As we are onboarding some interns with a sales-focused role in a few weeks, we kicked off discussions about what sales and marketing are all about. For people new to sales, it can be a bit confusing and there remains a range of perceptions about sales and the value of sales – from “used car salesman” analogies, to the highly professional sales leader.
There are many personal attributes of effective solution sales that are rooted in the DNA of the individual – like empathy, patience, intelligence, listening, questioning, sense of humor, ability to articulate ideas, being likable. This post is focused more on consultative solution sales – selling a complex, often intangible, product or service to discerning buyers and often, complex organizations. Solution sales requires an approach centered on the client or customer. This sounds obvious, but is often forgotten.
Trends are changing the role of sales.
- Buyers are using the web, mobile and social to self educate and they are often far more knowledgeable by the time they engage with sales
- There is a bigger role for marketing now because the web plays a much bigger role in the sales value chain including inbound lead generation
- Leading companies are aligning the processes of marketing and sales end-to-end recognizing the importance of a collaborative effort
While inbound is increasingly important, there is still a critical role for outbound prospecting and sales. More leads are generated from inbound marketing with valued content and lead gen tools, but sales must qualify and manage these leads while also developing prospects using more traditional outbound strategies.
Your standard product may be not be the solution I need.
I had some recent experiences on the receiving side of sales efforts that give me pause. One example – culminating just last week – is the salesperson that offered me deal after deal and deeper and deeper discounts for his services. He had no idea what our needs were. He did not realize that we had 80% of the services he offered already in place. He offered generic value propositions and benefits statements that had no relevance to our needs – and frankly were insulting as we are in the business of what he sells and are well aware of the ‘benefits’. A simple consultative process with QUESTIONS would have allowed him to understand what we are all about and what we may need to shape an effective solution and tailored value proposition.
It is not a good idea to insult your customer.
In another example, an inside sales person used their generic pitch and value statements and followed up with an email – “don’t you want bigger clients – are you satisfied serving just small clients”. She did not understand that we have a broad based strategy to engage large and small business clients as part of our explicit business strategy in one of our industry verticals. By not asking questions, and understanding our business model at even a basic level, she ended up turning me off and insulting us by using a generic pitch that did not apply. The underlying message could have been adjusted – based on the core value proposition – and I would have had a positive response.
So what are some attributes of Consultative Sales?
Customers don’t need a salesperson to place an order. A consultative salesperson or solution sales person understands the customer’s business, guides the customer to define their problem or opportunity and works with them to formulate an effective solution. Rather than just promoting an existing product, the salesperson focuses on the customer’s pain(s) and addresses the issue with product and service offerings. The solution that addresses a business need or “pain point” constitutes a solution.
Here are some of the attributes professional consultative sales people develop. Here are some attributes – some are foundational, others more specific to the consultative approach.
Understand, respect and embrace the role of sales
- Build new relationships
- Help clients decide and buy
- Ensure product/ solution fit for client and company
- Negotiate an effective solution.
Develop and consider your personal attributes
- People buy from people they know, like and trust
- Don’t forget to build rapport
- Be empathetic and a good listener
- Different styles of people require different styles of engagement
- Success requires a high level of both activities and competencies.
Understand the revenue operating model at your company
- Identify the buyers, what do they want and value
- Understand products and services and their general propositions (keeping in mind that the individual customer has their own value equation)
- Understand how our products and services differentiate vs competition
- Be clear on the common language for the sales pipeline, the stages of the sales life cycle, difference between a lead and an an opportunity
- Understand the what defines a Marketing qualified (MQL), sales qualified (SQL) and sales accepted lead (SAL)
- Learn how to score and qualify leads and opportunities (e.g. using BANT or SCOTSMAN)
- Learn to use the systems that are in place – CRM and Marketing Automation.
Manage the buy-sell process
- Target the right prospects customers
- Research prospects prior to contacting them – but don’t plan forever
- Use customer intelligence e.g social media and other tools
- Use approved marketing and sales assets at each stage of the buying process
- Manage the numbers – prospecting – telesales, 1:1 emails at a sufficient level
- Use SPIN (r) questioning techniques or similar methods to understand and develop the prospects areas of need / potential need
- Clearly understand the customer’s buying process
- Qualify the deal often and early – Is there a compelling event? try BANT and SCOTSMAN. Know when to move to nurture
- Develop specific sales strategies for major opportunities (Flank, Direct, etc.)
- Create a solution aligned with customer’s problem(s)
- Articulate your proposal using persuasive messaging and SCQA
- Effectively/consistently sell business benefits
- Develop account strategies and plans for major clients and opportunities
- Forecast accurately.
If you would like to discuss consultative solution sales in more depth or explore how your organization can enhance and align your sales approach, contact us at Revenue Architects. Good luck and good consultative solution selling!