Below I have detailed how I use consultative techniques to build relationships, sales and discover new products that lead to industry trends. My experience has proven this to be the best way to develop trust, credibility and results.
This is my business philosophy and I have presented it at National Sales Meetings as a sales and marketing training tool. It is all about earning the trust of the customer by creating success for them. People deal with those they like and trust. It is a simple concept but requires a psychological expertise that only experience can teach. Once learned, it is absolutely deadly to competition.
PREMISE & STRATEGY It is imperative in these competitive times to be able to set yourself above the pack as not just a vendor, but as a trusted partner and business consultant. People buy (long term) from those that they trust, respect and like. To build that kind of relationship you must do everything in your power to prove that you are there to ensure your customer’s success.
Consultative selling is something most have heard of. It is simply a “softer sell” approach that centers on identifying needs and getting the buyer to agree to that need and your solution. Any buyer can sense a pitch and is going to be wary of it, no matter how “soft” it is. This system differs in that you are functioning as a pure consultant to the client, partnering with them to develop trust and create success on their terms. It fosters a rock solid relationship between you and the customer. If the solution to their need does not exist with your company, go to corporate to create it. Show the customer that you are there to serve their needs, not yours. Trust me, if you do this the payoffs are well worth it.
Create Trust You must take a true consultative approach and concentrate on uncovering needs, providing solutions and adding value to your customer’s business through your relationship with them. This means taking a seat on their side of the desk, seeing things through their eyes and partnering with them to develop a long-term growth plan. Treat their business as if it were your own. If you say you will follow up on something, do so promptly. Email thank you notes after appointments. Earn their trust and respect.
Ask probing questions and listen proactively because needs are often implied rather than expressed. Your customer will be very pleased and surprised when you identify an unspoken need because you listened with an intuitive ear. They will wonder why other vendors aren’t as insightful. As you begin to work on solutions together, they will see the value you bring to them and their business. Then the magic happens, you break into their “trust zone”.
Become the “Value Proposition” They may even try to buy from you at this point. If the product really suits their needs, fine. If not, discourage that action and explain why. This is your opportunity to earn everlasting trust and respect. Think of their perception of that action. A salesman discouraging a sale? There could only be one reason for that, the guy is the real deal. He is truly here to help me. You have just earned trust. Never betray it. Don’t be in a hurry to sell things. Instead, sell yourself and the value you bring to the relationship. Become the value proposition to the customer.
Now you have real credibility. You have earned their trust and they are comfortable with your counsel. You did not start off by trying to sell product, you sold yourself. You partnered with them, identifying needs and providing solutions to help their business grow. Closing now becomes welcomed advice from a trusted consultant and friend. They are anxious for your recommendations. What a difference! By putting the relationship before the sale, you have guaranteed the sale. In all probability, you have also created a customer for life.
The beauty of this approach is that it is win/win. It is low key, consultative, provides solutions and adds value (you) to the customer. It enables a solid foundation of trust, credibility and creates a long-term relationship that pays big dividends. You are now much more than a vendor. You are a trusted and valued business partner.
While the system is relatively simple to apply to any account, as with many things, one cannot judge a book by its cover. It requires a subtle psychology that only experience can teach. For instance, you must know when to listen and when to talk, when to be aggressive and when to be laid back. These are the nuances that can make or break the “connection” with the buyer. However, once mastered, it provides you with many advantages over the competition.
The Benefits Some of the important benefits of the system are that you now can stop by most accounts unannounced and be welcomed. You have access to free focus group studies. You have an inside track to competitive and important marketing information. It also creates a hedge against competition. You have earned your way into the “inner circle” with top management of the account.
The Value of Asking, “What If”…… You are now a trusted consultant and business partner, the value proposition to the account……the reason they do business with your company rather than with a multitude of competitors. Now begins the real payoff. Asking, “What if”………… Because of the stature you now hold with the account, you will surely get some very enlightening information as a result of asking that question. It puts you in the perfect position to conduct focus group studies about ideas you may have about improving business, new products, etc. For instance, you have a very big customer who is very influential in the industry. You have a great idea for a new product/program. You ask, “John, what if we were to do this or that, would that be something you could use? Share your thoughts and suggestions”.
Given your relationship, “John” is going to be more than happy to let you know what he thinks of your idea and share some of his own. This is the whole point of developing the relationship to such a high level of trust. “John” will see that you are trying to find ways to create success for him and be appreciative of that. Your bond is now that much closer.
Of most importance, within these answers lie the key to new products, programs and industry trends. So simple, yet so effective. Do this with every customer and you cannot go wrong.
SUMMARY I have proven its effectiveness on many occasions, given presentations about it at National Sales Meetings and used it to train both direct and indirect sales personnel. This approach works for all customers, large and small, regardless of the product involved. It is classic, old school and deadly to the competition.
James Laliberte – Director of Sales & Marketing – Liberty Marketing – (916) 346-4571
Innovation, creativity and finding new solutions to old problems are my strengths. These solutions not only address the present, but are designed to evolve and set the stage for future growth. The goal is to create a steady stream of fresh product/sales strategies that align with corporate objectives, maximize revenues and keep competition off balance.
Using this strategy in tandem with consultative techniques, I have been responsible for products and programs that had industry-wide effect and created very profitable new platforms for growth. I am confident in my ability to achieve similar results for any company.