In the a recent study by Larato, more than 33% of business leaders claim their most important requirement for success over the next three years is for their sales people to sell more consultatively.
So, what are your options regarding consultative selling?
You could choose simply to continue as you are. This perfectly valid strategy will require modifications to your margin expectations and cost base. Why? Most sellers are under price pressure. As customers engage later in the sales process with clearer ideas of what they want, the pressure on price increases. The more the ‘sales process’ moves towards a ‘fulfilment process’, the harder it becomes to command higher prices. Suppliers competing along traditional lines could find themselves tied up in price wars. When that happens, you need to have the lowest cost base to be able to be the cheapest.
You could choose to adapt the way your company sells its services to become more consultative. This is harder to achieve than it sounds. You can’t simply coach your sales people in consultative selling skills and expect success to follow automatically. Why not? We have already seen that buyers in increasingly agile and flexible businesses want suppliers to help identify, source and deliver managed solutions that make their businesses safer and stronger. Committing to next generation consultative selling will help put you in the centre of this buying process, potentially in a position of considerable influence. The problem is that delivering the value your customers require often impacts your company’s priorities, culture and even structure. A commitment to next generation consultative selling is a commitment made by an entire organisation, not just its sales teams.
Choosing to follow the middle ground is not the safest option. In practice, it is most likely opting in to the worst of both of the other alternatives. Let’s consider some examples. Having your sales people adapt some of the newer consultative selling techniques can lead to serious trouble. Think about this statement; ‘My company’s cloud platform can save your business 20% on its current IT costs’. However attractive it may be for an unpractised consultative seller to offer up this benefit to a prospect early on in the sale, it is a potentially suicidal move. Why? This simple statement is full of assumptions about the prospects’ business. It also, rather insultingly, implies that the sales person knows more about the prospects’ business than the prospect does. How can any sales person claim to be able to deliver cost savings without a proper and detailed understanding of the prospects’ business?
Developing your sales people into consultative selling stars in isolation can also be dangerous. The top consultative sales people are expert at politely pushing prospects out of their comfort zones, challenging the status quo to help them achieve better results. These sales superstars can anticipate buyer problems, offer compelling insights and shape solutions to meet them. The danger comes when the rest of your business can’t deliver the true customer value because your product, delivery and service strategies are not as customer-centric as your sales people. This could leave you in the position where you are adding cost and complexity into your business “on the hoof” to meet the needs of your clients.
Establishing effective consultative selling is different for every organisation. Larato’s experts have a proven track record of helping suppliers to create, nurture and industrialise successful consultative selling that works in each supplier’s individual environments. Contact us now to discuss how we could help you.