I’m a sales person, and I won’t be hurt if you don’t want to talk to me. I get it, we’ve made a bad name for ourselves out there. “I felt like I was talking to a used car sales person,” isn’t exactly considered a compliment. So where did we go wrong? And since I’m an optimist, I’d like to ask, “What can we do right?”
Consultative selling involves getting to know your customer by connecting and establishing credibility. To do this, you must start by investigating your customer’s motivating factors. What keeps them up at night? What goal or goals are they trying to accomplish? Investigative questioning surpasses the typical, “What, why, where, how mode.” Instead, you can pull more information by asking, “Explain or share with me your current environment, tell me how you visualize an effective solution, describe to me your current process, help me understand some of the challenges you’re experiencing, etc.” This type of leading investigative questioning will guide you into a deeper understanding of their business and further build trust.
As important as investigative questioning is to the consultative sales process, you must also remember to listen! Even if you do a great job of questioning, you will not gain useful information unless you also have a strong ability to listen well. This skill can be developed by eliminating the following poor listening habits:
Private Planning – Thinking about what you plan to say after they stop talking.
Prejudging –Thinking you already know your customer’s answer so you fail to actually hear valuable information.
Premature Dismissing – Listening to only half of what the customer is saying, then forming premature conclusions.
Selective Listening – Listening only for information that matches what you already think.
Private Rehearsing – Repeating your questions in your mind while missing what the customer is saying.
Before your customer consultation, set your mind to be focused on this specific customer. Your authenticity will be easily felt, and trust will be enhanced. Preoccupation or preconceived ideas will be equally easily observed by the customer.
While actively listening, provide examples of how you believe you can quantifiably impact the customer’s situation. Continue to investigate until the complete solution begins to emerge. Persevere until you and the customer are on the exact same page, and the next steps will be easy to identify. You can now determine how to proceed toward a fully collaborative agreement.