Do you constantly find yourself battling with your customers on price? Are you losing sales that you were sure you were going to get? If you want to start winning more sales, you need to stop selling to customers and start consulting for clients.
The vast majority of sales people are perfectly capable of the sales basics: visiting with clients, asking what they need, presenting features and benefits, and giving them a price. Unfortunately, too many sales are lost because too many sales people stop there. How many times have you lost a sale to an inferior product or service that the “other guy” sells cheaper than yours? Or, you lost to the “other guy” who gave the customer a “low-ball” price and won the business? These are two simple illustrations of what happens to a sale person who just sells his product instead of giving the customer buy what they really want – solutions to their problems. If you and your sales people are willing to stop focusing on selling your products and services and start focusing on the customer’s needs, then you can turn prospective customers into clients who buy from you for life.
First, we need to establish the difference between a customer and a client. A customer is someone who purchases goods or services from you while a client is someone that seeks and uses your professional advice. Why is this important? As someone who sells goods and services to the customer, your focus is limited to only pitching the products and services that you offer – and hoping that the customer happens to want to buy what your selling. If you listen to what the customers needs and then help them to fulfill those needs, even if sometimes it isn’t with your products or services, you establish yourself as a valuable resource to his business.
On the surface, it may seem counter productive to suggest products and services that are not your own to the client; and if it is directly competing products, it sounds more like sales suicide. However, think about it from the customer’s side. They don’t want to be sold products and services; they want to buy solutions to their problems. Sometimes, the products and services you are selling are not the best fit and you may know it. So, instead of trying instill your superior sales skills to persuade them to buy it from you anyway, suggest competitive alternatives and then schedule a follow up meeting to help evaluate the options. Now you have moved past being just a sales person and you have given yourself the ultimate edge – (1) you will learn the customer’s true motivation for buying, and (2) if you find out that your products and service can be a good fit for the customer, you have another opportunity to make your sales pitch! Even if you don’t get to make the sale, you have just positioned yourself as a trustworthy asset to the customer and will certainly get ample opportunities to pitch your products and services in the future.
As a solution provider, you will become the “other guy” who gets the next sale even though your price was 50 cents higher. Because you focused on your customer’s needs, you find out he is in the market for some equipment that you don’t carry and you help him find a great deal on that equipment. He realizes that you have his best interests in mind, so, when the next opportunity presents itself, he will trust you when you show him your more expensive products and services are better, and buy from you.
You can also be the “other guy” who “low-balled” his price and got the sale because you took a consultative approach. When your focus is on providing solutions to his problems, you may find out that his local competition for the product or service you are offering is intense, which is why he demands such a low price. But because you are focused on the client’s needs, you take the time evaluate his other products and services and find out that you can get a higher margin for another product or service you offer. Now you have an opportunity to sell multiple items to the customer while maintaining your overall margins – a win-win for you and the customer - and your jealous competitor foolishly blames your “low-ball” tactics and walks away disappointed.
Initially, a consultative approach may lose you the short-term opportunity to sell some products to prospective customers, but, you will more than make up for it by becoming what they really want – a solution provider who looks out for the their best interest. With that reputation, you will be amazed at how willing your prospects are to take future sales calls from you and how willingly they refer business to you. Consultative selling is the absolute best way for you and your company to market itself. It will generate more qualified, closeable leads. Overall, you will convert more prospects to customers by turning them into clients for life – and “clients for life” will make your sales job easier and more profitable for many years to come.
Marc Eskew is widely recognized for small-business executive management in Sales & Marketing, Information Technologies, Operations, and Business Development. For more information, visit http://www.fmxservices.com