Learning the Ropes of Consultative Selling

Today’s markets are highly competitive. Customers have never had it better. Now they have unlimited choices to make. All the products that are out in the market are superior in terms of their quality, performance and feature etc. It is very difficult for customers to make a choice to buy any one particular brand of product alone. Very often the sales process or the interaction with the salesman and the approach to selling clinches the deal. Customer’s time is very valuable. They would find it useful to engage in their own area of business rather than take time to find out all that there is to know about a product, the different manufacturers etc. This is where a consultative selling approach works best.

Consultative selling is an approach wherein the salesman engages with the customer’s business, understands all about customer’s business processes, identifies their specific needs, shortcomings and problems and designs solution of which his product or service is a involved. Thus the salesman or the selling company offers a solution to the customer to improve his business rather than just selling a product or service leaving it to the customer to figure out how best to use the same.

Consultative selling has gained ground in recent times and almost all industries have adapted this approach of selling their products and services. Consultative selling has taken the concepts of Customer engagement, Customer relationship and Customer satisfaction further to partnering with the customer.

In the highly competitive market, selling is a challenge. Salesmen have got to be creative and methodical in their approach to building on sales leads and managing selling process. Adapting a consultative approach to selling involves a lot of homework and work discipline that is required to be learnt and imbibed as a part of day to day routine.

Ask any star performer salesman and he will tell you that the secret of his success lies in doing his homework meticulously. It is not necessary for a salesman to be in the field all the seven days a week and make cold calls. Rather, what matters is the quality of work that he puts in to qualify the customer, to get to know all about the customer and preparing a strategy for approaching the customer’s business that helps him perform effectively. A well prepared plan or strategy can be executed effectively and the effort will be fruitful.

Before one embarks on a consultative mode of selling, there has got to be sufficient preparation done to ensure that the self is completely equipped with in depth knowledge of the product as well as of the target customer and his business.

Product knowledge is one of the key factors that is very essential for a consultative salesman. When we talk of product knowledge, we are not just referring to the generic information about the product, its features and other product details etc.

The knowledge of the product, its uses, its origin as well as the future trends has got to be studied in depth. The salesman has got to be as good as the product manager in terms of the product that he is selling. Only then, would he be able to use the product as a solution.

Take the case of salesmen who work for Supply chain service providers and logistics operators. Third party logistics service providers offer a host of products and services as a part of integrated supply chain solution. They could be offering a total solution including inventory management, warehousing, shipping, transportation and freight management as a part of a solution to any client. In this field the only approach that works would be the consultative mode of designing a supply chain solution to address the customer’s requirement.

A salesman in this situation has got to know all about warehousing and the operations in the warehouse as well as about inventory management, systems that manage inventory and order management and so on. Unless and until he is conversant with the details of the product he would not be in a position even to engage the customer at the first level of talks.

In this case, the salesmen has got to know not only about warehousing, but about freight as well as the other products which are going to be a part of the total solution. Though the solution design will be done by a design team comprising of product specialists team, it is the salesman who leads the team and engages with the customer. Even to put a foot into the door and get an entry or the attention of the customer, it is necessary for the salesman to have the knowledge and expertise that convinces the customer that he can offer a solution.

Sales managers take several weeks off their field and spend time visiting their projects that are under implementation and learn the ropes of operations. This enhances their knowledge and equips them to be more effective with their sales talk.

A salesman who knows what he is talking can easily carry the customer with him. Therefore it is imperative for those aspiring marketing and sales managers to imbibe the right attitude and invest on preparing self with the right product knowledge to be able to sell effectively.

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