Category Archives: Consultative Selling
As the “quiet Beatle” George Harrison sang, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” But if you have a destination, you need to plan your route. The same is true with sales account management. To keep your book of business growing smoothly while you focus on all of your other sales activities, you need to invest the time to plan properly.
I think about account management often because the subject comes up with every group of sales professionals in every training class, no matter what company they’re from. It was a big part of my 20-year sales career, and it should be part of every seller’s world. The reason it doesn’t get a lot of attention is because most companies are focused on driving new revenue and bringing new customers through the door.
Know What Business You’re Losing
What account management does is work to make sure the new customers coming in the front door are not slipping away out the back door. It is both an art and a science, as sales professionals strive to keep their existing accounts and ideally, grow them, while also adding new accounts. What I ask sales professionals is this:
“Do you know what the retention rate is in your territory?”
Too many give me deer-in-the-headlights looks as they confess:
“No, my company doesn’t share that information with me.”
To this, I reply:
“You should always know what » Continue Reading.
In case you missed it, last year marked a significant turn in the workforce. That was when millennials—those born between the early 1980s and late 1990s—became the largest segment of employees in the nation. This boom in the millennial generation in the workplace has a significant impact on organizations, both from a management perspective and a training perspective. That’s because millennials, as a whole, have quite different ideas about the meaning and purpose of work, work-life balance, and the integration of technology than previous generations.
Training the Millennial Generation in the Workplace
Millennials approach learning and training in different ways, and that has implications not only for continuing development, but on-boarding as well. Many millennials entering the workforce tend to be well educated, but not always in business-relevant ways. When they first came out of school, the job market was slow, and so many went back to school. Now they may have one or more degrees, but they don’t necessarily know how to apply their knowledge in a business environment. Or, what they learned is school is not applicable to the field where they’re now pursuing a career.
How to Engage ‘New Learners’
The question facing sales organizations today is: “How do you train and engage these ‘new learners,’” as we call them. Millennials grew up hardwired to technology, conducting most of their social life online, and multitasking along the way. They prefer collaboration and team-oriented projects.
They learn best » Continue Reading.
Rapport building in crucial, in fact, the most important advice for building rapport I can give is to make it as significant a part of the sales call as the Need Dialogue and Objection Resolution. This requires thorough preparation, and sales professionals need to acknowledge and embrace the opening element of rapport building. So, how can they do this?
Building Rapport Tip #1: Do your homework
Before any meeting, I do my research. I go to LinkedIn and Twitter and other social sites to look up the people I’m meeting with. I want to know what they’re interested in, what businesses they follow, what boards they sit on, what charities are important to them. This allows me to open with something connected to their interests.
“I know we want to get down to business, but before we start, I just want to commend you on your volunteer work with XYZ. I myself am on the board of ABC, so it sounds like we have a lot in common. I’d like to talk with you about that sometime.”
This kind of opener takes seconds and builds a bridge. The connection between our two volunteer endeavors is much more authentic than if I had commented on a fishing trophy hanging on the wall. Also, I haven’t taken too much time away from the meeting. My preparation allows rapport building to be shorter, more sincere, and more valuable » Continue Reading.
It seems to be a no-brainer that rapport building with customers is crucial for getting sales, however building rapport is a skill that many sales professionals struggle to master. But the reasons for doing so go well beyond any one sale or business engagement.
3 Reasons Rapport Building is Essential in Sales
The many reasons relationship and rapport building are essential include the following:
1) Rapport building is a critical step for any sales professional in earning the right to ask tough business questions in meetings and presentations. It is both difficult and awkward to ask tough questions if you haven’t earned the right to do so, and it’s hard to earn the right without some form of a relationship with the customer.
2) Consultative selling requires sales professionals to ask good, even penetrating, questions, and without the firm basis of an established relationship, these questions will never fly. If the customer thinks you’re asking questions just to get what you need to make a sale, it will be a short conversation indeed.
3) Rapport building is really about connecting. It’s about establishing a relationship. And the reason we, as sales professionals, do it is to set the stage for collaboration. We want to demonstrate our interest in win-win solutions, not win-lose. To do that, we have to empathize, show support, and acknowledge appropriately.
Rapport Building Helps You Earn the Right to » Continue Reading.
The ability to build rapport with others should be natural for sales professionals. It’s part human nature, part caring about customers, and a generous touch of sincere interest and curiosity.
Yet sales professionals often have a tough time establishing rapport. Even though they seem so sanguine and extroverted, they struggle with asking questions and probing gently about their customers’ personal lives and interests.
3 Reasons Sales Professionals Struggle to Build Rapport
1) Sales professionals may not see the need to build rapport, especially if they’re working with the same customers over and over again. A perfect example of this comes from one of my own clients. Its sales professionals call on the same handful of customers on a weekly basis. They’re so familiar with their customers that they go into meetings and jump right to business. They don’t understand the need to begin with some personal conversation first, and they question “wasting time” with small talk. What they don’t understand is the essential need to first establish personal links with their clients in each meeting. Moreover, they don’t understand what they’re sacrificing by not taking the time to discover if anything is new or different or if anything has changed with their customers or their business situations.
2) Sales professionals have been told that meetings should be strictly about business. This is old-school thinking, yet the perception persists. They’re afraid to spend too much time with small talk because they think » Continue Reading.
Objections are an inherent part of a sales professional’s job. It is virtually impossible to get through a sales opportunity without hearing at least one sales objection from the customer.
It could be as simple as a direct question to gain better understanding, or it could be as subtle as trying to assess a competitor’s claim. It could also be as uncertain as trying to second guess other decision makers within the customer’s organization.
Recognizing and addressing sales objections is critical to moving opportunities through the sales pipeline. Working with customers to resolve their concerns builds trust and credibility, as sales professionals demonstrate their commitment to truly meeting customers’ needs — not just pushing their company’s products.
In today’s environment of ultra-informed buyers, customers increasingly push back against canned sales messages and unclear benefits. They test potential partners, throwing up objections that are sometimes raised only to see how the sales professional will act. They want to know their questions will be answered and their concerns addressed. As a result, sales professionals have to demonstrate their ability to handle objections and keep the dialogue moving in order to be seen as credible and valued partners.
4 Steps to Successfully Resolving Sales Objections
To do this takes four simple steps, which together form the basis of Richardson’s objection resolution model:
Neutrally acknowledge the objection Ask open-ended questions to understand what is really driving » Continue Reading.
Ever heard the saying: “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”? Too often, sales professionals fear objections. More savvy professionals invite customer objections so they can resolve them in a consultative manner, which helps to strengthen their solutions and the relationships overall. In other words, objections are second chances to create value for your clients or prospects.
Customer Objections can take many forms:
“I am happy with my current provider.” “Your solution is too expensive.” “We’re looking for someone who specializes in our area.” “Your performance has not been consistent.”
There are skills that can be used to make these objections work in your favor.
First, acknowledge and empathize with customers without agreeing. Don’t repeat negative words or concepts — “Yes, we are very expensive, but …” — instead, connect with customers by letting them know they’ve been heard — “I hear that you are concerned with budget …”
Next, use open-ended questions to identify the real issues. Then, tailor your responses to those issues, answering the customer’s true concerns. Be specific and concise.
Get Client’s To Share Their Objections With You
Some clients also confuse objection and confrontation, preferring not to voice any complaints. While the resulting conversation might be more pleasant, the outcome for the sales professional is bound to be disappointing. You can’t respond to or resolve an issue if you don’t know it’s a concern.
At every point along the way, check in with the » Continue Reading.
Anyone in sales probably knows that it is not a field for the fainthearted. If your ego bruises easily or if you take no for a final answer, then maybe selling is not for you. The longer you work as a sales professional, the more objections you’re bound to hear from prospects and customers. After all, customer objections are natural parts of the sales cycle. But objections are nothing to fear. In fact, objections should be encouraged because they allow sales professionals second chances to position their value.
Customer Objections Are a Good Thing
It is far worse when customers do not voice their objections. If, instead, they withdraw or go silent, or if they decline your proposal without a full explanation, there’s little recourse. It’s hard to probe an issue that you don’t know is a problem. There’s no natural follow-up to a lack of feedback. In other words, objections are really what I term “buying questions.”
Preparing to Overcome Customer Objections
Objections can occur at any point in the sales dialogue — from the very first meeting to exploring needs, from delivering insights to positioning solutions, and also in closing, negotiating, and following up to maintain relationships.
Part of your preparation before any sales meeting should be to anticipate objections, which could relate to any, all, or none of the following:
Cost: upfront price or continuing expenses Timing: of project or budget cycle Implementation: complexity or any additional » Continue Reading.