Consultative Selling: Pre-Sales Preparation

Selling is an Art. Not everyone can shine well as a Salesman. But for those who do train and groom themselves as salesmen, the career can be a rewarding as well as challenging experience. Selling in current times is definitely a challenge, especially when the competition is very high and the customers are very choosy, demanding and informed.

With the multi media and technological advances, market characteristics have undergone changes. The customer or buyer behavior, buying pattern as well as the process of buying too have changed. Apart from competing with others, every brand has got to prove itself in terms of its superior value to the customers.

Today’s sales managers and executives are a breed apart. Gone are the days when the salesmen would carry their bag and make several cold calls every day. Today’s salesmen are hi tech, technically qualified and position themselves differently from the earlier profiles.

Today, consultative selling has become the latest practice in engaging with the customers. To be able to sell a product, salesmen first need to get to know all about the customer and his business first. Identifying the customer’s needs and building a solution using the product or service being sold is the way that sales prospecting are being managed in recent times.

Consultative selling is not easy. It calls for thorough study, preparation and planning by the sales and marketing teams. The amount of time that is spent by the sales and marketing managers in preparing the groundwork is significantly higher in consultative selling.

First and foremost, it is important for the sales and marketing personnel to study and understand all about their product or service, its features, characteristics as well as advantages and usage etc. At this stage, an exercise to identify possible areas and fields or target customers list should be drawn up in detail.

In every identified customer segment, further detailing of how the product could fit in and be useful to the customer needs to be enumerated. Take the case of insurance as a product. The product could be sold to various segments including working women, adults, children etc. Each individual’s need for insurance would be different. Further, insurance for each individual would need to be planned with his or her lifecycle and other factors.

A good salesman will do his homework well to understand more about each one’s life cycle, lifestyle, demographics and other socio-economic as well as cultural factors that could influence their need for and decision for insurance, thereby equipping himself to be able to work with the individuals and advise them on how to go about planning for their needs rather than just selling a product.

The next step in the homework would be to study competition and prepare a detailed chart comparing the competition product visa vise the product that is being proposed. An informed salesman should know all about the competitor’s products as well. He should be in a position to discuss meaningfully with the customers about his product and compare it with the competition and bring out the advantages or disadvantages of choosing a particular product from the customer’s perspective.

A customer who finds a salesman discussing objectively about competition and keeping the customer’s interest at heart will appreciate the sincerity of the salesman and is likely to trust his advice.

Many times it does happen that your product may not suit the customer’s needs. Instead of walking away a consultative salesman will either choose a complimentary product that can be associated with your product and offer a workable solution to the customer.

In several cases, salesmen are known to go back to their management and canvas for a customized solution in order to win the customer and not lose out on the relationship.

There are also cases where in the marketing and salesmen have advised customers on choosing a particular competitor’s product to suit the customer’s needs. While one may be surprised, it is actually a very genuine right thought and action on the part of the true salesman.

Any professional and confident salesman will always place customer relationship and customer’s needs above everything else. When one’s product is not suitable for the customer, he would rather become an advisor or sort of consultant to the customer and guide him on choosing the next best alternative. Thereby one gets to build a relationship with the customer and wait for future opportunities rather than give up on the customer. The sign of a good salesman is that he would look at losing out on one transaction in order to gain a lifetime relationship with the customer.

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