“It’s not the best time to make this investment.” Have you heard this phrase a lot from your potential customers lately? Calm down, it’s not just you.
Indeed, in many sectors considered non-essential, business is sluggish, even with the end of social isolation in many cities.
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More than ever, then, it is our role as sales professionals to seek a style of negotiation that focuses on building relationships, rather than “pushing” a product or service for short-term sales.
It’s time to focus on consultative sales!
Although it is not new, especially in the B2B sector, this model in which the customer buys from you (and not in which you sell to him) has been pointed out as the best way to guarantee results with a long-term focus.
Why trade with a long-term focus?
But why focus on the long-term relationship if what you need are immediate results to overcome the crisis?
First, it is important to clarify that talking about long-term sales does not mean that you will see results from your actions only after months.
Since you already have potential customers in your sales funnel, you also have different stages of relationship already built with them. In other words, the intention is for you to have a longer relationship with your leads, but also to increase your conversion rate by investing in a consultative relationship. What can start to be done even with the contacts that are already in your base?
In this sense, Philip Kotler, one of the main authors and scholars of Marketing, teaches us that there are 5 levels of relationship with the customer, from the most basic to the so-called partnership level. To sell in a consultative way, it is essential to understand them:
Basic level of relationship
In it, the seller behaves like an “order taker”, in which the demands come to him and, without much questioning, what was ordered is delivered. There is no deeper interaction, not even an understanding of what the customer really needs.
Reactive relationship level
At this level, after the deal is closed, the salesperson realizes that there may be more opportunities with this customer, so he leaves his contacts or defines a next step. It is important to identify that at the reactive level there is still no concern about knowing what the customer wants or needs, but rather about selling more.
Responsible level of relationship
We entered a very basic level of consultative sales and a still poorly structured after-sales. The responsible level is the one in which the seller is concerned about getting in touch after a few days and knowing how the service or use of the product or service was and if it is something to be improved.
The information obtained is then used to improve processes. But not yet to actually build a long-term relationship.
Proactive relationship level
At the proactive level, the salesperson follows up frequently, with sporadic contacts to find out if there is any demand or if there is something that customers might need. It’s still not the ideal level, but it creates a stronger bond between your company and those who buy from it.
Level of partnership in the relationship
Finally, we reached the ideal level of customer relationship for the purpose of generating a sales pipeline, with a focus on the long term. The secret is to make the customer realize that the company knows him deeply, cares about his challenges and wants to find the best solutions for his business to succeed.
This should not only be part of the salespeople’s routine, but also an element of the organization’s culture. All areas need to place the customer at the center of their operations and act with the objective of solving their problems.
When your customer starts to trust your company as a partner who wants to grow along with them, the possibility of loyalty and increased sales is great. Which leads to the importance and benefits of the long-term relationship:
- Higher conversion rates;
- Best purchase recurrence;
- Greater customer satisfaction;
- Increase in the volume of referrals;
- Drop in cancellation fees.
Consultative sales and a long-term relationship
Working with consultative sales, building this long-term relationship, is directly linked to the change in consumer behavior in recent years.
If in the past we were used to salespeople who simply took orders, now we want more than that.
In fact, we want fewer sales that interrupt us in our routines to offer a product or service and more partnership relationships where solutions to our challenges are offered.
In practice, what does this mean?
Here at Agendor, for example, our solution is a CRM system.
However, it is not simply a technological platform that we offer our clients: we offer process optimization, sales productivity, better monitoring of metrics and goals, easy vision of the performance of campaigns and salespeople, among others.
So, our entire relationship with customers is focused on monitoring the challenges associated with these benefits.
But, to build a lasting relationship, it is necessary to understand how consultative sales (soft sell) are different from traditional sales (hard sell), looking at the chart below:
Source: Tempering Ideas
In traditional sales, the salesperson’s time is basically all invested in closing the sale. This means that he has little planning for the sale and studies about customer challenges and the advantages and disadvantages of the solution. It’s a model that still works well for large retailers.
In purchases of home appliances, for example, in which the consumer arrives at the store already knowing models and with the decision almost taken, the role of the sales representative is to negotiate terms of delivery and payment.
However, we know that in B2B sales, especially with added value, this is not enough.
It is necessary to follow the path of consultative sales, dedicating a good deal of time to the planning phase, even before the first contact with the lead.
Thus, the salesperson arrives at the conversation more prepared, understanding the sector and the company, knowing details about the prospect’s origin, seeking data that can make the interaction more effective to advance to the next steps.
As we’ve said, this takes more time, but delivers better results across multiple sales metrics. After all, after the relationship is built, it is as if the customer “closed the deal by himself”.
Does your company take orders or build partnership relationships?
Consultative sales, with a focus on long-term partnerships, are connected with the trends we are following for the coming years. Among them, greater collaboration between companies and also between the people who are part of them.
So, if your organization is still at the most basic levels of customer relationships, just taking orders or acting reactively, this might be a good time to turn the key and negotiate with a focus on the long term. Without delay!
Depending on your sales cycle, starting a consultative sales process with a base of potential customers who have had some contact initiated can already transform the current landscape of your sales funnel.
For new leads, the way is to ensure that, for all stages of consultative sales, there are concrete actions and team engagement to put them into practice. Are they:
- prospecting ;
- qualification ;
- negotiation ;
- After sales.
In this article, we’ve listed several ideas you can adopt in your strategy to get started, from prospecting to post-sales. What matters, really, is putting your potential customer at the center of your sales operations and delivering solutions that help them solve challenges in their daily lives.
And even if you’re already working at some level of consultative selling, there’s certainly something you can improve on to reap better results!