Consultative selling requires product knowledge and technical expertise, but equal to these is customer knowledge and skill. In consultative selling you become a resource person who, because you fully understand the prospect’s specific needs, can meet the needs that relate to your product or services and also cross-sell to meet the prospects broader spectrum of needs. To succeed in consultative selling, you must master the six critical skills.
These are the six critical skills that are most important in making our conversations fluid and productive.
- Presence - communicating energy, conviction, and interest when speaking and listening.
- Relating - building rapport, using acknowledgement, and expressing empathy to connect with prospects.
- Questioning - creating a logical questioning strategy and effectively using probing skills to uncover the prospect's needs.
- Listening - understanding how the prospect communicates in words, time, and body language.
- Positioning - persuasively demonstrating value and application to the prospect of customising your product knowledge to the needs of the prospect.
- Feedback - eliciting feedback on what you have said to gauge prospect understanding and agreement.
These skills are the tools of selling. The better and sharper your skills, the more effective you become at selling. If you have a weakness in any one of these skills, this can limit your overall effectiveness. If you cannot establish rapport with the prospect, it is unlikely the prospect will open up in answering any questions.
Building rapport is the foundation for any business relationship, and it is highly unlikely that the business relationship will continue unless rapport is established at the early stages. Also if you are a poor listener, the prospect's responses lose their value, you must demonstrate clearly that you are listening to what the prospect of saying. And without an understanding of the prospect's needs, it's almost impossible to connect your capabilities and solutions to the prospect's needs.
Here are some ways to sharpening your skills;
Consider your six critical skills:
Rank each of your skills, and identify your strengths and areas needed for improvement. Work on one skill in the time to get it to the level required to improve your sales success ratio.
Also developing your skills in understanding and interpreting body language will go some way to further improving your overall communication skills. Remember also the importance of how you project in terms of body language is also extremely important.
Always critique yourself on a regular basis; understand what happened on each sales call, the good and the bad, learn from this so you can understand why the prospect made (or did not make) a favourable decision as far as your business is concerned.
After each sales call rank the opportunity in terms of:
- 25% - outside chance of winning the business (C)
- 50% - even chance of winning the business (B)
- 75% - very good chance of winning the business (A)
- 100% - will win or have won the business (A)
Further categorisation into A, B and C may help readily identify these opportunities in your database or CRM package, whatever you are using.
For many people, achieving this attitudinal change about sales - from the image of selling your products using whatever works, to that of the specialist consultant, can be a major revelation. Suddenly now you make calls on the prospect and feel at the end of the day that it has been spent constructively helping people to solve their problems.
It is a method that works in all kinds of situations and for all products and services. Also, once the prospect becomes a customer they usually return and buy again. It's not always easy to understand or implement a consultative selling approach but it is undoubtedly the way to build your business using through effective selling methods.
Throughout this process, it's important to be seen (if not perceived) as an expert in your field of business activity. This as mentioned earlier, positions you in the eyes of the prospect differently to that of your competitors, and this might just be the edge you were looking for!