March 15, 2012


The term “consultative sales process” frequently gets bandied about without much understanding. A salesperson, especially a rookie, might tend to assume that it means to simply adopt some professional-type mannerism and tell the prospect that, as their consultant, they recommend such-and-such product. While adopting an air of authority and professionalism does not hurt, the backbone of the consultative sales process is to shift focus from the product and “the pitch” over to the prospect.

Focusing on the buyers instead of themselves allows salespeople to accomplish several things that increase their chances of sales success:

Building Rapport

People buy from those they like and trust, so time spent building rapport with prospects is time well-spent by sales professionals. This does not mean giving insincere compliments or engaging in annoying small talk. Instead, it implies having enough genuine interest in the potential customer or client to be curious about their business and personal lives. This curiosity will naturally inspire some questions that will get the prospect to talk about himself and, in the process, warm up to the salesperson–especially one who is listening instead of talking all about how terrific their products and company are.

Mirroring

The rapport-building process will reveal much about a prospect’s personality traits, and professionals will use these traits to further build affinity through mirroring. This means to mimic, in a non-obvious way, the prospect’s mannerisms and personality to better enter into communication with them. As an example, it is difficult to sell a fast-talking, driven entrepreneur using a slow, soft-mannered approach, so an adjustment must be made.
Paying close attention to the buyer’s traits, a salesperson can use them to her advantage. The field of neuro-linguistic programming shows that copying the posture, gestures, buzz words, and even breathing rates of a buyer helps improve sales.

Discovery

By allowing the prospect to speak, professional salespeople find out what the prospect’s main concern is and creates an effective presentation that positions their products as the solution to that concern. Research shows that allowing the prospect to speak gives the prospect a positive impression of the salesperson and provides a 93% chance of making the sale.

Research also demonstrates that decision makers will buy mostly from sellers who show them that they understand and appreciate the buyer’s individual interests. These interests are discovered only through research prior to the sales call, or by guiding the prospect through questions while listening carefully during the sales call itself. Notice that both approaches require a focus on the buyer, and not on the seller’s product or company.

Detecting the Buyer’s Shift

This last item can produce the biggest payoff of them all, as it relates directly to closing the sale. Again, by focusing on their prospects rather them themselves, professional salespeople are better able to perceive all of the verbal and visual cues that indicate what is known as the “buyer’s shift.”

The buyer’s shift is the moment the prospect becomes ready to say “Yes!” to the offering. It is revealed through body language; a more open posture, smiling, relaxing, leaning forward, or stroking the chin. Verbally, the clues to look out for include ownership statements (“that couch would look good next to our fireplace”) or other signs of interest, such as asking about warranties or requesting to go over a specific detail or feature. At this point, the closing is attempted.

To sum up, the consultative sales process can be applied to any product, as long as salespeople focus their attention on their prospects’ needs rather than their own. This increases sales performance.