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. 

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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. 

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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.
3 Sales Tips to get response from C-suite executives
Getting a meeting from a C-suite executive of a mid or large corporation is one of the most daunting task for a sales person. This is because unlike other prospects who are in the lower hierarchy of an organization where sales person can pitch in multiple times and try out different ways to approach the prospect, with a C-suite executive, the sales person stands just one shot.


That's the reason why sales professionals should have a fool proof strategy while approaching a C-suite executive while trying to get him for a sales meeting.

Here are 3 tips from my experience which can help you get a reply from CXOs while trying to get their response for a sales meeting:



1. Try asking for a referral within the organization.

Most of the time, top level executives especially CEO, CMO, CFO or COO would be involved with multiple internal tasks that they would hardly get any time for an external sales person which is you. Even if they find your short sales pitch to be interesting, they would hardly have bandwidth for a meeting. This is the reason they would try to defer it. But most of the time, CXOs would be ready to delegate it to their Subordinates or Executive Assistants. 

A few of the executives would refer you to another person in their organization on their own, but not the case with everyone until you ask them for that. So, next time you send a cold email, try asking them for a referral in their organization whom you can talk for discovery interviews or sales meetings.



2. KISS - Keep It Short & Simple

Almost every CXO of an organization is a busy person hardly having any time even for self. During these moments, if you get a chance to talk to him on phone, don't waste his time asking long discovery questions which you can ask others within the same organization. Try to keep your talk short, crisp and to the point instead of trying to blabber round and round about a concept just to gain his attention. Instead of getting his attention, chances are there that you would lose his interest which is lethal in sales.

Hence, the next time you get to talk to a C level executive, try presenting key benefits for him which you can offer via your products, instead of asking him his 5 year vision of his organization and asking generic time consuming questions as to what are their challenges. Ideally you should ask these questions, only if you have a longer meeting planned with the executive especially for discovery interview.



3. Follow Up

Following up is the key to sales success. But it takes a key precedence if you are trying to sell to busy C-suite executives. Often CXOs would be travelling a lot, meeting people around the world. This means he would stay away from his base office often. Chances are there that in his run up to catch up his own work, he would forget about your last meeting. This necessitates that you follow up with the executive by cut-off date before any competitor pitch in and grab the deal.

So, the next time you finish off a meeting with an executive, make sure you ask him when he shall be available for a next meeting and make sure to add that date to your CRM so that it can remind you for another meet up.


I hope you enjoyed reading the post. Do let me know your thoughts on this.

Why newbies should focus on Vertical Selling instead of Horizontal Selling
Are you a Newbie just delving into your Sales Career?
or
Are you a Sales Manager looking for assigning a territory to a newbie in your team?

or
Are you a Newbie startup looking to start with Selling your Product or Solution?


If answer to any of these questions is "Yes", 
Then you should focus on Vertical Selling instead of Horizontal Selling!


Surprised? In this post, I would tell you why is that so!


7 Must Have Data Fields in your Sales Deal Tracker
While dealing with multiple activities associated with a sales process like Prospecting, Suspecting, Meeting, Closing, etc, you might have came across a situation where you have a lot of sales deals in your pipeline. A few of these deals would be in its initial stages while a few would be somewhere in the middle of the sales process which is just about to complete. 

SPANCO - 6 Stages of a Sales Cycle for Successful Selling
Hey Fellas,

I was just going through my last year's Sales training workshop notes and just came across the term SPANCO. Being in Sales, you might be hearing this term often. But in case you haven't yet heard about this, Don't worry, we have got you covered!

Go ahead! let's check out SPANCO! Cheers!

SPANCO


SPANCO is an abbreviation of 6 stages of a typical sales cycle which usually occurs during every sales process. This framework was given to the sales community by Xerox. Even though the stages of Sales Cycle in each industry would differ but the basic framework for most of the sales process would typically fit within SPANCO, with minor differences in the case of businesses dealing with specialised products & related consulting.

SPANCO stands for:
S - Suspect
P - Prospect
A - Approach
N - Negotiate
C - Close
O - Order

Let's go through each stage in detail...

Stage 1: SUSPECT

In this stage, a list of leads are idenfied who are suspected to be potential customers. But at this stage of Sales Cycle, it is not confirmed whether they are interested to buy the product offered by the Salesperson or not. It is just a list of leads which has been gathered from multiple sources like Directories, Mail Opt-in lists, Networking platforms, Referrals, etc



Stage 2: PROSPECT

During this stage, a few prospects are identified out of the huge list of Suspects. These prospects are the potential customers who express their interest during the previous Suspecting stage. For. E.g. Consider that you are selling Softwares to a B2B firm. You have been cold calling every lead you had during Suspecting Stage. Let us suppose, out of 100 calls made, 20 leads were found to be interested and would like to meet further. Then those 20 leads are said to be your Prospects.

Recommended Reading: What is Sales Prospecting?


Stage 3: APPROACH

During this stage, you go on to meet the clients identified during the Prospecting stage. This meeting can happen either Virtually using phone & video calls or Physically by meeting in person. In this stage, the sales person tries to identify the client's requirements, analyze them, perform lead qualification and based on that, tries to present a solution from their  offerings. This happens over several days with multiple meetings each for Need Identification, Sales Presentations, etc.



Stage 4: NEGOTIATE

This is one of the most crucial stage of the sales cycle since this can either make or break sales deal. This stage would decide whether the client would buy from you or not. This stage involves negotiation with the clients on the pricing aspect of the deal and its associated terms & conditions. During this stage, you should demonstrate the value of your product to be more than what the customer is going to pay. This is usually done using many techniques like "Balance Sheet Comparison method" for comparing the pricing with respect to your competitor; "TCO" method, wherein you tend to explain the Total Cost of Ownership of your product over a given time period to the client and explain how it would benefit more than the cost he would pay at present.



Stage 5: CLOSE


At this point of sales cycle, the Client would agree to the terms & conditions of the deal or contract. The Deal would be considered to be "Close", when the customer would sign on the contract and would complete all the necessary formalities for issuing a purchase order to you.



Stage 6: ORDER


This is the last stage of the sales cycle, wherein the Client would issue the purchase order and Order fulfilment is done. Once a Purchase Order (PO) is issued, the salesperson has to hand over the PO to the concerned Operations Department or Fulfilment or Delivery Team which would carry it forward. The client's responsibility is transferred to the Delivery Team. This marks the end of the sales cycle for that particular deal.


Moreover, this does not ends here. Successful Sales teams go beyond these stages and maintain a better customer relationship even after the "Order" stage of the sales process. Maintaining a long term relationship with the client equips the sales team with Upsell and Cross-sell opportunity, thus increasing the Customer Life Time Value (CLTV) of that particular client. This is extremely important considering the fact that:
Acquiring a New Client is 10x times more expensive than Retaining them
I hope this article helped you gain a good insight into the various stages of a sales process...

Stay tuned for more such posts to help you boost your Sales!


Looking for Sales CRM to organize your sales? Try Toolsoncloud CRM, Its Free.
SPIN Selling method to accelerate your Sales towards Closure
If you have been doing B2B Sales, then SPIN selling must be a familiar term for you. If it is not, then its high time you adopt SPIN selling methodology within your sales process.

SPIN Selling is a sales methodology practiced globally by many major corporates for their Enterprise Sales. This methodology comes from the infamous book titled "SPIN Selling" by Neil Rackham which was developed from the studies done over 35,000 Sales calls over many years.