5 Step process for Consultative Selling

 In my previous post, I wrote about Consultative Selling fundamentals. In this post, let us discuss more on this topic and try to understand the steps behind Consultative selling so that any beginner can practice the art of consultative selling in an organized way.

Here are the 5 steps you need to follow in order to practice Consultative Selling:



1. Understand your Customer Background:

  • Regularly try to connect with your customer. Regular meeting ensures you get to learn more about your customer, the way they work, their work environment, the processes within their organizations, etc.
  • This shall help you provide more contextual solution later.


2. Listen:

  • Listening is one of the critical sales skills. Instead of speaking more about your products, you need to patiently listen to your customer. 
  • Patiently listen to your customer's pain points, the problems which he is trying to solve.
  • Listen to them in detail.


3. Ask Questions:
 

  • In order to know more, you need to ask more questions, probe the customer with different sales probing questions.
  • This shall help you know more about the various purchase processes within their organization, the probable budget of the customer for the requirement, the timeline which your customer is looking forward to close the purchase, the urgency of the requirement, the stakeholders and decision makers involved with the purchase.


4. Provide Free Solutions:
  • An important component of Consultative selling is providing free solutions. Keep providing your expertise and expert advices for free. Keep giving solutions to your client for their problems. Along with your solutions, you may be able to weave around your sales offerings where your products and services can add best value to Client.
  • Sometimes, you may realize the best solution to the client's problem may not require your products. In those cases, do not hesitate to provide the same solution. A working solution suggested with honesty builds Client trust on you. This trust is something which helps you win deals over salesy presentations in the long run.


5. Regular Follow-up:
  • In sales, regular follow-up helps you boost your deal win rates drastically. Many deals were lost, because the sales person didn't follow up with the Client to know if they needed any additional information or action to close the deal. Most of those deals were won by competitor vendors whose sales reps did a timely follow up.
  • Always follow up on time to know if there is any additional action pending. Try to understand what is stopping them for confirming the deal. Many a times, this follow up helps you clear out some easy obstacles to pluck the low hanging fruity deals. 
I hope you liked reading this post. Do let me know your thoughts. 

Looking for a Sales CRM to track your B2B Sales Deals? Try Toolsoncloud CRM Today. 

What is Consultative Selling?

In B2B Sales, One of the often heard approach of sales is Consultative selling or Solutions selling. In this post, let us discover what exactly is Consultative selling.

What is Consultative Selling:

Consultative selling or also known as solution selling is an approach where Salespersons engage their Prospects in a different way compared to conventional transaction based sales. In this approach, sales reps try to engage with customers more often like a Sales Advisor or like Solutioning consultant. 

In this approach, instead of trying to push sell the products which sales rep is selling, the representative tries to listen to the problems of customers in detail and try to weave around a solution to his problem in a more consultative way. In this process, he may identify where his products and services can add value in the solution stream and try to offer them to clients. In short, the representative tries to patiently listen to customer problems, understand their context in detail and try to offer them a solution for free. They try to meet the customers regularly to understand their context and situation in detail and try to offer a best fit solution.



This is a long term sales strategy. It may not give you results instantly, but slowly over a period of time you build trust by providing real value-add to your client. In this approach, you reap the benefits in long term with consistent sales later. In addition, customers slowly become your advocates and also help increase your sales by recommending you within their networks.

Consultative way of sales is not something very new in this world. Many front end sales staffs practice this approach unconsciously without being provided any explicit training on the same. 

Consider a situation, a customer visits an electronic shop to buy an oven. Customer had done some initial research about the products. Though he had decided the product at a particular price point, but he was not sure if it would meet his needs. Once he reached the store, he is greeted by the sales staff. On getting to know that customer is looking for an oven, the store representative asked, "May I know, what would you be using it for?". Customer replied by saying "He wants to use it for this family comprising of 6 members and is interested in baking cakes and cookies". Based on this context, the store representative suggested one product which suits customer needs better and was in fact lower priced than the one which the customer was planning to buy.

With this example you can understand that reps need to wear the shoes of customer and suggest a best solution to his problem which he is trying to solve. This may sometime mean that you may not get to sell high priced products. This is absolutely fine since you need to build trust with the customer and see them as a long term asset instead of trying to strike a single sales transaction. Push selling is not good for long run and customer never realizes the true value of those offerings since there was fundamental mismatch against his needs.

Suggested Reading: 5 Step process for Consultative Selling.

I hope you liked reading this post, do check out our other posts. 

Looking for a Sales CRM to organize your Sales Lead and Deal tracking? Try ToolsonCloud CRM, Its Free.

Tracking Deals with different Sales processes and sales teams
Often we find that, if an organization is involved in selling two or more different kind of products or product types, they would often come across situations where using excel to track the deals having two or more different sales processes becomes a lot complex or unmanageable in an Excel tracker or a conventional old school CRM.

What should you do?

This is one of the common problem in B2B sales and reason can be many:

  1. Probably the company sells to two or more different kind of clients wherein the sales processes or sales stages differ significantly.
  2. Probably the company sells two or more different kind of products which has sharp demarcation in the sales process for each of them.
  3. Or it might be based on the strategic interest of sales department to track the deals of different types separately to gauge the progress in a focused manner when sales team for different types of deals are different.

The solution to this problem is easily solved by using a professional sales management CRM software which comes with Pipeline Management features.



To explain more, the CRM which you choose to use should equip you with power to:

1. Create a New Pipeline

As a Sales Lead, This functionality shall enable you to create a new pipeline within your CRM, so that you get two or more separated deal tracker pipeline to manage your deals with clear demarcation in some or the other ways.

2. Create or Modify Sales Stages of Pipeline

If you follow a different sales process or sales status/stages for closing the deals in different pipelines, this functionality will give you the power to easily customize the sales stages in each pipeline so that whenever your sales executive adds a deal in a particular pipeline, it goes through the particular sales process which you have defined for that pipeline of deals.


What are the Benefits you get with this?

1. More control over the sales process of different types of deals with significantly different ways of closing the deal.

2. Complete control on the visibility of the Sales deals in one pipeline to another, you get to configure who was visibility and access to your pipeline A vs your pipeline B. Cases of two different sales team complexity gets resolved with deals with demarcated boundaries now getting focused attention from the respective assigned team.

Are you looking for a Sales CRM with complete Deal Pipeline control for your sales tracking? 
Complete CRM buying guide explained in 5 simple steps

If you are a Sales Manager having a team of Sales reps working under you. Very soon you would realize, you are unable to get any meaningful insights out of your Sales Deal tracker Excel sheet.

You might be already facing various problems like the below ones:

  1. You are unable to scale up your Sales Development efforts because your Sales Reps are required to do more clerical paperwork or data entry work in multiple excel trackers instead of focusing their time on pursuing sales leads. 
  2. When you are trying to scale up your Sales development operations, you feel like you are losing track of many things on your plate and unable to focus anywhere. Earlier when you used to hit 10 conversion per month, now even after scaling up with a target of 100, you are still struggling to make the old 10 conversion like earlier.

These are some of the visible signs, that you have reached a high time where you need to buy an effective CRM solution which can solve your team’s growing problems.

Step 1: Why are you buying? – Identify your team’s key pain point.

  • You need to investigate the pain points well before buying any readymade CRM solution in a hurry. 
  • Identify what is it that your team is facing challenge in:
  1. Some reps might be facing challenge that they are spending more than 1/3rd of their time on manual data entry related tasks and updating numerous trackers instead of getting time to speak to their leads.
  2. Some reps might be facing challenge that their work involves lot of travelling, due to which they are looking for some Mobile CRM like solution which they can quickly open on their smartphone and update the follow up work.
  3. Some reps might be facing challenge that due to increase in number of leads, they are unable to recall the important mail or telephonic conversation they had with the clients in order to make the next follow up call and tend to postpone talking to that lead thinking that they will search those details later and follow up.
  4. Reasons can be many, talk to them, find out and list it down.

Step 2: Identify a CRM solution which solve most of the problems of your team.
  • Never try to push fit a CRM to your team just for the sake of having a CRM. CRM should help your team, instead of your team helping the CRM to stay. Most of the time a misfit CRM is forced upon a team and it tend to become a failure, with the tool being left abandoned incurring lot of IT costs & wastage of license fees.
  • Based on the list of problems you identified in Step 1, go to the market and search for a CRM which solves all of the key problems faced by your team.



Step 3: Estimate your CRM Budget.
  • Most of the Sales Manager’s initially do not have any specific CRM Budget in mind. One of the reason behind this might be non-familiarity of CRM apps & their market pricing; and second reason is that they never gave a thought about the real perceived value of a CRM which suits their team.
  • In that case, you may need to do a budget estimation instead of directly going by the available prices in the market. Remember that, every organization is different and the best CRM which solves all your problem can cost you either zero dollars or may also cost 1000$ per license depending on the complexity of highly focused & customized service bundled in it. Hence instead of buying anything directly, estimate your budget first.
  • You may estimate your budget in the following ways:
  1. Estimate how much of team member’s time can be saved if a CRM is enabled for them.
  2. Relate the team member's time saved to the compensation they get for that amount of time. 
  3. Now that you have an estimate of money you lose every month on the salary which is not productively generating any revenue due to wasted hours, you may now decide how much to spend to make effective use of the salary spending to improve your revenue top line.
  4. Alternatively, instead of Staff Salary, you can also reference that time wasted in terms of the conversion they could have made during that time and the revenue that could have generated. That should give a more fair idea of how much your sales rep’s time is valued.
  • In addition to budget, you need to estimate your potential payout upon using a good CRM. This is usually the top line, the revenue which you tend to generate by saving the precious time of your sales rep and getting the right sales insight at the right time from the CRM solution.

Related Reading: Estimate your budget for buying a Sales CRM


Step 4: Take a trial

  • If the upfront entry cost of buying a CRM solution is high, you should never buy a software without ever actually trying it out for some days. If the entry level license cost is low, you may be able to take such risk of actually paying without any trial. However when stakes are high, you must insist for a trial.
  • While doing trial, ask for your team member’s real feedback instead of just doing couple of demo clicks on your own.
  • When you feel the tool is fit to solve your pain points and is good on pocket, you may go ahead with payment for paid license once your trial gets over.

Interested in trying out a CRM: Try out Toolsoncloud CRM, Its free


Step 5: Adoption

  • Your CRM initiative will fail if the actual user i.e. your Sales Team will not use it religiously.
  • A CRM is as good as the accuracy of the data it possess so that you can derive some insights out of it. A new tool may result in change in few processes for which team may show some amount of reluctance or lack of interest. However if your team doesn’t use the tool, the data provided by software may become outdated, incomplete or incorrect thus rendering your massive investment to become a failure.
  • Hence evangelize the CRM which you brought for your team. After all, you did so much of ground work before actually putting it in front of your team. Lead by example, if you use the tool religiously, so will be your followers and your subordinate. 



How to track Sales Deals Effectively
Hi, Hope you are doing great. In this post, I wanted to bring out a list of most important items to track for effective Sales Deal tracking.

To meet Sales Quota, Your Sales persons should follow a well defined sales process to efficiently close deals at the fastest pace possible. But very often even with a good sales process, teams might miss hitting targets. One of the obvious reason is lack of effective tracking. Sales Management is no less than Project Management and effective Project Management is all about timely tracking.

Let's us take a look at some of key things you should track to meet your sales targets always.


1. Age of the Deal.
If you have been keeping a deal open for long time, chances may arise wherein your client would have already found another vendor to get his job done. So try to quickly close the deals by doing regular weekly review of Age of open deals and take necessary corrective actions wherever possible.

2. Ratio of Open Deals in Sales funnel or pipeline
To stay sustainable in the business, you need to keep winning deals continuously month over month. This requires that you have a steady pipeline of deals flowing through each stage of your sales funnel. If you have got 10 deals in final winning stage, but no deals in previous stages like prospecting or demo or negotiation stage, it is highly likely that this month you may hit your sales quota, but the very next month you shall run out of leads to meet monthly quota. So every week, try to review that you are maintaining a steady ratio of prospective deals in the pipeline in each of the stages of the sales funnel. 

3. Deal win probability.
If you are using a good CRM, it would definitely tell you about the chances of winning that deal by providing a deal winning probability score. Always do a weekly or more frequent review of the deals with high winning probability and try to keep your sales persons actively engaged on those deals. Working with 80-20 rule does help you in meeting your sales targets which are necessary to enable your business to meet at least its operating expenses by trying to quickly grab the low hanging fruits.

4. Maintain notes of Customer Conversation regularly.
Educate your sales persons to make it a habit to key-in the summary or important points of their discussion with client onto the CRM, so that they don't have to keep running here and there searching for information in their diary pages, emails, ppts, old chat conversation just before calling the client for follow-up. This shall free up the sales executives' mind of clutter and help him focus on doing things that matter, i.e. Closing deals. Check for some parameters like "last updated date" for the deals so that you know your team is religiously making use of your CRM investment.


There are many other metrics to track, but for a starter Sales team, if you just religiously track above metrics, you would definitely reap the benefits in shortest possible time.

I hope you liked reading this post. Do share it among your networks if you found this useful.
Calculate your budget for buying a Sales CRM Software
Have you been lately trying to finalize a CRM software for your team but unable to figure out how much should you be spending for CRM?

As Businesses differ in size and type of deal value they deal in, It is complex for you to figure out the exact numeric estimate of how much of your allocated budget you must spend for taking up a CRM. Market is filled with CRM which charges from 9 USD per month per user to 500 USD per month per user based on the feature complexity of the Software and Value add provided by the service as per the needs of the Sales Team.

But How much should you as a Sales Manager be allocating your budget for CRM Implementation within your organization?

The answer is difficult and complex! 



But Let us try to find a simple solution to it.

Get an Estimate of Cost incurred by Sales Executive doing Non-revenue generating task:

  • Get an estimated figure of the amount you spend paying your Sales Executive's Annual Salary.
  • With that, try to find your hourly cost rate of your executives.
  • Guess the average amount of time each Sales team member spends in a day doing manual entry of his sales figures into an Excel file to be shared to his Manager or to Reporting analyst who will consolidate it further for the whole team. This could be roughly around 30 minutes a day out of 8 working hours of the resource.
  • Guess the average amount of time each Sales team member spends in a day trying to search or recall or figure out some of the past conversation history with some Client documented in some random email or document which is important for his follow up call. This could again be roughly around 30 minutes to 1 hour per day.
  • Sum up both the time.

Get an Estimate of Cost incurred by Reporting Analysts doing Non-revenue generating tasks:

  • Sales Reporting Analysts doing the task of Reporting and Measurement Analyst is redundant and detrimental for their career. Most of the time these resources are over burdened with the dirty work of following up with each sales executive and getting the sales figures, plugging it in spreadsheet application and drawing pivot tables, bar charts, pie charts, line chart etc and prepare a dashboard for the Senior Management. 
  • By the time Analysts complete this task for a particular week, the next week very soon arrives and his task keeps repeating week over week without an end. This is unproductive since Sales Analysts should be spending time trying to get important insights from Sales numbers which can help them beat revenue targets instead of trying to become a data gathering guy of the Sales Team.
  • Now get an estimated figure of the Salary you pay to your Sales Reporting Analyst annually.
  • Note: Do this step only if your team's sales analyst is involved with the above non-revenue generating activities. If your Sales Analyst is involved with other productive work, you may skip this step, or try to find the hours spent by him doing these non-productive tasks and get estimated Salary getting spend on that part.

Get the Total Estimate:

Total Yearly CRM Budget (Annual Salary of Sales Executive * (Total Time Spent per day doing Unproductive work/ 8 hours per day) *  Total Number of Sales Executives in team) (Annual Salary of Reporting Analysts * Total Number of Reporting Analysts in your team)


The above amount would be the yearly estimate of how much should you be spending on your CRM which is going waste in the Salary of resources doing non-revenue generating tasks.

How much should you be spending monthly per sales staff?

CRM Budget per User per Month = Total Yearly CRM Budget / (12 Months * Total Number of Sales Executives) 

This figure would give you a rough estimate of how much should you be ideally spending per team member on a CRM.

Let me know your thoughts on this.
What is Topline and Bottomline in Sales?
Hey friends, If you recently took up a role in Sales, then you would have frequently heard the two terms Topline and Bottomline from your executive level bosses. If you want know what are those, you have come to the right place.

These two Business Jargons have simpler meaning than they appear to be. Let me tell you what do they mean.

In any business, while you are doing sales, you would make revenue by selling something. Obviously, Once you sell the products or services, you cannot keep the whole revenue with yourself or organization. Major chunk of that revenue goes towards meeting the cost of making the product, income taxes, hr and administration costs involved in managing staff, etc. After deducting all these operating expenses and taxes, what we are left with is the net profit or net income which we can keep which belongs to shareholders and if they wish to, can be invested further into the business.

In this case, the revenue which you generate on making sales is called Topline and the net profit or net income which you generated after deducting all operating expenses and taxes from the revenue is what is known as Bottomline.

Whenever business executives discuss their financials, they monitor these two numbers very closely. Increasing Topline is one of the priority for them to increase the organization growth. However, with this they cannot ignore Bottomline growth because, if they are not left with enough cash after selling products and services, the business cannot survive for long and is not sustainable for long. 

Hence both the metrics should be monitored together since both go hand in hand for a sustainable growth of business.
3 Traits of Successful Sales Managers
Often you would observe the best salesperson when promoted to Sales Manager would sometimes fail to become a good at it and sometimes you might also find few instances where an average sales person went on to become a good Sales Manager.

Why is that so?

This is because of certain fundamental differences in the work performed by Sales Person and Sales Manager. The former is a individual contributor role while the later is the management role where the sales manager has to take the whole team into picture and think of every team member's growth in order to achieve the sales targets of the whole sales team.

Leading Sales teams towards team goals



Let us look at 3 key traits every Sales Manager should possess to be super successful in his profession.

1. He looks at the bigger picture instead of focusing on a few team members.

Often Sales Manager's tend to focus on a few top performing sales persons for achieving the team's sales quota rather than working with all the team members. This behavior usually leads to unhappiness among the other team members, who would start feeling alienated. This impacts their performance and ultimately makes it difficult for sales managers to achieve team's goals with a handful of top performers. Top performers should be given preference in giving costly and big deals, but it shouldn't become the case that a sales manager start becoming over dependent on those team members to cover his complete team's quota.


2. Sales Manager should mentor and guide the newer folks.

The Manager should not look only at the short term picture where his only goal is to extract out revenue from his folks. Often sales team would have a range of members with varied sales experience each having his own strengths and weakness. The Manager should identify those gaps and try to mentor the team members and help them overcome their shortcomings which in turn would help the team achieve revenue targets. This would also help boost self esteem of the team member and hence he would like to work within your organization for longer rather than planning for a job switch.


3. He should be a team contributor instead of Individual contributor.

Third and most important as I already wrote in the beginning, an individual contributor sales person is not a good fit for becoming a sales manager. This is where I mentioned if a top performer sales person is given a responsibility of becoming a sales manager, he should also start working with the whole team for their development in addition to his own individual performance in sales closures. Individual contributor should start empathizing with other folks and work with them to achieve the whole team's sales quota. If this is not the case, then manager would sometime get frustrated and would think that he himself can complete the quota alone rather than guiding the team members. This would ultimately lead to disaster because the ultimate purpose of sales management is actually to manage bigger sales teams, not doing everything alone. Sales Manager's job is to focus on bigger things rather than doing the sale himself.

Hope you would have liked this post. Do comment your opinions and let me know.
3 Price Negotiation Mistakes every Salesperson should avoid
Often, Salespersons tend to make mistakes during their Sales Negotiation conversations and tend to lose out on the sales wondering what exactly happened. The lead which they have been following up for many month now is lost just at the last phase of the sales cycle at the time of Sales Negotiation. These are the 3 expensive mistakes which every sales person should avoid at the time of negotiation.


1. Price Negotiation on High Cost Products


Avoid negotiation with Customers for reducing the price of high cost products. Always try to negotiate with customers only for the low cost products having a high perceived value in the minds of the customers. If you reduce the price of High Cost Products, then customers would expect that every time they buy from you. This is detrimental for your business growth since you would find it difficult to run your business on thin margin for a prolonged period of time.


2. Not knowing the Urgency for Customers


As a Salesperson, you would stand good at negotiating position if you are aware of the extent of urgency of the customer who wants to buy from you. If they are having less time and the purchase of the product you are selling is urgent for them, then you stand a better chance. In this kind of situation, you have more chances to crack the sales deal with lesser amount of negotiation with the customer. This is because since customer doesn’t have much time to search for another vendor, they would happily agree with your price. 


3. Starting Negotiation without understanding the needs of the customer



You should never start sales negotiation at the start of the sales cycle even without understanding the needs of the customer in the discovery phases of the sales cycle. The more questions you ask to your customer during the Need Discovery phases of the sales cycle, the more information you will get on the needs and requirements of the customers. This will help you set the expectations of the customers and would help you negotiate better. The more you know about the expectations of the client, the more you would be able to point out those facts during your sales negotiation conversations and hence customers would be willing to pay a higher price if their expectations are met.

What is RFI, RFP and RFQ in B2B Sales
Often, Sales Professionals in B2B Direct Sales would come across these 3 important sales terminologies.

1. RFI
2. RFP
3. RFQ



In this post, Let’s go through each of these sales terms.

1. RFI

RFI is the first step in B2B purchase step. This acronym stands for “Request for Information”. As the name suggests, the client who is looking for purchasing a solution is looking for some information from the vendors. Usually, Purchaser would float a “Request for Information” from the available vendors when it is new in that particular product’s market. For. e.g. A company might be looking for a solution for improving sales productivity but might be lacking much information in that area or domain. So they would seek RFI from multiple vendors seeking information on the available solutions and problems those solutions can tackle.


2. RFP

RFP is ideally the next step after RFI. This acronym stands for “Request for Proposal”. In this step, the client who is looking for purchasing a solution floats a RFP from vendors asking them to propose for a solution to the problems of the vendor. In this, the purchaser usually mentions specific problems which it is facing and would like to have an answer or solution to those specific problems. For E.g. A company might be looking for CRM solution, but it might be specifically interested in solving its problem of managing customer contacts. In that case, the buyer would be specifically interested in getting proposal for vendors for solving the problem of managing or organizing customer contacts. In this step, sometimes buyer also expects a high level overview of the cost for the proposed solution from the vendor. 


3. RFQ

RFQ is ideally the next step after RFP provided the purchaser doesn’t mix it up in the RFP stage. RFQ stands for “Request for Quotation”. If the purchaser had not asked for detailed costs for each solution item in RFP stage, then they would float a request for quotation asking the vendors to provide detailed cost structure for their proposed solution. Sometimes, purchasers who are directly looking for a list of goods with certain predefined specifications instead of solutions provided by the vendors would directly jump to RFQ stage without even floating any RFP. In this case they are looking for commodity type of goods with industry standard specification rather than looking for any consulting support from vendor on these.


I hope you found the explanation of these 3 terms to be useful. Do comment below and let me know your thoughts.