Harvard Business Review recently published an article about What B2B Customers Really Expect. Customers ranked Subject Matter and Solution Expertise first. However, in order for salespeople to demonstrate those attributes, they must possess exceptional Consultative Selling skills in order to ask the questions that identify issues, challenges, consequences and ultimately, the real problems, and not merely the symptoms. Only then can a proper solution be recommended.
On the other side of the coin, the article points out that vendors rank Consultative Selling skills dead last on the list of what they recruit for. Confusing the issue even further are these statistics from Objective Management Group. On average, salespeople have only 22% of the attributes required to be effective at selling consultatively.
People get confused about Consultative Selling so to clarify, it's the ability to actively listen and ask good, tough, timely questions, to identify the problems that must be solved. When salespeople are selling consultatively, they can move up the ladder from vendor, to partner, to trusted advisor. When they master it and consistently achieve trusted advisor status, they can also sell higher up in the organization.
While I am pointing to other articles, Dave Stein, CEO of ES Research, wrote a fantastic article about what to beware of when choosing a sales training company. I agree with every word he wrote!