Customer and the Company/ Buyer and Seller?

A consultative sales approach is a must for creating a WIN-WIN for the Customer and the Company/ Buyer and Seller? in the New Normal

“Sell the problem you solve and not the product” How many times have you heard this before? The fact is no matter how good our product or its features are if it doesn’t solve the challenges for the customer – it will either not sell or will be a disaster for both buyer and seller.

The question we need to ask ourselves are:

  1. Are we taking an approach to solve the customer’s most urgent and frequent problems? 
  2. Do we want to develop a long trusting relationship with the customer? Or 
  3. We are here just to push to sell something that they may not need at this point in time.

Statistics say companies with salespeople who follow the former approach are more successful; their customers are most satisfied and loyal.

An average customer has the following perception of salespeople. It’s like they are 

  • Untrustworthy
  • Annoying 
  • Pushy
  • Time Wasters

Further, they complain about making wrong judgements, suffering operationally and financially leading to spending money again or rectifying the problems caused by the purchase.

So, from the negative perceptions of the customer to give a solution-based approach! The question is:

“How do we build a synergy between both parties and develop trust and long lasting partnership which mutually benefits both?”

Let’s solve this problem from both perspectives – For the Company and the Customer

Company’s Approach

The answer is very simple – The Consultative Sales Approach from their salespeople

This is focussed on the problem and needs identification and then solving it with the best value for money offering.

It is proven, non-pushy, not greedy, gives tons of value to the customer and the sales happen on its own. In the words of Sir Richard Branson (a multi-billionaire) problem solving is the reason why businesses exist and thrive.

So, what should the company do?

One of the most basic behavioural skills is to train people to work with empathy. While they may have the drive, and expertise in their products unless they have empathy – they will never be able to get their foot in the door and even if they do, they won’t be able to navigate through the various challenges that come during the sales process and won’t end up be closing the deal. Your best product can’t be claimed as the best unless it’s used by the customer.  

Empathy is nothing but the ability to understand what the other person might be feeling and senses the reactions of the customer to improvise and adjust to the changing dynamics during the process.

This is where the consultative sales approach wins by miles apart as if they empathize, they are 100% focussed on making the customer win in their endeavour to solve a business challenge.

The How of Consultative Selling

360 Degree Need Analysis – Let’s for a moment forget that you belong to a specific company or have a particular product or feature. Just ask these simple questions

  1. What is the most urgent problem that they need to solve?
  2. Does it occur frequently?
  3. What is the business impact of this problem?
  4. Are there any specific timelines and budgets that they are looking at to solve the problem?

The salesperson may say “I am not an expert in every domain or sector where the customer has challenged”? Why do I want to know all these details – This may open a pandora’s box and I will miss my part of the sale.

This is not correct – While the customer may have a laundry list of business or operational problems and you may not have the answer to everything, however you get to know much more. 

Be resourceful, bring eco-system partners, collaborate with experts in the field to solve their concerns – not only you will be regarded as an expert but also someone who has empathy, who is trustworthy and is just not a pushy salesman.

This approach is not only good for you – it is excellent for the customer – as not only you helped them solve one challenge but also helped them improve and save operationally or with respect to their investments. You get your order, your eco-system partners get theirs and the customer gets the right solution with savings, reliability, and efficiency.

Another example, that I can give you here is CAPEX Vs OPEX sales – What if the customer says they can’t do CAPEX Investment and in today’s VUCA world everyone wants to hold the capital for emergencies. 

Well don’t just walk away from the deal, work out with your Leadership, find financing options for the customer or involve partners who can do that. 

From the Customer’s Perspective?

The customer’s job is much more difficult than the seller, with so much information available and dealing with multiple sellers who are proposing their products and services. It becomes so difficult for them to buy and chose the right partnership for great after sales service.

Few steps that can make the buying process much easier.

  1. Internal Need Analysis – All stakeholder departments should get together to differentiate between absolute needs (must have’s) and wants (good to have). This is important as all departments may have certain expectations from the product or service they want to buy and incorporate – but it’s important to classify the critical needs and make a list of urgent problems each department wants to solve
  2. Product Specifications – They must then work towards laying down minimum specifications they need to get to address each department’s concern.
  3. Budgets – It’s important that a budget is allocated towards this which is an approximation.
  4. Selecting the seller/company – They must then look the companies who are experts in the field and call them on their capabilities and experience.
  5. Discussions with Sellers – Multiple Department Stakeholders must prepare for these meetings together and interact with sellers giving them opportunity to present their companies, solutions, demos and credentials
  6. Buying – Stay away from Reverse Auctions as they do nothing but is a waste of time for both the buyer and seller. The process only pushes the sellers to give unserviceable quotes leading to disasters later in after sales service. You can opt for online submission in COVID times.  
  7. Buying based on TCO – Compare various sellers based on the long-term performance of the products, least after sales service requirements and automated operations and not just the cost of the product as that may be deceptive.
  8. Value Time – Instead of making your sellers interact with various departments – get different stake holders together for example – IT, Operations, Maintenance, Sales, Admin and meet them with a pre-prepared list of questions. Most of the buyers and sellers don’t realize how much time they wasted during the buying process of First Discussion to closure of the order. This time could have been used in improving greater productivity for both buyer and seller – managing better operations, building connects in the community, going after prospects 

In a nutshell – it all comes down to Need analysis for both company and the customer – Consultative Selling helps bring buyer and seller at the same page in the initial stages of the discussions, sets the right expectations and delivers on better results for both each time, every time making it a WIN-WIN!!

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