You highlight the qualities of your product in the hope of making a sale. Often, little or no attention is paid to the specific situation of the customer. However, there has been a shift in recent years. Consultative selling, also known as advisory sales, is gaining momentum. But what exactly is consultative selling? How does this sales method work? And how do you successfully apply this advisory selling?
Before you can learn how to use consultative selling, it's important to understand the definition of consultative selling. The term 'consultative selling' was introduced in the 1970s by Mack Hanan. Although consultative selling has been around for about fifty years, this way of selling has suddenly become more popular in recent years. Additionally, consultative selling can be used in all industries. From a car salesman to a copywriter, anyone can use this sales technique. Consultative selling can be used for both Business to Customer (B2C) and Business to Business (B2B).
In consultative selling, the emphasis is not on the product or service you want to sell, but on the customer. What problem does the customer have, and how can you help solve it? In the initial stages, you don't act as a seller but as an advisor. You focus on the customer relationship and solving the problem rather than the features of the product. This helps customers better and makes them more likely to see the value of the product or service you offer. Customer needs and relationships are crucial in consultative selling.
Now that you know what consultative selling is, it's important to understand how to implement the consultative selling method. In advisory sales, the relationship with your (potential) customer is crucial. This starts when your customer is still in the exploratory phase, for example, on your company's website. Instead of just promoting your offerings on the website, you can provide advice to your potential customer. This shows that you understand your target audience, and customers feel heard. They may not buy from you immediately, but you start building a relationship.
A good way to showcase your expertise is by offering a whitepaper. A whitepaper is a document where you share knowledge and expertise for free. It's not a sales pitch but genuinely valuable information that your (potential) customer can benefit from. This could be in the form of a step-by-step guide or a list of tips or practical examples, which are excellent content for a whitepaper.
Now you might wonder why you would give away valuable knowledge for free. But this is precisely why it's essential. Your customer gets a good idea of your expertise. You show that you really know what you're talking about. Moreover, you don't give away everything. You reveal a bit of the secret, but keep the truly valuable information to yourself. This encourages potential customers to contact you. Also, people need to leave their contact information to download the whitepaper, generating leads through this form of lead generation.
Another way to practice consultative selling on your website is by writing and sharing informative blogs. This is even more accessible than a whitepaper, as people can read the blogs directly and don't have to download anything. In these blogs, you don't directly promote a product or service, but you provide your readers with interesting information. It increases your credibility and shows that you are involved in your field and customers. Of course, in the blogs, you can refer to your offerings or solutions for a problem or question.
Both informational blogs and a whitepaper sometimes directly bring in new customers. In other cases, people absorb the information and advice, but this doesn't immediately lead to a new customer relationship. That's okay. People will remember you, and on their next visit, they are more likely to contact you.
You can also use consultative selling during sales conversations. The beginning of a relationship with your potential customer has already been established, but that doesn't mean you're done. If you want to engage in advisory selling during a sales conversation, you need to let your customer speak. Listen carefully to your customer and analyze where your customer's needs or problems lie. Ask questions and don't be afraid to dig deeper. Only in this way can you get to the core and provide good advice. The goal is first and foremost to build a strong and positive relationship with your customer. Most deals stem from this.
Once you know what your customer's needs are or what problem needs to be solved, you can respond with an offer. It's essential to know which product or service best suits the customer's needs. The solution must genuinely fit the customer and solve the problem adequately. If this is the case, the deal will generally be obtained smoothly.
The better your solution aligns with the customer, the greater the chance of getting the deal. But the value of your knowledge is not the only factor in consultative selling. The relationship with your potential customer and the goodwill you build also play a role. The better and more positive the relationship, the more the customer will grant you the sale. So, it's crucial to come across as authentic, reliable, and helpful. In a sales conversation, you should genuinely focus on helping the customer. You're helping with the purchase, so to speak. If the customer feels that you're not genuinely trying to help and are only there to make a sale, you'll likely lose the goodwill and, most likely, the deal.
To successfully implement consultative selling, you need to follow a few steps. Here are the main outlines for you.
Step 0. Establishing yourself as an authority
Consultative selling actually begins before you even contact a potential customer. By positioning yourself as an authority within your field, you build a reputation for yourself. Do this, for example, with a whitepaper or informative blogs on your website or by sharing valuable expertise on social media (also associated with social selling). This can generate leads and also helps if you've attracted a lead in a different way.
Step 1. The first contact
The first contact with a potential customer can be established in various ways. It may be that a prospect contacts you because they've encountered a problem and know you, for example, from the blogs on your website or the information you share on social media. It may also be that you identify a problem with a customer and present it to them. This is the beginning of the relationship with the customer, so make sure it's a positive experience.
Step 2. Identifying and analyzing the problem
This is a crucial step in advisory selling. Only when you have a good understanding of your customer's needs can you provide a suitable solution. Take enough time for this step. Ask questions and get to know your customer better. Alternate between asking questions and providing advice. This way, the customer doesn't feel overwhelmed, and you continue to build your reputation as a reliable advisor. Ensure that it's not a one-sided conversation but engage in a real dialogue with your potential customer.
Step 3. Providing a solution
Once you have a clear understanding of the customer's problem or need, you can start developing a solution. Maybe you have a service or product that fits perfectly, but perhaps you need to make some adjustments here and there to create the perfect offer. Present the solution to the customer only after you've dotted the i's. Is the customer convinced? Congratulations! If the customer is still hesitant, no problem. Use the feedback to create an even better version of the solution.
Step 4. Obtaining commitment
Have you convinced the customer of your solution? Then it's time to ask for the order. Don't lose sight of the advisory part of consultative selling during negotiations. Continue to listen carefully to the customer's wishes so that you can work out the details together. A positive relationship with your customer is the key to success in consultative selling.
Consultative selling is a sales approach that anyone can learn. It's crucial to shift the focus from your offering to the customer. If you want to learn how to build a good and valuable relationship with customers and sell without having to 'push,' then a consultative selling training is a good idea.
In this training, you'll learn what consultative selling entails based on valuable theory and successful examples from practice. You'll study the meaning of value proposition and discover ways to improve it. You'll learn how to initiate and maintain a valuable dialogue with your customer. You'll learn more about the goodwill factor and, after the training, know exactly which questions to ask to get to the core of customer needs. After the training, you won't just be a salesperson but a true consultant for your customers. This way, you build long-term relationships, making customers come back to you repeatedly for advice. That's valuable for them and for you. Are you ready to get started?
Consultative selling, also known as advisory selling, is a sales method that focuses not on selling a product or service but on understanding the needs and problems of the customer. It involves building a strong customer relationship and providing valuable advice to help the customer solve their problem.
To successfully apply consultative selling, there are several important steps you can follow:
Examples of consultative selling in practice include:
Consultative selling is a valuable sales method that strengthens customer relationships and helps customers find the best solution for their needs. It's about advising rather than just selling, making customers more likely to choose you. With the right training, you can successfully use this sales technique and build long-term relationships with your customers.