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Consultative Selling Has Changed Over The Years

| November 16, 2012 | 0 Comments

Selling Articles      Lessons From Selling      Selling Skills          

Before superstores like WalMart and K-Mart, local hardware stores and “five-and-dimes” lined the streets of towns selling everything from nuts to bolts to toys and trinkets. Customers would make all of their purchases there because the shopkeepers knew them by name, usually knew what they liked, and were willing to help them in any way they could to meet their needs. They built a rapport  with their customers.

These shopkeepers were often called “howdy do” folks, because of the greeting they gave when their customer walked in.

Consumers knew they could trust the shopkeepers, and even after the superstores started to emerge most remained loyal customers. These shopkeepers were the true salesmen. They knew their customers and they catered to their needs.

Today these types of people are called “consultative sellers,” a phrase coined by Mack Hann in his 1970s book Consultative Selling. They are small businesspeople, and those who feel helping people is their calling as a salesman/woman. Their desire is to provide a needed product or service to their target consumers.

Due to the connotation the word “salesman” has (it can be either man or woman), people have shied away from that term. Consultant has been found to be an acceptable term that allows the consumer to feel more comfortable. The consultant does not simply hand out a brochure and a business card, but listens and determines what the needs of the client is before they frame their sales pitch.

Consultative selling describes a sales technique where the salesperson determines the client’s needs by asking questions and finding out specifically what they are in order to help them select the appropriate product or services. It is not unlike the techniques by consultants in any other field. Take a doctor for example: he sits down and wants to hear all your symptoms. He reads your history, and asks more questions. This information provides the basis for his diagnosis and hopefully the eventual solving of your problem.

Providing ‘need-based’ service to the customer has been a highly successful method of selling for the people who take the time and energy to know their products and services inside and out, and have a genuine desire to service the customer. With the effort required to make a sale because of the competition, it all boils down to old fashioned “howdy-do.”

This technique works in every scenario because the consumer drives the market. It is exceptionally effective because the consumer is not feeling as if it is more important to make a sale than fill a need.

It is absolutely important that a salesperson asks questions, and actually pay attention to what the consumer wants and needs, and not what the salesman wants to sell.

I have a friend who gave me a good example of this. He was looking for a high definition television with good speaker resolution, surround-sound and other extras. He saw a specific model advertised for $800 at a local store, so he walked in with the ad ready to pick up that television.

Upon asking for assistance in locating the advertised product, the salesman asked my friend exactly what it was he was looking for in a television. He showed him the ad, and went on to say that he wanted all these features and added deep down he really would like a DVD player included, but he hadn’t seen one he liked that had all he wanted, had good reviews and didn’t cost an arm-and-a-leg.

The young associate asked my friend to step over to a television that they had just gotten in. It had all the features my friend was looking for, plus a DVD player. It also had a good consumer report review, and the price was even $50 less than what my friend was willing to pay for the other television.

He thanked the young man, asked for his card, and left the store with his new TV, feeling that he had been treated with respect and got a good deal.

The young man took the time to listen to what he really wanted, and my friend was able to walk out of the store with a better deal, including all the bells and whistles he really wanted. He definitely left with a good feeling about the store, and would certainly ask for that young man the next time he was looking for an electronic item.

The customer was happy. The young man made a good impression, and the bottom line was that the store actually had a bigger profit margin on the television that was lower in price than they would have on the one in the ad.  This was a win-win-win situation.

If you have done your research and fact-finding, asked the right questions, and shown the consumer the best fit for them, you are more than likely to close the sale.

Lifetime value of the customer is what is important. If you treat them and their needs as being just as valuable to you as the sale they will be loyal customers who will refer you to their friends and family.

 

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