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CONSULTATIVE SELLING: UNDERSTANDING ISSUE RESOLUTION

The first stepping stone in every pathway toward issue resolution is establishing something on which both the objector and resolver do agree.  That might seem like a daunting quest, yet the truly consultative salesperson should know where and how to look for that foundation— regardless of the specifics of the objection.  This week’s blog describes a philosophy underlying successful issue resolution; next week, we’ll tackle the techniques that walk the client and salesperson down that pathway together. 

One area of agreement we must always share with our clients is their need(s). The client agrees because they’re his/her needs (duh); the salesperson agrees because she/he has to!  Make no mistake: you can deny solutions, but you can’t deny needs.  

  • An example: Your client wants to cut your fees by 20 percent (a solution) in order to demonstrate his/her value to the organization (a need).  You may be able to substitute another solution, e.g., an innovative, quick revenue-generating program that will also add value.  What you can’t do is ignore the client’s desire to add value (the underlying need).  Indeed, why even try? 

Here’s the concept that powers our issue-resolution approach: every objection is actually an unfulfilled need.  Something in what we said— or didn’t say— caused the client to perceive, rightly or wrongly, that we couldn’t solve the problem or reach the target.  Our fundamental challenge is to identify the need(s), not to “overcome” the objection(s). 

Turn an objection into an objective.”  Those two words differ only in their last two letters, but what a difference that is.  An objection is an obstacle, a potential show-stopper— perhaps just one disagreement among scores of (implicit) agreements, yet capable of killing the deal.  An objective is a goal, a task to be accomplished; merely establishing an objective implicitly signals that a solution is at least possible.  “Here’s why it won’t fly” becomes “Here’s what we need to do to make it fly.”  Note that the objection, itself, hasn’t actually been overcome; in fact, it’s been abandoned

Clearly, that’s a much more enjoyable, collegial, potentially productive conversation than arguing over a point of difference.  (If the disagreement was heated, you can virtually feel the meeting climate change, as salesperson and client metaphorically move over to the same side of the table when they arrive at a mutually appropriate objective.) 

The process we’ll be dissecting next week begins by questioning the client to define, in detail, the need(s) that our recommendation failed to address to his/her satisfaction.  The critically important next step is called “reframing;” here, we paraphrase the objection as a need which— if the client agrees— sets the stage for moving toward a solution.  This is a very powerful tool in every consultative selling skills tool box. 

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