Category Archives: Consultative Selling
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.
Competing against an incumbent provider is one of the more challenging sales situations that we encounter. The existing account holder likely has a stronger relationship with the client, first-hand knowledge of the client’s business, and enjoys the benefit of being a known entity. Remarkably, even with mediocre performance, an incumbent can be difficult to unseat, and a lot of the reason why is attributed to psychology. There are a few neuroscience concepts that give us some insights as to why customers hold on so tightly and how a challenger might loosen the grip.
Loss aversion is the simple idea that the fear of losing something is much stronger than the joy of gaining something — in fact, it is about twice as strong, according to research. In a competitive sales environment, that means that the value proposition of a challenger needs to be significantly stronger than that of the incumbent if the challenger hopes to win the business. Loss aversion is how even relatively weak providers maintain accounts. So why is our fear of loss so strong?
It is human nature to overvalue what we already own; this is called the endowment effect. It is evident when people are reluctant to part with something they own for its cash equivalent, or if the amount that people are willing to pay for something is lower than what people are willing to accept when selling it (Kahneman, Knetsch, & Thaler, » Continue Reading.
In sales, we hear them all the time — objections from our customers that just don’t make a lot of rational sense… not to us, anyway. We don’t say it out loud, but we’re thinking, “What? Where did that objection come from?”
The irrational objection is one of the tougher challenges in Sales because we know that there is something deeper that the customer is not comfortable sharing. Also, the customer may not be fully aware of some of his/her deeper drivers. Since the sale will not progress until we resolve the objection, we need to discover what is causing the objection — but how?
Our brains — ergo, our customers’ brains — are wired with biases that cause errors in judgment. Because we may not be aware of these cognitive biases, even skilled questioning may not reveal them. During the sales dialogue, we need to identify and understand biases and get good at using “debiasing” techniques to move the conversation forward.
The Status Quo Bias
The status quo bias is at the root of many irrational objections. It’s really simple to understand — our brains don’t like change. Essentially, we have a preference for things to remain the same until the status quo becomes too uncomfortable to accept. This bias is a powerful and normal reaction for us in response to anything new and » Continue Reading.
Your Client Network May Not be as Strong as You Think
Proficiency in sales is a desired objective for individuals interested in building their professional selling skills. It denotes competence, expertise, know-how, and mastery. Yet, certain proficiencies can lead sales professionals into traps that sabotage relationships with clients. In this series of posts, I will share four proficiency traps and how to avoid them. The first was The Technical Trap; the second, The Execution Trap; and this third involves networking within the client organization.
Your Professional Selling Skills Can Be Improved by Focusing on Constant Networking
Sales professionals are usually quite good at building a network of relationships within client organizations. The trap they fall into, however, is taking these networks for granted. They fail to track how the structure, politics, or budget priorities change over time, and they overlook relationships that should be cultivated with other influential stakeholders.
Some buyer-seller relationships have been so longstanding that sales professionals begin to feel a little too secure. They may have earned trusted advisor status with key stakeholders and built a large network of contacts at different levels. This is all good — until it isn’t.
Few, if any, client organizations are static. Change can be fast or slow; come in spurts or be ongoing. In an increasingly challenging sales environment, change is to be expected and anticipated. » Continue Reading.
When you are thinking about developing your selling skills you might focus on your ability to demonstrate execution proficiency. This sales proficiency is a desired objective for anyone who wants to improve their ability to build client relationships. The ability to execute against client requests denotes competence, expertise, know-how, and mastery. Yet, providing an immediate “yes” to all client requests can sometimes lead sales professionals into a trap that winds up sabotaging relationships with clients. In this post I explore the sales trap that involves excellent execution. To learn more about other common sales traps, check out this article on The Technical Trap.
Your Selling Skills Should Be Built on more than Execution
Sales professionals who build client relationships based on responding to their requests with outstanding performance can find themselves in an execution trap.
Consider this scenario:
You have a legacy program or solution in place, and because you have such a solid relationship with the client, he/she asks you to do something else. You are such a known entity that he/she feels comfortable making this request, and you respond by doing what is asked. What could possibly be the problem here?
The trap is that your strong client relationship gets diluted every time you immediately say yes. When you simply do what the client asks, you become just another order-taker. Instead of seeing great value in your ability to execute with excellence, » Continue Reading.