Moving From Product Selling to Consultative Selling

Article #1.  Read this first before moving to Article #2
Going From Product Selling to Consultative Selling
In this post I will begin to outline what it takes to move from product selling to a more consultative approach.

Taking a Consultative Approach
A consultative selling approach is about how you sell a solution.   This is really about how you provide service to the decision-maker once you understand there is a need or a problem you can help the decision-maker solve.

Let's first define "solution." If a client has a problem or a need, your recommendation is the solution. Let's not overly complicate anything at this stage.  I realize this might be a little simplistic, but for now let's leave it a that.

This goes for providing a person (called contract staffing) to providing a specific piece of hardware or software or a combination of all of these.

Solutions become more complex as one adds more of these (people, hardware, and software) to meet the client needs. As you add more of these component, by the very nature of adding more, the more customization is taking place.  The complexity of the solution has variables including not only price, but also time to purchase (decision-making time), number of people in the decision-making process, the time to implement the solution, the number of staff required to implement the solution, number of hardware and software components, the Measurable Business Results (cost saving, revenue generation), and the risk (what if something goes wrong, how hard is it to fix)?

Transition From Product Selling to Consultative Selling - Three Attributes
In order to make the transition (in some cases it would be a transformation) from a product-centered sales person to a consultative-oriented sales person there are essentially three key core attributes that need to be developed.

These three core attributes will affect the seller's relationship with the decision-maker in terms of what is sold, the type of relationship that get cultivated with the decision-maker, with the value that is received and perceived in the relationship from the decision-maker's viewpoint.

This transition will also affect future purchases by the customer and how he or she interacts with the seller's company as well as the seller.  The net result is that the purchase will be made more on the sales process rather than on the product itself.  The selling is based on how the seller manages the sales process and helps lead the customer to a decision.

By using the sales process, there are many benefits. One that I will jump right into is that the customer moves to a more loyalty based decision. That is future purchases will become more preferentially- based, rather than shopping around.  The process becomes a buying/decision-making experience. It become "experiential" much like some commodity companies have packaged their commodity goods.  In this case think Starbuck's.  You are not just buying the coffee, you are buying the experience as well. From the music they play, to the greeters, to the ability to sit and plug-in your laptop to coffee variations. 

Here the relationship moves from customer - someone buying a one-time product based on price - to a client - someone buying because they feel the seller has their best interests at heart and will protect them from failing.  Note the words "protect them from failing" which may seem pretty strong, but I assure you they are not.

Three Relationship Attribute Changes - An Overview
Here are the three attributes of the changing relationship with the client from product to consultative;

  1. Increased Personalization of the Relationship. Product sales are based on the performance and price of the product only. Consultative selling is based on the performance of the seller during the decision making process and the seller's ability to control or at least influence and participate in the steps of the process.
  2. Increased Decision Maker Participation in the Relationship.  The word that comes up is collaboration.  When the seller just provides the specs and the price of the product and walks away - this is the old model of selling.  And the customer has expended a minimal amount of time in the process before getting a solution.  But in a consultative approach, the more participation from the decision-maker(s), the better informed the seller is about what the decision-maker is looking for and the decision-maker is buying into the end solution that is being proposed.
  3. Increased Professionalism of the Relationship.  Product sales are based on the older traditional model buyer-seller relationship.  This is where the buyer is on the opposite side of the table.  And "all buyers are liars" adversarial point of view.  The newer more is the client sees the seller as a consultant, and the seller sees the consultant as looking out for his best interests and protection.  The word that comes up - is trust.
Will will explore these three attributes in greater detail in the next upcoming posts.

1 comment:

Sanya saxena said...

Great article - my first visit on your blog, hope to see more upcoming posts ;) Consultative Selling Training


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