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With businesses relying on their digital links to the outside world to stay operational, responsive and competitive, and more choice of connectivity services than ever, resellers need to focus on the needs of individual customers.

Stephen Barclay, Head of Sales

Stephen Barclay, Head of Sales

Any good sales person will tell you selling is mostly about listening and applying common sense to help the customer solve their problem. Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple. Every customer has a different story to tell and their own particular challenges. Every customer wants to be treated as a special case.

These truisms are becoming more pronounced in today’s market. Customers are faced with what must seem a bewildering array of connectivity options. They’re bombarded with messages about superfast broadband, EFM, GEA and many other kinds of service. All most of them want though is a reliable connection with the bandwidth, availability and performance they need to run their business efficiently.

They won’t want to select one of these services at random and just hope they’ve got it right though. They’ll want to make an informed choice, or follow a clear and well-articulated recommendation. That’s why resellers need to take a more consultative approach to selling.

At Entanet we’ve always offered support to partners throughout the sales lifecycle. It’s usually when a more measured and methodical approach is required that our assistance is called upon, so we’ve got a good deal of experience in consultative selling.

Understand the opportunity
It’s vital to listen to and understand your customer’s issue, but also identify the opportunity it presents them. If their current connection is unreliable, switching to one that’s more dependable can make them more productive and efficient, saving money; or to deliver a better service to customers.

Focus on business objectives
What’s the customer trying to do – attain a particular goal for sales, customer numbers or market share? Are they looking to move into new markets? Consider why connectivity matters in this context and the role it will play. In most cases, questioning what kind of connection they need from this angle will change the dynamics of the discussion, enabling the customer to see why connectivity matters to their business and which specific aspects – bandwidth, flexibility, availability, quality – are the most important.

Join the dots
Make the connection in the customer’s mind between their objectives and how better connectivity will help them achieve them. If the business needs to constantly monitor sales in retail outlets or changes in market pricing; provide remote access for employees or partners; or use cloud-based applications – all of these needs will influence the choice of connectivity.

Keep asking questions
It’s often surprising what you can learn about the customer’s real needs if you keep asking them what’s really important to them in terms of their ultimate goals and the everyday tasks they perform. Asking ‘what if’ can be useful too; what if you couldn’t send or receive emails for two days? What if your mobile workers couldn’t access centrally held information quickly or on time? What if your broadband connection speed was to fall to half its normal speed for a couple of hours every day? What if your disk system crashed and you hadn’t run a backup fully the day before?

Tailor your response
Address the specific issues and challenges that you’ve identified in as much detail as you can. Explain how your proposal addresses each problem.

Qualify the opportunity
Identifying the customer’s needs is a pre-requisite to everything else but you do also need to know who the key decision makers are. There’s no point selling to the IT manager if the MD or FD makes the decision. You also need to check on their budget and timescales, although both can change during a consultative process. It’s a good idea to have a formalised qualification framework, or at least a checklist you can go though when you first open up a dialogue with a prospective customer.

Propose the most appropriate service
Explain why it’s the most appropriate service for their current and future needs. Identify clearly how the service meets requirements and will help them move towards their objectives.

Do your homework
If you know a reasonable amount about the business to begin with it will help you focus in on the opportunity and identify the potential faster. It will also help to make the right impression with the customer.

Draw on your expertise
If you can’t answer a question, ask the experts. Your supplier should be able to help you address more detailed or complex requirements and usage scenarios.

Get trained
The more knowledge you have of how different connectivity options work, the more confident you’ll be in talking to customers about the different options.

Learn positive usage scenarios
It’s particularly useful to be able to talk to customers about the positive impact that specific connectivity services can have on a business. Drawing on usage scenarios will help the customer understand how a particular service could work for them.

Close out the deal professionally
Set out the proposition clearly and show how the service meets the customer’s needs and benefit them in business terms. Ask if that’s what they’re looking for and if there are other points they need to address (be prepared to deal with any issues they raise at this stage).

In the end, consultative selling is all about listening and responding. It’s identifying what the customer wants before offering the most appropriate service, rather than laying out the options and asking them to pick one. Connectivity is so vital and they need to get it right. They need help to do that – take the right approach and you can provide the help they need and become their trusted supplier.

Have your say!

Do you agree with our approach to selling with care? Or do you have a different style that you find more successful? We’d love to know your thoughts, so please leave us a comment below.

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