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Top 12 Consultative Selling Tips for Tough Times

In today’s volatile business environment, most salespeople are facing anxious clients who routinely put off buying decisions or maybe just reflexively reject almost anything that’s put on the table.  In tough times, the basics become even more important, yet they’re often overlooked, as salespeople react to the stress of getting the business and making their targets.  With that in mind, here are 12 “bedrock” tips to help you stay focused on what matters most.

  1. Be Visible—We have said it so many times in our consultative selling skills training programs. The sales professional’s job is to sell. You do that most effectively when you are in the client’s office.  So, get out there. Emails, letters, voice mails, faxes and even webinars fail by comparison. Nothing replaces “face time.”
  2. The Relationship Drives Everything—As complicated as we can make the sales process, we must never lose sight that people buy from people they like, respect, and trust. Interpersonal skills are critical in building relationships. Always do whatever you can to enhance the relationship.
  3. It’s all About Credibility, Empathy and Trust—One of our favorite quotes is from David Maister:  “Clients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It’s hard to trust you if you don’t consistently demonstrate credibility and build empathy.
  4. Enhance Your Perceived Level of Value—We don’t want to just be executors or even solution providers. We want to be the resources who truly add value and help their clients understand the needs they don’t know they have, so they involve us in their business planning and seek our advice about critical business problems. When we reach that level, we have earned the right to become their Strategic Advisors.
  5. The Importance of Getting Started Well—Whether it’s your first meeting with a new prospect or the tenth with an existing client; whether there is one person there or eight, every meeting requires upfront positioning. We need to make sure everyone is comfortable, that everyone’s agenda is on the table, that the timeframe is established and that we set the stage for what’s about to happen.
  6. Needs, Needs, Needs—The person who learns the most needs wins. It’s not a whole lot more complicated than that. And it’s not just needs—it’s the client’s problems, issues, opportunities, concerns, goals, objectives, aspirations, fears, worries and dreams. As we always say in our sales training workshops, please remember needs are usually expressed as verbs; solutions as nouns.
  7. Questioning is the Most Important Skill of All—More questions, more success. Ask questions, listen effectively and understand the client. The better you understand the client, the better relationships you build, the better recommendations you make, the less resistance you encounter and the more deals you close.  But it all starts with questioning.
  8. Features are About Us, Benefits are About Them—Features are facts, they are tangible, they are objective and they are hard to refute. But none of us buys things because of their features—we buy them because of their benefits, particularly what we call “specific” benefits–specific benefits relate to the specific and unique needs of an individual client. Benefits are less tangible than features, and they are subjective. So we are often not as comfortable expressing them. But we must. Especially specific benefits. That’s the critical component of any presentation.
  9. The Unsolicited Idea as a Differentiator—What better way to show that you are different than offering client’s what we call “unsolicited ideas”—these are ideas they didn’t expect and that have little in it for you and making your sale, but have lots in it for them. In an ideal world, every meeting would conclude with an unsolicited idea. Even if the client doesn’t like it, it says tons about your commitment and that you are thinking about them.
  10. Reframing as the Key to Objection Resolution—we teach in our sales training workshops that objections are unfulfilled needs. The salesperson’s challenge is to transform that objection to a need—to reframe it. To do this, turn the objection into an objective. Try this when preparing for an upcoming meeting –anticipate the objections you will encounter and think about how you can paraphrase and reframe them. This will make it easier to draw the client out when they object, so you can get under the surface to the underlying need, which then enables you to reframe it as an objective. In this way the objection is transformed from a road block to a road sign, simply indicating something else (another objective) that needs to be discussed.
  11. Ask for the Business—Most salespeople don’t like to do it, but it’s critical to ask for the business. We have to do it. Our clients want us to do it. Research proves that. If you don’t ask for it you are not as likely to get it. So put yourself out there and ask for the business. The worst thing that can happen is that they object. And you know you can deal with that.
  12. What you do Before and After is Critical—What differentiates the good from the very good, the very good from the excellent and the excellent from the outstanding isn’t just what happens in the sales call—it is what you do before and after the sales call.  Pre-call planning is critical. So is follow-up and follow through.  Don’t miss these opportunities to show off just how good you are.

So there you are—a dozen things to think about.  We could add others.  So can you.  But getting back to the basics is critical, and in this environment it can be the difference.  It’s easy to get too comfortable and forget to do these things.  Yet doing these kinds of things—day in and day out—allows you to yet again demonstrate just how professional you are, build strong relationships and close business.