A consultative strategy is one of the most powerful approaches to sales ever developed. Sure, it takes time and effort to master and slipping up can be quite disheartening, but when done right, consultative selling can yield some truly spectacular results.
While transactional selling can help you quickly rack up your quota, consultative sales helps you establish long-term relationships with business concerns that can prove to be immensely profitable over time. This is not only due to improved good will, but also because a consultative technique strengthens your brand equity and increases the amount of business generated through recommendations and referrals.
Here, I’ve outlined a comprehensive set of tips and tricks to help you break into the realm of consultative selling.

Fix Problems
Taking a consultative approach to sales implies that a salesman maintains an in depth knowledge of his clients. Usually prospects have to be identified and approached according to the problems they face, while the salesman must be skillful enough to align a customer’s needs with the right product or package. The most important thing to remember, however, is that the customer should WANT your solution – blindly charging in and telling a business person how to run things won’t earn you any brownie points.

Take Things Further
By using a consultative sales system, successful salespeople can slowly become an invaluable resource to the client, assisting them with business information or marketing strategy. Delivering innovative solutions, rapidly troubleshooting and coming through with valuable insights on short notice will make the client sit up and take notice of you. Better still, if you keep things up, your client will soon come to rely on you for regular assistance. The development of this sort of relationship can be extremely lucrative when paired with up-selling and cross-selling techniques.

Dig Deeper
Ask lots and lots and lots of questions. A mastery of consultative selling requires that salespeople understand exactly what to ask their clients in order to accurately isolate their most pressing problems. Open questions usually work best since they allow the responder to fully articulate and express his/her thoughts and attitudes towards the problem and the solution on offer.
The idea is find out what scares them, what makes them worry and what makes them happy. This will give a sales professional a much greater understanding of how the buyer views the problem, making it easier to recommend specific products and services. In fact, this information can often be leveraged to fine tune and accelerate the selling process.

Sweeten the Deal
Offer a bland deal and your customer will quickly move on regardless of how close a rapport you’ve developed. So during end stage negotiations, be sure to sweeten things with a value-based offer replete with highly recognizable advantages and benefits. Examples include a discounts, extra services or products, FOB clauses, etc.
Given that a consultative approach is being adopted, any ‘added value’ should be designed and delivered with the client’s specific needs in mind. That is to say, the added value should make an impact in the areas where it is most required – the core problems addressed by your product.

Don’t Be Too Sales-Oriented
Too much hard sell, a overtly pushy attitude, a certain sense of over-eagerness when it comes to closing the sale and millions of other cues can all give the client the idea that you desperately need a sale and that can be a real turn off. So instead of focusing on selling the product, try collecting information while genuinely helping the client out until you’re confident that they’ll see things your way with a minimum amount of fuss.

Remember Who You’re Selling To
Bad salespeople tend to think of prospects as mere extensions of the companies they work with. They’re not. They’re human, just like you and I.
Recognize and appreciate the different personality types that you come across and tailor your communications to suit their needs and attitudes. Since you’re a salesperson and your prospects recognize you as such, they’re going to expect a certain interactive standard. Create a stellar impression by surpassing that standard and delivering on every promise you make. This doesn’t mean that you should be an obsequious flatterer, but rather, a good judge of character and emotion.

All in all, by understanding how customers operate, you will gain an idea of what their problems are. By understanding their problems you figure out how YOU can solve them. By solving customer problems, you gain their trust and appreciation, fortifying your brand and forging powerful business relationships.
Do you have some consultative sales tips or stories to share?


Author's Bio: 

Linda Mentzer is a published author and senior marketing manager for an information management company that has helped sell thousands of software products on a global scale. With over 11 years of experience in electronic marketing techniques, Linda has authored articles for several leading business journals, worldwide.