Consultative Selling

Why is it that some people excel in selling products or services while others, who work just as hard, never meet sales goals?  In my opinion, one area distinguishes progress makers: top sellers skillfully diagnose and solve problems better and quicker than the rest.

Because of the critical importance of sales in any business, a cornucopia of resources to help salespeople improve selling skills are available. But regardless of the sophistication of those resources, many of the workshops, manuals, “how-to-sell” books, and interactive videos, all miss the point because they don’t address basic problem-solving.

The problem-solver’s approach to selling is different from the rest. A problem solver realizes that only part of the sales process is to understand features, benefits, and technical aspects of the product line. A great sales rep also has taken the time to be trained and stay up-to-date on the latest offerings. But most importantly they recognize the clients’ pains, not driving their own products which may not solve the client’s pain.

The problem-solving approach to selling, known as consultative selling, is somewhat analogous to the work of a physician. Prescribing a cure without first asking questions to diagnose the patient’s problem makes malpractice. Similarly, offering products or services in sales to “cure” business problems without first asking in-depth questions about the needs and concerns of the company makes for poor selling. Like a good physician, the problem-solving salesperson probes for information and conducts a thorough exam about current problems before prescribing a remedy.

In the same way, the salesperson’s thorough analysis makes a prospective buyer more comfortable with the suggested products or services to solve their larger issues. Effective questioning that involves understanding needs, feelings, and attitudes helps the consultative salesperson develop a complete understanding of the buyer’s situation and builds client confidence in the salesperson’s recommendations.

Adding value

The salesperson serves as a resource to his prospect, suggesting possible solutions that have been adapted to buyer pain points. The enlightened representative using this approach considers the prospect’s total needs and then evaluates which products or services may match their needs. Only then does he use his prospects and his own valuable time to evaluate the perceived solution to matching needs.

The difference between product-oriented selling and consultative selling is the difference between sales and marketing. Traditionally, sales asks, “What do I have to sell?” while marketing asks, “What does the client want to buy?” Marketing, like consultative selling, focuses on the market’s needs, beginning with an understanding of client demographics, realities, needs, and values.

But consultative selling takes marketing a step further, because very often the product a prospect buys (and wants!) is not what he originally thought he wanted. The time a consultative salesperson spends analyzing needs and preferences by asking open, in-depth questions and carefully evaluating answers assists the buyer in clarifying his own needs.

Best practices

Research has determined that, although effective selling techniques may vary slightly from one business to the next, there are many skills shared by top salespeople. The most successful salespeople:

  • Are not “fast talkers” but rather good listeners
  • Never present products or services until they learn client objectives, needs, and problems
  • Begin sales calls by engaging prospective customers in dialog
  • Present only those product features and benefits relevant to client problems or concerns, and dismiss features or benefits irrelevant to the client
  • Close not only after it’s clear that their product or service meets the client’s needs, but also after the customer has said they have no more issues to discuss relative to the purchase
  • Treat client resistance as a series of concerns, questions, or misunderstandings to be clarified and answered, not as objections to overcome
  • Consider every completed sale as the beginning of a long-term relationship, not as an ending, even when subsequent purchases are not imminent
  • Strive to develop beyond being a sales agent, becoming instead a sustaining resource to the client, thus gaining referrals and building a reputation in the community

The above list describes the behaviors and techniques of the consultative salesperson, the problem-solver. Problem-solving capability translates into repeat business, new business, and additional markets.

The Human Side of Quality Service

An important human aspect of a quality program is the way that you personally interact with your clients.  In other words, what impressions do we make on them through our attitude, appearance, speech and responsiveness.  We must always keep in mind that our individual efforts to provide quality client support is very important.  Also everyone should be aware that a client’s perception of quality may be based solely on a personal daily contact we have with them.

With that in mind, the following guidance is something to be reminded of every day to make the best impression possible with our clients

  1.   Look your best – Take pride in your appearance and dress appropriately.
  2. Be friendly – A client will be much more receptive to an up0beat person who is polite and suitably friendly
  3. Show Enthusiasm – Always try to convey a positive image.  A client does not want to hear your problems or deep sighs when he/she is working.
  4. Be prepared – always have a notebook, pen and background material readily available.
  5. Anticipate client needs – Try to be one step ahead of your client
  6. Be available – pay frequent visits to you clients office
  7. Always pay attention – Be an active listener, have positive body language and be accessible.  Return all calls promptly
  8. Be a team player – Use the expertise of your co-workers, share information, always have someone else check your work and never talk negatively about your co-workers or your client.
  9. Do it now – make a client’s request your number one priority and do whatever it takes to get the job done.  Make sure that you do exactly what the client tells (that’s why you should carry a notebook and pen!)
  10. Always do your best!

Want a solid forecast, Create Demand!

Last week I wrote a blog for CompTIA titled “Eliminate the Fly By Business Plan”.  In that blog I describe the syndrome that most organizations face without a proper plan for success.  This week we look at another syndrome of demand generation!

Each week sales teams attend a status meeting where management exercises each member for a status on accounts.  The reps do everything they can to justify their existence.  The meetings are typically not productive since they rehash what has already been provided in the past.  These meetings typically set a negative tone for the week and reps avoid management or their cell phone rings with caller ID that says “RUN”!  Management teams need to get focused on why sales are down and what is keeping the organization from moving forward.

Well let’s start with something simple – demand and lead generation processes.  Owners expect that when they hire a rep, that rep brings a book of business and that will suffice – It won’t!  Reps will exhaust their book and will need help keeping their pipeline full of new prospects.  This is where the organization needs to internally generate demand facilitating new opportunity.

So how is that done?  First, a Sales and Marketing S.W.O.T. to understand where your organization has market specificity and success.  After you determine your strengths evaluate the weakness, most likely what will be revealed is that there is no plan targeting the market that you have had the greatest success?

Developing a plan can be easy if you have the resources to help you engage with vendors, distributors and most importantly your own team.  Your team is full of great Ideas on how to gain interest, build brand, and deliver on client satisfaction as well as demand generation activities.  As a business owner, you must decide on a course and lead the team to the goals.  Provide each member of the team a role in the plan allowing them to have vesture in the success.

So find a way to turn your existence meeting into a truly strategic event each week.  Find balance between putting your rep on trial and helping them with demand generation.  Watch how your team perks up as you gain ground with a plan to help them keep their pipeline full!  After all they are sales people and if they are generating revenue, they are generating commissions.  Do you know a sales person that doesn’t like commissions?

Are you getting my message….MAKE A PLAN!

What does “I Do” really mean in partnering?

Today many people know these common words when they make a commitment to each other in marriage, but do they truly mean it. The same holds true when Solution Providers marry their organization to a major OEM. Do we really understand the “give and take” that is required to be a good match, the work that is required on both sides to ensure success.

Too many times Solution Providers are eager to take the benefit but not engage properly. This lack of partner sales with no commitment to train technical and sales people becomes a factor on how the relationship progresses. OEM’s are patient, just like a good spouse, willing to work through details that are not clear – but in the end, the SP must step up to the plate and represent the relationship properly.

As the economy continues to rebound OEM partners want to engage with Solution Partners.  The OEM’s have cut their resources just like the rest of industry and are looking for a few good partners that will go deeper in the relationship to have joint marketing, sales calls showing strength between their brand and the local SP resource.

So will you say “I Do” to your partners and engage or will you continue on a path that provides no benefit to your organization. Only your team can control the destiny of partnering with OEM’s. Commitment counts and like any marriage pays great dividends – what are you waiting for, this counseling session is over!

Innovation replicated?

Several years ago I had the distinct pleasure of going to the Computer Hall of Fame and witness so many great innovations from the early days of computing to the present.  During my visit, I was able to listen to the great minds speaking on innovation – Guys like Steve Wosniak (Apple), Dan Bricklin (VisiCalc) and several other innovators that shaped the industry.

This week we got a look at Apple’s latest introduction, the iPad.  Surely this is not the same innovation that Steve Wosniak envisioned when he shrunk the 5 1/4″ floppy down to the 3 1/2″!  I remember how he described working  in the dark basement under one of those bench lamps that has a magnifier with a light around it.  Steve Jobs kept encouraging him to keep going and Apple innovation began – A new form factor computer with a miniaturized floppy!  Truly a highlight in my career being one of a limited few to witness this induction!

Flash forward to the iPod Touch and iPhone, truly a market mover/disruptor in the handheld digital market!

Now we have the overgrown iPod touch – the iPad!  Take the iPod Touch, stretch it with a bigger screen and shazam you have an iPad!  Makes one wonder how we keep replicating and changing the form factor to compete for where we believe the market is moving.  Will the iPad  erode sales of other readers like the Kindle, will it find a home in education?  What effect will it have on NetBook’s and Tablet computing……..oh thats right the iSlate is almost here!

You have to hand it to Apple, they are the masters at marketing and form factor – Innovation Replicated!




I attended a recent event where the head of Fortune 500 company commented that they hire on trustworthiness and integrity. Pete Busam comes to mind with those two words as well and having technical and leadership skills. It’s a pleasure to have worked with Pete in the past. He is a bonus to any organization he works with.

- Teresa Varela-Lauper – CompTIA

One of the best IT Industry exec’s I knew. Pete is a dynamic individual who has both a keen intellect and superb instincts for the buisness. I regularly went to Pete to bounce ideas off of and always received thoughtful and insightful feedback. Few people in the industry net out a situation as fast and accurately as Pete. In addition, he builds longlasting relationships and is well connected in the industry. Net net is Pete’s a winner.

- Kevin Gilroy, Executive Vice President – Samsung Electronics

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