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Why should your company take a consultative approach to sales? When is it most effective? When should you consider another approach? Before we go into the details of the consultative approach, let’s talk for a minute about sales methodologies. A sales methodology is the way that you execute your sales process. Putting it simply, your sales process maps out the steps you need to take to earn a customer’s business, while your methodology is the strategy or approach you use to get there. Some methodologies focus on a certain stage of the sales process. Others are about the strategies you use to convince a customer that you have the right solution for them. A methodology that proves successful for one company might not work at all for another, even if both are in the same industry, are selling the same type of product or service, or are targeting the same customer base.
One of the most straightforward sales methodologies is called solution selling. This is the shortest of the methodologies, as it involves only the first part of the sales funnel. A customer comes to your sales team already aware of the problem and the probable solution. Your team only has to assist them with selecting the right product. This methodology focuses less on what product the customer needs and more on why it’s the best solution for them. It allows your team to not only sell a particular product, but to position themselves as experts who understand the customer’s needs and can help them find a solution. Because of this, the customer is likely to return when they need to find solutions for other problems.
The problem with solution selling is that customers are more savvy than they used to be. Since there’s so much information available online these days, they don’t need as much help with understanding their problem and finding a solution. That’s why many companies have adopted consultative selling.
According to recent research from Salesforce, 84% of businesses say they are more likely to buy from sales reps who understand their goals. However, more than half of those businesses believe that the majority of sales reps don’t have a firm grasp on what they are trying to accomplish. That provides a golden opportunity for companies that are adept at consultative selling. What’s the meaning of a consultative approach? This sales methodology is about establishing a long-term relationship with a customer. Sales reps take the time to research a company and figure out their pain points. By the time they sit down for a meeting with the customer, they already know as much as they can about their problems and the potential solutions. The questions they ask at the meeting prove to the customer that they understand what they need.
Sales methodologies come and go, but the consultative approach has stood the test of time. But like any methodology, consultative selling requires training so that your sales rep and your entire go-to-market team understands what it’s all about. Winning By Design provides sales teams with strategy, consulting, and coaching programs to help them master consultative selling and other sales methodologies. The leader in accelerating and optimizing recurring revenue for B2B organizations, Winning by Design provides the best tools for all of your go-to-market teams.
Consultative Approach to Problem Solving
The classic example of the consultative approach is the person who’s in the market for a new car. The salesperson at the dealership could ask what kind of car they’re looking for and direct them to a model that would be a fine option, or they could ask them a series of questions — How often do you drive? How many passengers do you usually have? What’s your daily commute like? — to better understand which car on the lot would best satisfy their needs. Because the salesperson is using their expertise to help guide a customer’s decision, they are using a consultative approach to sales.
It’s not hard to apply these same principles to an office setting. Suppose that you are on the sales team of a company that makes a suite of onboarding tools. If you were using solution selling, you’d listen to a customer as they talk about what they are looking for and suggest one of your software products. But with consultative selling, you’d dig deeper. You’d ask probing questions about their process — How do you currently onboard new team members? What’s the hardest part of your onboarding process? How does it impact your company? — in order to understand their pain points. When you can diagnose their problem and come up with a solution, you’ve proven that you’re an expert that they can trust with their business.
That’s where Winning by Design comes in. Our award-winning Revenue Academy offers interactive training sessions, expert instructors, best-in-class frameworks, and detailed blueprints for every step along the sales journey. More than 600 companies — from small and medium sized businesses to Fortune 500 corporations — take advantage of our expertise in sales methodologies and all other parts of the sales process.
Because it is so versatile, the consultative approach to problem solving is applicable to more than just sales. It’s a common decision-making process. When we talk about a consultative process in the workplace, we are referring to how a manager asks for inputs from their team when they are faced with a difficult issue. The manager still makes the ultimate decision, but only after their team weighs in. This process is also known as “decision by authority after consultation.”
Consultative Approach Management
When it comes to employee engagement, a recent poll from Gallup revealed that the quality of managers makes a difference 70% of the time. That’s why many leaders choose a consultative approach to management. This more collaborative style of management has been shown to increase employee engagement and build team cohesion. It also reduces turnover when employees feel like they are an important part of the team. Those who use a consultative individual leadership style serve as mentors to their team, helping them reach consensus on issues that are important to the company. This differs from a persuasive management style in which a leader spends more of their time explaining to their team why certain decisions were made.
A consultative management style is often seen as an advantage in technology and other industries where the leadership may not possess all the skills necessary to make every decision. Examples of a consultative management style would include a software company where a manager lacks engineering skills. That person would probably consult with the IT team on the best timeline to roll out a new product. On a sales team, a leader who has only worked with enterprise-level customers would speak with account managers before making a decision about small and medium sized businesses.
As with any management style, a consultative management style has advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, it increases employee engagement by ensuring that team members of all levels feel that they are part of the decision-making process. It improves the quality of the decisions made by managers because they have heard from multiple viewpoints, and it often sparks discussions about other improvements that can be made in the department. Among the disadvantages are the fact that it’s not a way to make quick decisions. It’s a time-consuming process because it often involves many different meetings.
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