Here is a complete guide on consultative selling for B2B companies.
Table of content:
- What is consultative selling?
- Why do B2B leaders need to adopt consultative selling?
- What is the consultative sales process?
- What are the top consultative selling skills?
- What are the advantages of consultative selling?
- Who can benefit from consultative selling techniques?
What is consultative selling?
Consultative Selling is an approach of selling which focuses on creating value and trust with a prospect and exploring their needs before offering a solution. It is a sales approach that puts the customer first by understanding their problems and issues and aligning your solutions that best fits their needs to solve the problem. One of the key skills of consultative selling is listening to your customers' problems.
Another positive aspect of consultative selling is that it lends itself to “value-added selling.” A sales rep that approaches prospects with a consultative selling mindset will naturally know more about what the customer is looking for than a rep who has gone straight for a hard sell. Because this approach often unearths a great deal of information about a prospect’s desires, it’s much easier for a rep to provide benefits or upsells related to the product they’re selling.
The consultative selling process requires an organization-wide culture of listening, understanding, and trust-building, which makes it a very human technique compared to the stereotypical annoying salesperson.
Why do B2B leaders need to adopt consultative selling?
Traditional sales techniques often come across as pushy, impersonal, and not so organized. Only 13% of customers believe a salesperson can understand their needs properly.
With so many solutions available to customers today, there is one factor that will eventually make the difference between closing a deal or missing out on a valuable opportunity - the trust you build with your prospects.
|Consultative Sales||Traditional Sales|
|Prospect focused||Product focused|
|Listening and asking questions||Using a standard sales pitch|
|Custom solutions||One-size fits all solution|
|Long-term selling relationship||Short-term selling relationship|
The key difference between the consultative sales approach and the traditional sales approach is the objective.
In traditional sales, the goal is to sell a product. As a result, the entire process is product-focused and impersonal.
In consultative sales, the objective is to find the best solution, even if it’s not your solution. If your prospect ends up not choosing your product, it may seem like a waste of time, but you will gain more than you lose.
The Consultative Sales Process
Before you make contact with your prospect, you want to do some research. This is important because you need to go into the conversation knowing why they should give you time.
In your research, you should find out the general goals and possible problem points your prospect may be facing. Also, if you have served similar customers in the same industry, relate those customers' pain points and how your product or solution helps them resolve the issue they were facing. This should be narrated as a third party story. Make sure your story is backed by facts. But the story should have more emotions than facts so your prospect can personally connect with it.
It’s during this phase that you want to answer who? what? why? and how? of your prospect. By fully understanding their business, it’ll be easier for you to customize your conversation to their needs.
It helps to have a unified sales interface for efficient sales prospecting where you can know about prospects' local time, past engagement insights, social media activities, and company’s Crunchbase updates to find any relevant news about the company - anything that stands out that you can use in your favor.
2. Listen & Build Trust:
Start the conversation by asking some questions. Some examples of questions to start with are:
- What would make this call/meeting beneficial for you?
- How are you currently managing your processes?
- What’s working well with your current process?
- What’s not working with your current process?
- What are your goals?
Open-ended questions such as these will allow your prospect to do the talking right off the bat. These are some of the effective opened ended questions but your questions should revolve around what, how, why, where, etc.
You want them to present their issues. You shouldn’t go and point those out to them, because it may come across as you trying to speed up and guide the conversation.
The point is to let them speak and listen to them. You can let them know you are listening by taking notes and giving verbal and nonverbal cues.
As the trust grows, your prospect will reveal more information about business goals, current and past issues, and so on. And you will use this information to close the deal.
3. Ask More Questions:
Once you have established trust, you can ask more specific questions about the kind of solution your prospects need.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions you may think you have the answers to.
For example, even though you may be able to pinpoint an issue they are facing through your research, it’s important to ask them directly about their pain points because they will provide you with detailed information.
Some questions you can ask to get a better understanding of their business struggles are:
- What are some of the specific things stopping you from reaching your objectives?
- What worked best with your previous/current solutions?
- How would changing this process make your job easier?
- What are your concerns about making a change?
Let feedback guide the process. Throughout your conversation continue to ask relevant questions and build on questions you have already asked.
4. Provide Best Solution:
After hearing your prospect out and understanding their business needs, it’s time for you to advise them on how to move forward. Present the best possible solutions and steps to resolve their issues. One of the key things to remember when presenting the solution is that it should not be like educating them or advising because you are talking to someone who has been living in that job day in and out and they might know more than you so make them feel you are presenting the possible solutions that would best fit their needs.
- You can present your product as a solution.
- When bringing up your product, position it in terms of the needs they discussed with you.
- They’ll likely ask a lot of questions at this point, so continue to listen and answer any questions that arise.
- If they have objections to your product, be prepared to disarm them.
Some common objections include:
- Price objections
- Requests to “just send over information”
- “I’ll think about it”
None of these objections are deal-breakers. Just make sure you are one step ahead of them and equipped with the skills to counter these objections
If your product is not a good fit for them suggest another solution.
And remember: If the deal doesn’t end with a close, it doesn’t mean you wasted time. In the process, you gained a good reputation and have a high likelihood of being recommended by your prospect to people who need your product.
To close, you want to keep the same tone you used throughout the conversation. Remember, the point of consultative selling is to build a relationship. Closing is the added benefit, and it comes easily once you have established trust between you and your prospect.
If you start acting pushy at this point in the conversation, your prospect will lose trust in you, and you may miss out on the deal.
Closing is a process, so don’t worry if it doesn’t happen all at once. Most deals take many follow-ups to close.
Following-up with your clients is incredibly important, especially in consultative sales.
For one, 80% of deals require at least 5 follow-ups to close. Secondly, consultative selling is a collaborative process. It’s important that you stay in contact with your prospect, and not ghost them after your conversation.
- Immediately after your meeting, you should send your first follow-up via email. This way, you can provide them with any additional information they asked for and they have another way to contact you. In this email, you can also ask what their preferred method of contact is.
- If they don’t respond to your follow-up, contact them again in a few days, and again the next week. Make sure that in your follow-up communication you contact them for a specific reason beyond just “checking-in.”
- If you did close the deal, you should call to see how the solution is working for them, and if there is anything else they need. That’s how long-lasting sales relationships are built.
After following up if you understand they are happy with your product, ask for referrals.
Top Consultative Selling Skills
It helps to have a child-like curiosity. Start with asking yourself these basic questions:
- Who?: Who are you going to talk to? Who are the decision-makers?
- What?: What does their business do? What might they need from you?
- Why?: Why do they need your solution?
- How?: How do they make decisions? How can you help them?
By getting answers to these questions, you will get a much better understanding of who your prospect is and what you can do for them. Overall, you want to come off as unscripted and genuinely curious about the issues they are facing.
2. Active Listening:
If you’re not actively listening, then being (or acting) curious, will be virtually impossible.
As a salesperson, you may be naturally inclined to take hold of the conversation. However, in consultative selling, active listening is more important than talking. You need to listen to truly connect with your prospects and understand their pain points.
The difference between active listening and passive listening is that when you listen actively, you are taking in what your prospect is saying and truly trying to understand them to offer the best possible solution.
For example, if you ask the question, “What do you want to achieve?” give them time to respond.
Listen to their goals, and answer in a way that is helpful to their situation, even if the solution does not involve your product or service.
3. Balancing Questions:
Consultative selling will involve asking your prospect a lot of questions, but you also want to make sure to balance the questions you ask with the insight you provide. If you only ask questions, it will make the conversation feel more like an interrogation.
When discussing your solution with your prospect, you want to put it in the context of how it helped customers with similar pain points. This way, you show that you are not just offering your product as a solution because it will benefit you, but because it has benefited people in the same situation. Also, make sure there is a strike of balance on the questions you ask.
4. Leading the conversation with a plan:
A direct approach that starts the conversation with a clear direction helps sales professionals gain an early indication of the buyer’s expectations. If the intended path is divergent from the buyer’s goals for the conversation, the sales professional can adjust accordingly.
5. Leveraging insights through questioning:
Asking progressively smarter questions helps the buyer connect the dots with a line that traces to the best solution.
Insightful questions get to the core issues fast and allow the sales professional to float ideas. Inviting the buyer to think differently about solutions can be made less threatening when the concepts are presented as questions.
Advantages of Consultative Selling
Adopting a consultative sales approach comes with a domino effect of benefits. By building trusting client-salesperson relationships, your prospects will speak highly of you and your business and recommend you to other prospects.
The consultative sales process creates a win-win situation. On the prospect’s side, they receive improved customer service, wider.
Consultative selling results in closing a higher percentage of high-priced sales. This makes sense when you take into account that 50% of every buying decision is driven by emotion.
In general, those who use a consultative sales technique see increased customer retention rates, increased loyalty, and increased sales numbers.
Sales professionals who genuinely embrace the practice of consultative selling experience many benefits, including:
- Increased revenue from improving close ratios for new customers and expanding business with existing ones
- Access to new and larger opportunities within current accounts from surfacing unrecognized needs
- Shortened sales cycle length from driving momentum and building buyer confidence to commit
Who Can Benefit from this Technique?
People who work in B2B inside sales can benefit the most from using the consultative selling technique. As more organizations embrace remote selling, reps are going to depend a lot on virtual calls and meetings. Building trust will become far more important over the phone.
Regardless of the industry you work in, all B2B salespeople can benefit immensely from consultative sales. Some examples of companies that can benefit the most include:
- Companies that sell tech and are typically thought of as trying to push as many people through the sales pipeline. These industries can gain a better reputation by focusing more on relationship building with prospects.
- Companies that are selling products that are value-focused and not feature-focused.
- Companies in a highly competitive market where one of the only distinguishing factors between their competitors is the level of service
- B2B companies selling SaaS products
Whether you decide to fully adopt consultative selling, or just bring some of the components into your mix, there are countless benefits to building trusting relationships in sales.