Consultative Selling: The Questions to ask to avoid lowering your price
Sales miracles do occur. In 1995, I was brought into a distributor’s account where they were having equipment problems. I planned to begin the sales call by discussing a product that could solve their problem. As I suggested the product and before I could go into any detail, my customer said, “Send me some.” I made the sale without discussing my product! A sales miracle had just occurred and I had only waited almost twenty years for it. If you don’t have twenty years to wait for your sales miracles to occur, read on about consultative selling.
What customers buy. You can learn what problems exist at your customers by questioning and listening. Then you need to understand the features (what your product/service does) and benefits of what you sell ( what your product/service does for your customers.) Customers buy benefits, not features. If you are selling widgits, a feature is that your widgits are machined more precisely than your competitors’ widgits. Learn to think of your product in terms of translating features into benefits for your customers by adding “This means that…” to the feature statement. The benefit statement is “Our widgits are machined more precisely than our competition. This means that your reject ratios and production costs decrease when you buy our widgits.”
It is important in consultative selling to present your solution to your customers only after they understand the magnitude of their problem. I believe you should begin talking about your product only after your customer identifies 3 needs. Listen carefully for words such as ‘I would really like it if…, I want…,’ or ‘I need…’ which signify underlying needs.
It’s as simple as ABC… D. Consultative selling starts with what you know ABOUT (A) your customer. Rather than learn about your customer during the sales call, prepare before the meeting by reading their annual report or checking out their web site. Don’t waste your questions with acquiring basic information. A good opening question can allow your customer to talk comfortably about their business. The next step is to find out what’s BAD (B) at the account. When things are going well, customers see no need to change so a sale is less likely to occur. If something can be improved or better yet, needs to be improved, there is a higher probability of a sale. A question like “And is that working as well as you’d like?” on an area your customer mentioned can uncover the problem areas. Next develop CONSEQUENCES (C) of the bad situation. Figure out what the problems are costing your customers. If lack of performance skills is the problem, the consequences could be downtime, higher employee costs from turnover, lost sales or decreased customer satisfaction. The last step is DESIRE (D). You must make your proposed solution desirable so your customer feels a sense of urgency to implement it and buy from you. Desirability can be demonstrated by showing how the benefits from the solution far outweigh the costs to implement.
Buy low, sell high. Delivering a value-driven message rather than a product-driven message will be better received at higher levels in an organization. Given the choice of selling to a buyer, a Purchasing Manager, or a Plant Manager, always choose to sell at the highest management level. Remember, the higher you sell, the better prepared you must be with knowledge about your customer and the value of your solution. Your consultative selling strategy will be best received at the highest levels. At higher levels, the scope of management’s responsibilities allows them to see their company’s broader needs.
You may not get a sales miracle when you use consultative selling, but you will certainly shorten your sales cycle. When my sales miracle occurred I was dumbfounded that a customer would buy so quickly with so little effort on my part. I quickly recovered my composure and asked another question… “Mr. Customer, what else would you like to buy?”