Consultative Selling Requires This Critical Skill

When one loves to explore data and has access to a huge database of salespeople over 685,000 strong, what happens? Well, for me, I can’t help myself. I frequently analyze elements from that database. Recently, I went mining for insights on consultative selling.

I discovered something that somewhat surprised me, but upon reflection makes sense. Two-thirds (or 68% to be exact) of the top 10% of salespeople in this database are proficient at the competency of staying in the moment. And conversely, 64% of all salespeople lack proficiency in this competency which is critical to success in consultative selling.

Here’s why my initial surprise faded. Creative thinking is an enemy of a salesperson’s ability to stay in the moment. With so many leaders believing that an outgoing personality is fundamental to being a successful salesperson, the ranks of salesperson are filled with creative, extroverted talkers who easily go off on tangents. This reduces their position as a consultant or advisor to the targeted buyer. They simply sound like every other run-of-the-mill salesperson who likes to talk.

What Does Staying in the Moment Mean in Sales?

The ability to stay in the moment means that a salesperson is able to stay focused on what is going on right there and then. They aren’t thinking about what to say next. They aren’t dwelling on something in the past. Instead, they are actively listening to what the prospect or customer is saying and meaning. They are intentional about understanding the buyer’s present situation.

Staying in the Moment Matters for Consultative Selling

It is now more important than ever to have a consultative approach to selling in order to differentiate from all other options a buyer might have. And how can someone be truly consultative if they are not laser-focused on what the other person is saying? To truly employ a consultative selling approach, one must listen not only with their ears, but also with their eyes, with the spaces in between the words, and with the areas that are bringing stress, frustration, or discomfort to the other party.

Head with multiple clocks showing time pressures on consultative sellingUnfortunately, in our overscheduled lives, in our 24/7 world, most people cram too much into their day to be able to truly focus on what is right there in front of them. Remote selling has made the situation even worse. We all tend to book back-to-back-to-back virtual calls and keeping to such a tight time schedule is extremely stressful.

One cannot be truly consultative when mentally checking their watch and allowing time constraints to prevent a deep dive with a prospect about an important topic. If the goal is to advise a prospect, as in consultative selling versus being a product pusher, then a salesperson must be able to recognize the impact of what is being said and not being said, and then dig deeper. To be viewed differently than the competition, it is critical that the prospect is heard, acknowledged and that comments are explored.

Three Steps to Build a Team of Consultative Sellers Who Stay in the Moment

  1. Leaders must hire individuals who can stay in the moment since this is the biggest influencer of an individual’s ability to operate as a consultative seller. When interviewing, rather than focusing on a candidate’s extroverted nature or their ease of building relationships, pay attention to this important success differentiator. It can be measured by the best sales-specific assessment on the market, the one authored by Objective Management Group, and the analysis of this skill can be woven into interviewing. Also, when interviewing, pay attention to a candidate’s execution of this skill. Review a sample of the OMG Sales Candidate Assessment.
  2. Leaders must insist sellers use a repeatable selling conversation process that guides the discussion using a logical set of questions. Having a roadmap of where to go and how to get there gives sellers the tools to dig deeper. But rather than a checklist of transactional-type questions, be sure to provide a framework that encourages further questioning to uncover the “why” behind a situation and the answers given by a prospect. This will equip salespeople with the confidence and the firepower to truly dig deeper.
  3. Implement a sales qualifying scorecard focused on the elements that predict the probability of success, the ones known to suggest a higher likelihood of closing. Next, turn the mindset from qualifying to disqualifying. If the opportunity doesn’t meet a certain percentage of the elements on the scorecard, then it is likely not going to happen. Encourage sellers to avoid wasting time with those opportunities and remove them from the pipeline.
  4. If the scorecard is done right, it will require deep questioning, further encouraging the salesperson to stay in the moment. Perfection would be to then incorporate the qualifying scorecard into your CRM as part of the pipeline process. Learn more about Profit Tools.

Remember that the goal is to build a team that can differentiate. Truly selling consultatively will differentiate. And being able to stay in the moment is the most important trait to begin the journey to being a consultative seller.