Stop Selling and Start Consultative Selling

File:Stop hand nuvola.svgWe’re one of many (thousands I’m sure) sales training firms in the U.S. and Canada. But I’ll bet we’re the only one that leads off our training workshops by telling sales people to stop selling. That’s right. Stop Selling stuff! Because our sales training workshops focus on consultative selling, and so want to demonstrate to our participants on how to become a consultant.

Consultative Selling – What Does it Mean?

So what does a consultant do? Well we know that companies typically bring in consultants when things aren’t working the way they should be. The consultant is hired, first to find the problems, then make recommendations to fix those business problems, and lastly (and ideally) be retained to come back and make improvements to business process.

And when the consultant arrives, do they make recommendations on how to fix these problems on the first day? Of course not. They take their time, and visit the various departments and start investigating. They ask a lot of questions, conduct interviews with people, both senior management, middle management and staff personnel, they observe people in action, and they take a lot of notes. And, oh yeah, they tend to make a lot of people very nervous! But only after days, weeks, and perhaps even months of observation, does the consultant leave, prepare a summary of their findings and recommended solutions, and then come back and deliver their report, with an eye towards also helping implement some of the solutions, which is where the consulting firm really makes their money.

Training on Consultative Selling

Our sales training workshops take this approach. The aim of consultative selling should be focused, first on taking the time, potentially an entire sales call or more, to really understand the nature of the prospect’s business, getting to know the prospect a little more with each question, and try to determine the underlying causes of some of the challenges/problems/issues that the prospect might be facing.

This is called the PROBE step of the sales process, and we recommend that the sales person needs to spend around 60-65% of their time in various phases of probing, in order to truly understand the nature of the prospect’s problems. Only then, can he or she be in a position to make a truly informed decision about how their products or services are uniquely positioned to help solve that prospect’s business problems. The recommendation phase, or what we call the PROVE step, should only have to last between 25-30% of the sales process.

It is said that the sales person that is perceived to best understand the nature of the prospect’s business problems, is also likely to be seen as the sales person that can make the best recommendation to solve those problems. What a wonderful advantage that provides a sales person, before they even begin to make their recommendations. Simply by demonstrating that they understand the prospect’s business problems, ideally better than the prospect themselves.

So this is the profile we’d like our participants to keep in mind throughout our workshops. For as soon as sales people learn to stop selling people “stuff” and start focusing on how to fix their client’s business problems, they’ll start to become consultants, and our bet is, have far more success.

Authored by Mark Christie, owner of SalesForce Training.

SalesForce Training & Consulting is a professional services firm and training firm based in Toronto, with training centers in Boston and Chicago, helping sales teams get the most from their CRM program…and their prospect/client interactions.