The phrases “consultative selling”, or “solution selling” are associated with a higher level, more professional approach to selling.  Salespeople are usually proud to behave and to be thought of as a consultative or solution oriented salesperson.

Normally, we associate these phrases with complex selling, and we would be right to do so.  For a salesperson to be consultative, there needs to be something to first understand and then to propose a solution for, and the more complex something is, the more the consultative approach makes sense.

Accordingly, we think of financial advisers explaining complex financial instruments, or engineers selling complex software solutions, or doctors working for a pharmaceutical company explaining complex new genetic therapies to other doctors as consultative sales professionals in complex selling environments.

While these situations are certainly complex, is this objectively high level of complexity required for a salesperson to take a consultative approach?  That would imply that the level of complexity about a certain topic is a static value on a fixed scale.  I don’t think that is right, and to reject this idea, opens up the consultative selling approach to a much wider range of selling situation.

I would suggest that complexity is relative.  Something is complex to the extent that it is not understood by the prospective buyer, and to which understanding it is not obvious.  For example:

  • A technophobe buying a new computer is facing what seems like a high level of complexity.
  • When I go to a hardware store to buy something for a do it yourself project, I am overwhelmed by the complexity of the choices.
  • Even a person trying to buy a nice ripe melon at the fruit stand could be facing a complex purchase if their ability to differentiate between a ripe melon and a non-ripe melon is not something they are confident about.

The point is this: Any salesperson can approach their job in a consultative fashion by simply deciding to do so.  The steps include:

  • Learning as much has possible about your products and services
  • Learning to understand your products and services from the perspective of your prospective customers
  • Working to understand the needs of your prospective customers
  • Offering solutions to their needs based on your inquiries

Now there might be someone out there reading this who is selling sugar, or #10 corn who says, “my product is a commodity, so how can I consult about that?”  It is a fair question, but the answer is still the same.

In this complex world in which we live, there are always variables.  In the case of a commodity product, purchasing variables that are not directly related to the product but rather to the purchase might include:

  • Financing terms
  • Packaging options
  • Long term purchase contracts
  • Shipping considerations
  • Etc.

In other words, there is no reason that you must consider your product a commodity, sell only on price, and let the world have its way with you.  If you make the efforts to instill value into your products and services, you will reap the rewards of working at a higher level to service your clients, keep those who appreciate you for doing so, and those who do will pay you accordingly as well.

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Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!

-David