All businesses share a fundamental goal: finding buyers for their products and services. In today’s dynamic marketplace, where competition is fierce and noise is abundant, it’s crucial to differentiate yourself and connect with prospects on a deeper level. This is where consultative selling comes into play—a powerful approach that goes beyond traditional sales techniques. By building trust, understanding prospects’ unique needs, and delivering exceptional value, you can transform your sales process into a genuine partnership.
In this article inspired by a chapter from Opposite The Crowd, a book co-authored with my father, Alan, we’ll explore the evolution of selling, the essence of consultative selling done right, and how you can incorporate these principles into your business to achieve remarkable results.
Many factors come into play with how companies do business. The history of business, global competition, automation and technology have caused distinct phases of selling.
As products were first mass produced, sales looked an awful lot like pushing. The more people I ask, the more people will buy – it was simply a numbers game. But, buyers soon wised up to this practice. And today, buyers are more apt than ever to throw whatever salespeople are selling into the proverbial “spam” folder. It’s more challenging than ever to cut through the noise.
In response, “pull selling” rose in popularity. Pull selling highlights features and their benefits to consumers. Whenever I teach this concept the comical and sensationalized infomercials that air at 2 a.m. always come to the top of mind. Can a dishrag really be that much better than any other? Can it really soak up a gallon of water at once? I’m a skeptic. Is pull selling better than push selling? Yes. But consumers are wiser than ever.
As buyers became more discerning, a new approach emerged—consultative selling.
Consultative selling goes beyond simply presenting products and features. It’s about becoming a trusted advisor who deeply understands the prospect’s challenges and offers tailored solutions.
However, a crucial hurdle emerged—prospects were wary of salespeople asking probing questions without establishing a genuine relationship. To overcome this, consultative selling must transform into a service function, embodying authenticity and transparency. It’s not about pushing for a sale; it’s about demonstrating value and earning the right to engage with prospects.
Good consultative sales must become a service function, in a real and authentic way. And no, this isn’t as simple as changing the term from sales to customer service.
So, what exactly does consultative selling done the right way look like then? Or, at least, what is the Burkhard way of doing consultative selling?
To succeed in consultative selling, we follow the Burkhard Way—a proven framework that combines strategy, empathy, and value creation. Let’s dive into its key components:
– Provide value up front: After speaking with a prospect, we come back with a business summary and solutions that are directly aligned with their specific issues. Our summary has real value, too. We’ll give our prospect everything we learned, which may even be more than they’ve realized about their own company. After, we aren’t pushy about the prospect deciding to work with us. They could even take our solutions and discuss them with another agency or partner.
– Your company must work on its story. Prospects need to like and believe in who you are and what you do.
– Work to change customer perception. One of our main goals in our customer-driven culture is to change customer perception. We don’t do this by pushing our services, not taking the time to learn a prospect’s true problems or by providing cookie cutter solutions. To be truly consultative, we need to operate authentically and put our prospect’s needs first, even if that doesn’t result in a sale at the end of the day.
– Truly learn your prospect’s business. Every business is different, the key is to learn a prospective business and have that experience to apply what you know and what you do as a business.
– Be consultative not transactional. Consultative selling is not for transactional selling purposes. Simple transactions can be handled the Amazon way, frictionless and easy. Consultative selling solves complex business problems.
The bottom line? You need to earn the right to make a sale. By building trust, offering tailored solutions, and exceeding expectations, you can create a lasting impact in a crowded marketplace. Embrace the power of consultative selling, and become the trusted advisor your prospects seek. Remember, it’s not about selling ducks—it’s about earning the right, delivering value, and building relationships that stand the test of time.
Until next time, friends.
If you enjoyed this article, I recommend reading these past Outside Insights posts:
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