7 Consultative Techniques to Close More Sales
Consultative sales: we often talk about it, but what exactly does it mean? And more importantly, how does one go about doing it?
A simple way to describe this sales method is this: It’s the process in which a salesperson discovers a customer’s needs first, then presents them with relevant solutions.
Now, while that might seem fairly straightforward, there are 7 techniques that you must first master in order to become a skilled consultative seller. So here they are.
Think and act like a doctor
In consultative sales, sellers need to understand the person sitting across from them. And to truly understand someone, their issues and goals, you have to ask questions and listen. So think about the last time you visited your doctor. It doesn’t matter if it was a routine checkup or a visit regarding a specific ailment. To form an accurate diagnosis of your problem, your doctor asked questions, listened to your responses, and then offered you a choice of solutions, whether it might be medication, a suggested change in diet or exercise, or even a referral to see a specialist for an additional exam. As a patient, you most likely trusted your doctor’s diagnosis, and followed their recommended remedies, because they spent time with you. They asked you questions, and they listened to what you had to say before they offered their proposed solutions. The same is true in consultative sales. By getting to the core of your customer’s challenges, you’ll be prepared to present a solution that delivers real value for them.
Eliminate the word “prospect” from your vocabulary
Nearly every sales professional I encounter believes they’re customer-focused, when in fact, very few truly are. The reason for this is quite simple: sellers facing the incredible pressure to produce often resort to seller-centric behaviors versus customer-centric behaviors. Instead of having an open and honest conversation with someone, the seller resorts to strong-arm sales techniques, always pushing for the close at all cost. Such behavior leads to mistrust, and mistrust never leads to sustainable sales success. It’s for those reasons that I do not like the word “prospect.” I don’t like what it represents either literally or figuratively. The word “prospect” refers to someone regarded as a potential buyer, meaning you have no preexisting relationship with them, you don’t owe them anything, and you have no allegiance to them or them to you. On the other hand, a “customer” is someone who buys from you, meaning that you have an existing relationship with them, you must give before you can get paid, and that you strive to do the things required so they will continue to come back and buy from you again. To that end, the best approach in sales, business, and, quite frankly, in life is to treat everyone you encounter as your customer. The most valued employees, the most beloved and appreciated friends and spouses, and the most successful entrepreneurs treat everyone like a customer, and not a prospect.
Understand why people buy and don’t buy
There are three fundamental conditions that must be met for a customer to buy: Autonomy, Competence, and Relatability. So let’s break down each of those needs and how they relate to sales.
- Autonomy is freedom from external control or influence. Simply put, people don’t want to be controlled, manipulated, or told what to do. By asking questions, listening and checking in with the customer for understanding, you’re letting them know that they are in control.
- Competence is the ability to do something successfully or efficiently. People do business with people they trust. Again, by asking questions, listening, and periodically checking in for feedback, you’re demonstrating competence in your ability to accurately assess their needs and connect them with the right solutions.
- Relatability is the ability to establish a social or sympathetic relationship with a person. Just as people do business with those they trust, they also do business with people they know and like. By being genuinely interested in the customer, and seeking to understand their goals and problems, you’re creating a safe environment to discuss challenges or sensitive issues.
At the start of every new conversation, be friendly but direct
In consultative sales, the intent of every conversation should always be to learn about your customer’s goals and problems, so you can determine if your solutions can help them. By communicating that intent right out of the gate, you’re showing the customer that you value their time. You’ll also quickly discover if they have any interest in finding out how you may help them.
Ditch the anchor
Sellers have a tendency to latch onto assumptions when pursuing a sales opportunity, rather than carefully seeking out facts through conversation. This is often referred to as anchoring. It’s actually a cognitive bias that we all have that describes our tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered, i.e., the anchor, when making decisions. So be careful not to latch onto one thing too early in the conversation. Doing so can cause a seller to miss or even dismiss potentially valuable information revealed later in the conversation that can help the seller make a stronger argument for moving forward with the particular solution. The best consultative sales people remain engaged, practice active listening, and are always seeking new information rather than shying away from it.
Don’t just ask questions, ask smart questions
In sales, the best questions to ask a customer are ones that you already have an answer to. Make sure your questions help the customer connect their goals and problems to your solutions. Inviting the customer to think differently about solutions can be made less threatening when the solutions are presented as questions.
Commitment comes in baby steps
As a seller, never ask for the sale just once at the end of the process. Instead, you should always ask for the customer’s commitment at several points throughout the conversation. You should guide the customer through the discussion by asking for feedback, checking in to get a sense of how well they understand your solutions. These periodic check-ins will help move the customer closer to a final purchase decision.
Review and faithfully practice those 7 techniques to become a master consultative seller, close more sales, and get more referrals.