I have been teaching and writing for years that buyer-focused selling (a consultative approach to sales) is the best approach for differentiating, adding and being the value, maintaining and increasing margins and winning a larger percentage of opportunities. These days, I am just one of many who are spreading this message. And even if we get through to only one leader at a time, we will eventually get most companies selling in a way that brings consistent results.
One of the challenges with a consultative approach is that while it is easier to close the sale, it is far more difficult to implement than the traditional, transactional approach that today makes it so much harder to get the sale closed. The question is why?
There are three reasons:
- In the previous paragraph, I wrote that the consultative approach is difficult for some salespeople to implement. I didn't write that it is difficult to learn. The primary reason that salespeople are able to learn it, yet be unable to implement it, is because of their ego. Consultative selling requires that salespeople ask a lot of questions - good, tough, timely questions. They might even know the answers to some of the questions they need to ask. Some salespeople worry that by asking all of these questions, they will appear dumb. The reality is that the better they listen, the more questions they ask, and the better the questions are, the smarter they will appear. In essence, it is dumb of them to worry that they will appear stupid!
- In #1 above, I mentioned listening skills. When salespeople can't wait to talk, present and demo, they don't listen very well. And when they aren't listening, the next question often won't be so obvious and therefore, isn't ever asked. If you want your salespeople to ask good, tough, timely questions, they must develop their listening skills even more than their questioning skills!
- Unfortunately, more than half (54%) of all salespeople have the hidden weakness of Need for Approval. They need people to like them and in some cases, love them. One of the symptoms of Need for Approval is that people with this weakness are unable to ask good, tough, timely questions because they are afraid that if they do, it will upset their prospect and jeopardize their chances of getting the business. Need for Approval takes quite some time to overcome and, that's only when sales managers know how to recognize it and help their salespeople overcome it. The only thing more detrimental to sales success than Need for Approval is #1, their ego.