80% of front-line sales professionals around the world sell in the "traditional" way: There isn't anything wrong with that if their market sector or industry demands - or tolerates -that style of selling.
For example, you cannot sell consultatively if you are operating in the B2C arena, and 99% of all sales made every day are actually B2C.
And going completely off-message for a moment, have you ever wondered why virtually 100% of recognized "sales gurus" are training and consulting in the B2B sector? I have!
The real problem is that 80% (of that 20%) of so called consultative salespeople are actually still selling in a "traditional way" - which leaves us with ... you do the math!
So before we identify a typical "Consultative Sales Cycle" let's discover if you are currently selling in a traditional way or if in fact, you are already selling consultatively.
Vending or Traditional Selling:
• You 'sell' to purchasing managers/consumers
• You 'sell' product
• You defend price
• You fill-out order forms
• You detail features and benefits
• You are a salesperson
• You sell 'to'
Selling as a Consultative Specialist:
• You plan & consult with business managers
• You sell profit improvement systems
• You offer a return on investment
• You present a partnered profit plan
• You design improved performance
• You are a business development manager
• You sell 'with'
Ok, let's look at that typical cycle and examine the various stages.
Selection: The first stage of the business development cycle requires identification and review of the customer base, prospective customers, types of business and competitive services within your market or geographical segment in order to decide:-
• Which companies represent potential?
• How many of them exist.
• In which order they should be approached.
Suspecting: The next stage is to go fact finding:
Based on your personal observations and working with existing contacts, you must try to answer the following questions:-
• Is the prospective client organization worth spending time with?
• Do they really have a need for additional products and services?
• Will or does the MAN (the person (people) with the Money, Authority and Need) recognize that need, if not can they be educated?
• How could I justify our products, services, price etc. as a response to the need?
• Can I identify all the people who make and influence the decision to buy?
At this stage the selection list is further honed.
Prospect Qualification: This is the Go/No Go decision stage.
Based on the information found through personal observation you decide whether the company is worth investing time in, based primarily on the answers to the questions listed under Suspecting. If the answer is Go, then they now become a "Prospect" and it is time to develop an account sales plan which specifies:-
• What products, process, services etc. will most likely satisfy the prospect's needs?
• How are you going to sell that to the prospect?
• You develop a strategy for the Approach Call and check:-
• Do I have enough information to confidently approach the prospect?
• What is my objective/purpose?
• What will I propose to the MAN?
• Can I justify the time they give me?
Approach: During the approach call with the MAN, qualification and fact finding continues. As appropriate, you present ideas and solutions to meet the specific need or needs you have identified within the prospect's organization. Together you decide and agree what criteria must be met, what other actions must take place and by whom, before the prospect is in a position to make a decision.
Advancement: Together with the prospect, you perform the mutually agreed actions. You continue to qualify and you try to understand what really will affect the final sale. You also sell to the decision influencers and obtain their commitment. All the time you are gathering and organizing information for your cost / benefit justification based on the real needs and wants in order to move towards a sale. This may include:-
• Application/usage/manpower/resource/plant surveys or studies
• Collation of costs and benefits data
• Determining locations for surveys, studies, meetings, presentations etc.
• Identifying critical, and vital information
• Determination of how to position the pricing of the services
Through surveys, applications development, cost benefit analysis, demonstrations, seminars, VIP trips, top level calls and so forth you prove to the individual decision makers and influencers that:-
• There is a real need for the products and services - now
• The suggested products, pricing, services etc. will satisfy their needs
• They can rely on you and your company to implement the proposed solution
• That it is worth the investment you are asking them to make and that they can afford it.
Commitment: You have done enough justification. You have sold each individual involved in the decision making process, and satisfied their needs and buying criteria. In a proposal presentation, you summarize the solution and the agreements reached previously. You obtain mutual agreement that the buying criteria have been met. You can now ask for the go ahead for the project, assignment or whatever.
Order: You obtain a signed agreement, terms of reference or purchase order. Prospect now becomes "customer" Together with the customer you agree or confirm the implementation plan.
Implementation & Installation: At this stage you schedule the personnel required from both your company and the customer's that will be needed to implement the proposed solution and to deliver the promised benefits. They ensure that the deliverables are delivered, in the case of products or systems, that the installation takes place that users are trained as suggested, that the key people in the customer's organization know who is who in your organization and how they can be contacted. You ensure that the invoice is understood and paid.
In summary, you establish a smooth customer interface with all the areas that the customer may want to contact.
Protection: It is your responsibility to re-justify the services provided to the decision makers and influencers. They demonstrate that they received or are receiving, the benefits promised and this confirms in their mind that they made the right decision. You do that through:-
• An account review or
• An internal customer account review/account presentation
You must answer the following question: "Will the customer use your company again based on their current satisfaction with the products, pricing, service, value and support?"
Development: Finally, you develop with the MAN a plan to ensure an on-going mutually beneficial business relationship.
The objectives of the plan are:-
• To obtain additional on-going business
• To ensure the customer has the best price and services for their needs: The plan must be based on the customer's current and financial requirements.
To sell and execute the plan you again go through the activities described under: Approach, Advancement, Commitment, Order and Implementation.
That folks, in its most simplistic form, is consultative selling: Anything less is quite simply tarted up traditional selling with lipstick on.