At Catalyst, we love empowering our clients to do more. To sell more, to make smarter strategic decisions, to reap the rewards of research-driven marketing.
We also enjoy working with clients to help them develop robust sales processes (that actually work). After all, with various (embargoed) client wins already under our belt this year, we know a thing or two about selling.
With this in mind, we thought we’d share some of our sales expertise, pulling together our 4 top tips for creating a consultative sales process that will help you yield a real return on investment.
Not so fast though…
Before we dive headfirst into the process, let’s refamiliarise ourselves with exactly what consultative selling is.
What is Consultative Selling
Consultative selling is a sales approach where the salesperson focusses on a prospect's problems and challenges in order to recommend a solution that fits the customer's specific needs. As the name suggests, consultative selling is all about your prospects and their experiences. With a sole focus on the prospect’s wants and needs, it’s completely customer centric and a large shift away from the traditional models that focus largely on, well, your needs.
In layman’s terms, it’s about putting the potential customer first, even if it means turning down work.
Sounds counterintuitive and (to some degree) daunting doesn’t it? Well don’t worry, it needn’t be. If you’re already framing your sales strategy around your prospect’s unique challenges and pain points, we’ve got good news for you - you’re already practising consultative selling.
It’s a great start, but we now need to distill this into a process you can call upon time and time again for some serious sales success.
So, without further ado, here the top 4 consultative selling techniques that will help form the basis of your awesome new sales process:
A consultative sales approach process starts with identifying your ideal buyers.
In order to make buyers feel like they are aligned with the salesperson (rather than at odds with them throughout the process), you need to identify exactly what their needs are - something you can’t do without at least some basic level of segmentation.
Identifying the right business opportunities at the beginning of the sales process can often mark the difference between success or failure. As a result, calling on existing data and secondary research, you need to develop a solid base of lead intelligence that will help you narrow down the valid businesses worth approaching. This can include company size, geographic location, revenue, industry, or anything else that considerably influence how ideal the business prospect is.
Once armed with this basic research into your ideal customers, you’ll be able to define your ‘Buyer Profiles’ and shape a strong narrative to guide your sales efforts. You also need to pay close attention to how far each prospect is within the buyer journey - this too will have an impact on your approach. In fact, we suggest you prioritise buyers that are more active in the buying journey as this is more likely to result in a sale.
Below, we’ve provided an example to help you differentiate between Buyer Personas and the Buyer Profiles you need for this stage of the process.
So you’ve identified your ideal buyers and opportunities, and are armed with enough information about them to begin a tailored, consultative selling process. Great news, you’re now ready to start prospecting.
As the name suggests, the connect stage is all about connecting with potential buyers to develop trust. The best way to this is to show a genuine interest in the buyer’s needs and a commitment to helping them - testament to the importance of the initial identify stage in the consultative selling approach.
So far, so simple.
But with the State of Inbound 2015 report showing that 42% of those surveyed found prospecting to be the most difficult part of the sales process, it’s obvious that we need some help when it comes to making meaningful connections with prospects.
Traditionally, the process saw salespeople focus their efforts qualifying buyers based on the sizes of their budgets and their authority to spend it. And as for the prospecting itself, this would typically consist of cold emails and voicemails with no personalisation whatsoever: not exactly conducive to the relationship needed for a consultative approach.
So what’s the alternative?
For a consultative sales approach, you need to warm up your outreach efforts, significantly. Under the assumption you’ve identified your research-driven Buyer Profiles, your job is to use these as the basis for creating detailed Buyer Personas that help you foster meaningful connections with prospects.
It’s all about personalisation.
All contact, from initial emails to LinkedIn conversations and phone calls, should be built around your prospect’s pain points and the challenges they’re trying to overcome.
To do this, you need to develop unique outreach content for each of your Buyer Personas.
Defining Buyer Personas is key to personalising the sales process for today’s buyer so it is important that you understand what they are. While you can find a complete breakdown here, we’ve summarised it below.
Buyer Personas are detailed semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers, based on in-depth market research and data about existing customers. They are similar to Buyer Profiles yet delve into the granular detail (e.g. job role, level of seniority, role specific challenges) needed to truly create tailored content that works.
Defining a Sequence for Each Persona
In an ideal world you’d be able to tailor every single piece of outreach content for every single prospect. But the reality is that few companies have the resources to make this feasible, let alone efficient. However, this doesn’t mean we cannot personalise the selling process, even if it is automated.
You need to create a unique sequence for each Buyer Persona.
Similar to inbound workflows, sequences detail a series of predetermined events (such as sending a specific email or white paper) based on certain conditions (such as the lead viewing a certain page, downloading a specific piece of content, or responding via social media).
These automated outreach strategies enable salespeople to easily keep track of touch points and ensure they are always tailored and relevant to the recipient. You can find examples of sequences in action via HubSpot’s new Sales Certification material.
Best Practices for Defining Sequence Content
With the basic framework for your outreach sequence ready, how do you go about crafting content that’s going to be effective? To help you, we’ve provided a checklist of best practices that’ll keep your sales efforts on track:
• Take an inventory of your existing content
• People are busy - keep your outreaches short
• It’s all about them - reference the buyer at least twice as much as you mention yourself
• End all emails with a question to incentivise response
• Be human and be helpful• Personalise the subject line to the persona’s perspective
• Adapt the content to your style and personalise it to the buyer’s context
By applying these best practices, you’ll be at the next stage in no time…
The exploratory phase of the consultative sales process is what happens after a prospect has shown definite interest. It’s where you truly learn how you can best help your prospects overcome their specific challenges and alleviate their pain points. It’s where both parties begin to the recognise the value you can add.
We’ll outline the steps you need to take shortly, but first, we need to break the exploratory phase down into three important parts: the right approach, the right outcome and the right thing for the prospect.
The Right Approach:
The traditional model saw salespeople adopt a rigid, rehearsed approach, reverting to presentations full of statistics and boring, albeit relevant facts with no personalisation. Awful.
The consultative sales approach sees sellers transition into exploratory mode, where it becomes a more detailed conversation about exactly what the challenges are and the context of these problems faced.
The Right Outcome:
Simply put, the right outcome isn’t necessarily a sale, but the in-depth knowledge required for the salesperson to know if they can genuinely solve the prospects problems. This is the primary aim, the sale itself becoming a secondary byproduct of the process. This leads us to the next point.
The Right Thing For The Prospect:
Typically, salespeople tend to focus their efforts on moving prospects through the sales process regardless of whether their offering is aligned with the prospect’s needs. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is the wrong approach.
The right approach is to speak with the prospect to objectively determine the reasons they should (and shouldn’t) buy from you, based on your value proposition. After all, salespeople tend to be able to assess whether they can help the buyer much more efficiently and more thoroughly than a buyer can themselves.
So how do you conduct an effective exploratory call or meeting? We’ve included a process to help you:
So here we are, approaching the final stretch. You’ve identified the ideal buyer, you’ve tailored your outreach strategies to connect with your buyer personas and you’ve cemented their interest with exploratory calls. It’s time for the final stage of the consultative selling process before the close: advising.
As a salesperson, it is your job to build on the generic messaging found on your website, translating it into something completely tailored to the exact needs expressed during the exploratory phase.
By doing this you’ll be able to offer invaluable advice. This is often delivered in the form a proposal, demo or presentation. Regardless of the exact format or medium, the advice stage is always about adding maximum value to the buyer to reinforce how well-equipped you are to meet the buyer’s needs.
Doing this requires you to:
- • Recap the exploratory call
- • Suggest ways the prospect can achieve their goals or overcome their challenges
- • Confirm budget, decision making processes, and timeline
- • Get buyer commitment
But this is easier said than done. As the final stage of the consultative sales process, it’s essential that you get this right and seal the deal.
With this in mind, we recommend you follow in the footsteps of our very own Inbound and Sales teams, getting to grips with HubSpot’s new Sales Certification. The in-depth training program is free and provides an in-depth insight into the consultative Inbound selling process outlined in this blog.
If you’re interested in transforming your sales process for the better and finding out more about the sales training programme, simply click the button below.
For more on our strategic consultancy service, click here.