By Tom Hennigan
As a salesperson, how can you become a more effective consultant? To begin with, make it your goal to offer each prospect the feedback, guidance and solutions that are best suited for his or her business model.
What separates a salesperson from a consultant is that a consultant's first priority is to overcome initial objections by using good listening skills to build rapport and establish a relationship that is based on trust.
If you are meeting someone for the first time over the phone or in person, do your best to gain an understanding of why the prospective buyer is in business. Don't worry about what you are going to sell. The prospect will reveal his or her real needs during the consulting process.
Early in my career, I sold residential fencing. One day I was asked to take along a new hire and report back to our vice president. We headed to the coffee shop to discuss what lay ahead of us. I asked him about his family, his kids and what type of work he had done previously. He answered each question in 10 words or less.
As we approached our first home, I did the bid and signed the agreement. On the next stop, I turned over the reins to him.
Here are the questions I asked following his first sales call: "Did you find out anything about the prospect? When you call next week, will he remember who you are or just the name of the company you work for?"
Needless to say, he could remember nothing about the prospective buyer. He also realized his physical and verbal presentation left prospects with little or nothing to remember him by. We summarized briefly what he could do next time to enhance his approach.
On our third call, I proceeded with the presentation while he measured the yard. I did not write down anything, but I did manage to speak at length with the prospective buyer about such things as sports, the prospect's children, neighborhood safety issues and which neighbors may or may not be ready for a new fence.
While the new hire was going over the proposal with this interested prospect, he somehow missed his closing line of asking the prospect when she would like to schedule their fencing installation. As a commissioned employee, I naturally jumped in and offered to get the new customer on our very busy schedule. Signed!
We went back to the truck, and I reinforced what he could do to break down the salesperson barrier. I tried talking about sports, activities, family, anything I could think of that would get this new hire excited. Nothing seemed to inspire him.
On to the fourth sales call we went. This time I stopped the truck in front of the house and asked the new hire what he saw. He replied, "A house, a car, a bike." Wanting to break through once and for all, I told him something that I always fall back on when I am going through a cold streak.
"Don't sell your product," I said. "Prove to the prospect that you are just like them and that you can be trusted. Offer a statement of fact, and then back it up with information and action. If you tell somebody that you will call them on Tuesday at 9 a.m., do exactly that."
As we approached the front door of the final house for the day, I once more asked him to observe what he saw. Again, he could see nothing out of the ordinary. I directed his attention to the bumper and window stickers on the car, which indicated that this household had children who played soccer and lacrosse.
There were toys in the side yard and a doghouse. I advised him to talk about these topics and not about the fence. He did just that and signed his first deal.
On the drive home, I told him to buy a newspaper and read it from cover to cover before work the next day. It would give him the confidence needed to discuss current events with prospects, thus letting them know he was just like them.
I knew it would be a gradual process, but I also knew that the more time he spent conferring with prospective buyers, the more capable he'd become of advising them properly.
When you think about it, consulting is a gateway that allows you to forge long-lasting relationships. It's integral to the sales cycle. In my years of experience as a sales consultant, I've found that when I offer the right solution at the right moment, people are willing to cement their relationships with me.
Understanding the intrinsic needs of your prospective buyers affords you the opportunity to gear your product offerings in a way that benefits clients for the long term.
Tom Hennigan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 800-776-1450. For more information about Retail Cloud, a leading retail management solution company that coined the term MSIB (more stuff in the bag), visit www.retailcloud.com.
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