5 Reasons Consultative Selling Skills/Techniques Inhibit Organic Sales Growth
The events that Wells Fargo Bank found itself in the middle of brought to the bright lights one of the biggest challenges facing banks, credit unions and financial services (including insurance) companies. How do we sell, distribute our products and services, gain market share, and grow organically without “selling”?
When I got into the financial services segment in 1987, it seemed as though organizations would find every way possible to describe their representatives and the work that they do:
- Account Executive
- New Business Development Officer
- Financial Advisor
- Loan Officer
- Insurance Broker
- Risk Manager
What is interesting is that - when you attend workshops, conferences, and industry meetings - there are always discussions about what their people/reps are failing to do. When you look at the list of shortcomings, you see a list of things that you would normally associate with challenges of salespeople.
- Won’t or don’t prospect
- Fail to qualify opportunities
- Not getting to decision makers
- Not fully understanding the depth of the problems of the prospect
- Failing to uncover the strength of the current relationship
- Challenges with overcoming budget or price issues
- Difficulties explaining the value proposition
- Not differentiating themselves from the rest of the market place.
What is the problem? There are at least two BIG problems:
In our first workshop of the Effective Selling System, we take participants through an interactive exercise using the old TV show, Password. If you are unfamiliar with the game, the set-up is this: A celebrity knows the “password” and gives clues to the contestant that might get them to correctly guess the password.
Example: The password is Grass. 1st celebrity clue – meadow; contestant guess – cow. 2nd celebrity clue - lea, contestant guess – hill. 3rd celebrity clue – mow, contestant guess – grass. Ding, ding, ding!!! Next word.
So, in our workshop, the password is Salesman (this works better than salesperson). The clues and guesses given include crooked, commission, insurance, slick, Herb Tarlick, plaid pants, fast talker, product pusher, aggressive, etc.
I promise you this is what we hear. I’ve done this for dozens of groups for almost 3 decades now and these are the responses we get. This is the perception that many people have of salespeople. Isn’t any wonder why people don't want that on their business card?
According to Wendy Connick, from the blog post, The Balance, consultative selling techniques were “developed in the 70’s and came into their own in the 80’s.” I don’t know what “came into their own” means - I assume that it means consultative selling obtained critical mass and became part of mainstream sales thinking and approach and it was considered new-wave selling technique compared to the traditional Dale Carnegie approach. Of course, times have changed and what worked then does not necessarily work now and companies are struggling to find the latest effective sales approach.
Per Connick’s article:
- Think how a doctor or a lawyer treats a client: The thought here is that, as salespeople, we need to ask appropriate questions that will help to diagnose the problem(s), further our relationship with the prospect and allow us to go to the next step. In most selling situations, the account executive is an invader and, to the author’s point, our prospect isn’t openly willing to share. The prospect almost always holds back information, thoughts and feelings and rarely commits until he has made a decision.
- The trick is learning the specifics. It is truly a “trick” to ask all the questions and to learn how to ask the right question at the right time and in the right way. Ask the wrong question and you won’t get the information you need. Ask too early and you risk alienating the potential buyer. Ask too late and you’ve missed an Ask the question in the wrong way and you could be eliminated as a possible source.
- Online resources like Google – Online search engines have replaced consultative sales people. Not long ago, sales people provided the necessary information. Now a tremendous amount of information is researched online and purchases are made without sales people or with minimal involvement of sales people.
- Once you fully understand the prospect's current situation and the problems that he's facing, it's time to present him with the solution. Be careful. This is a trap. You have much to cover before presenting. You must still cover specifics of the decision-making process, determine the budget and uncover the competition. What do you have to do to win the business? Oh, and while you are at it, make sure you say the following: “After I present to you and your people, you must give me a “yes” or a “no”.
How many times have you presented and come away feeling great about the sale? How many times have you told your boss “They loved me. They loved us. They loved the presentation and should get back to us next week!”. Then you are hunting them down two weeks later. They’re not returning calls and you can’t get any response at all.
- When you both agree on the nature of the problem, step two is showing the prospect how your product is a good solution for this particular problem. No, there are steps 2, 3 and 4 (at least) prior to showing a prospect how your product or service solves a problem. Think about how many times you’ve demonstrated your product and the prospect said something like, “Let me think it over…It has to go to committee…I’m waiting on two other proposals…I have to crunch the numbers.” Why does this happen? We missed the other steps because consultative selling says to 1. find out what the problem is, 2. agree there is a problem, 3. demonstrate that your product solves the problem and, if you did everything right, voila, you’ll get the business.