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Consultative Selling is Getting Customers Back in the Conversation

We live in a noisy world. Every medium competes for our attention with a constant flow of messages. For this reason, it has become more difficult for sellers to reach the customer’s “frequency.” Gallup reports that “71% of B2B customers are indifferent or actively disengaged.” This disconnect may, in part, explain why 60% of sales opportunities end in no decision according to SiriusDecisions.

This disengagement is driving customers towards building their own solutions without guidance from sellers or the consultative process they offer. These increasing challenges have the effect of narrowing the pinch in the hourglass; fewer buyers are getting to the other side to close the sale.

However, effective sellers are refocusing on ways to get the customer back into the conversation. They’re taking this disengagement and increasing competition as a cue to improve.
Here’s what they’re doing:

Prepare More Thoroughly

Successful sellers are going deeper in their preparation. They understand that their time with the buyer will be limited. Therefore, they leverage their resources, both internally and externally, to understand the customer before the first meeting. This approach enables the seller to keep interactions concise and meaningful. Why is this important? Research from McKinsey shows that “too much contact” is the most frequently cited “destructive” behavior to a buyer. Prioritize your questions. Assume you’ll only get the chance to ask a few. This strategy will force you to consolidate your researched insights to only the most valuable. Too often sellers give in to the tendency to show the customer how much prep work they’ve completed. This leads to a deluge of data overwhelming the customer and making further conversation labored. Only relevant information matters.

Create a Dialogue to Foster Openness

Customers have become guarded. Encourage them to open up by offering insights. Simply put: you must give to get. This is where better preparation, discussed above, comes into play. Sellers earn credibility when they share ideas that are relevant to the customer’s business. Avoid generalizations that exhibit only surface-level knowledge. Customers have more respect for an informed seller. With respect comes dialogue and willingness to share. Once the customer starts sharing use the opportunity to ask your prepared questions.

Seek Incremental Commitment

Effective sellers elicit periodic feedback from customers. This practice helps gauge how connected the customer is to the conversation while determining if the seller is on the right track. Checking in with the customer reveals if the seller has offered any ideas that are incongruous to the customer’s perspective. These details become important when positioning a solution later. Finally, seeking feedback effectively asks for the sale in pieces rather than all at once. This gradual buy-in alleviates the pressure of a big ask at the end of the process.

Move the Ball Forward

Create decisive momentum by ending every conversation with a clearly defined follow up. This approach helps build a cadence that ensuring that the conversation will continue. As sales opportunities become more complex involving more stakeholders, it’s likely that there will be more follow ups as decision-makers seek clarity on a variety of points.

Deliver on Commitments

The initial dialogue is a way for the customer to “try on” the relationship with the seller. In this early stage, the customer is not only seeking the seller’s insights, but also the seller’s dependability. When a buyer sees a seller’s actions as consistent with what they say, they establish Knowledge-based Trust. This is a critical outcome according to an independent study commissioned by SAP. Respondents revealed “trust” as the most crucial factor when purchasing products. Remember, the frequency of follow ups is not as important as their quality. That is, make sure every outreach to the customer offers value.

The game of selling is harder than ever. Winning the sale means reinvigorating efforts. Sellers are no longer simply competing with other sellers. Technology, increased stakeholders, and the status quo all block the path to the sale.

Reach further. Download the full report, “Elevate Your Consultative Selling Approach to Compete Today,” from the Richardson website.

How have you applied a consultative selling approach? Leave a comment and let us know.

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