It is mystery why so many direct sales people are still attempting to sell complex products and services in a non-consultative way. Consultative selling is simply a process of knowing what the implied and expressed needs and wants of clients before making a recommendation. This is generally achieved through asking relevant and informed questions.
Research, surveys and experience that tell us consultative sellers are more successful. This simply means that those salespeople who know and respond to their customer’s business, pain points and business model make more sales and earn more commissions.
A good example of how this works was illustrated by a recent experience we had. We worked with a client within the graphic communications market helping them put together a large and complex RFP. All the potential suppliers had an equal chance to gain information and ask questions.
There were six suppliers who responded. All the potential suppliers generated extensive proposals and made multiple sales calls. The cost of sales in time and expenses was large for each of the suppliers,
Below are my observations on the sales process for this RFP
- The supplier who won was already in the account selling prior to the RFP
- The lowest cost solution did not win
- Three of the suppliers demonstrated little or no knowledge of what the customer really required. It was all about price, product and features
- One of the losers based on my sales and industry experience really had the best solution but did not position it in a way that linked it to the customer’s business requirements
- Three of the respondents could of saved a lot of money, time and resources by not responding because they did a very poor selling job
- With one exception, supplier senior sales management and executives were not actively involved in the face to face sales meeting. Given the size of the opportunity, this was the biggest surprise to me.
The key message for me was that the difference in this RFP had less to do with the solution and cost and much to do about the quality, training and knowledge of the sales team.