Consultative Solutions Beat Hard Closes

In times past, “good” salespeople  had a method to close out a meeting with a prospect that was successful in getting them to “sign on the dotted line.” In some industries, the sales function is described as business development because of stereotypes of sleazy salespeople who use high pressure techniques to cajole an uncertain buyer into a (sometimes regrettable) decision. This is especially true in business services firms, where there is a stigma in many cases about seeking out new business at all.

The biggest development of the past few decades has been the consultative selling approach. Yet, even this shift is not satisfactory for people who just do not like the word “sales.” When I have been working alongside attorneys and CPAs, for instance, the terms “client development” or “business development” are much preferred. In general, these practitioners provide offerings that have long sales cycles or are perceived as commodities. So…to unlock the motivation of my clients to do the development that is needful for practice growth, I usually have a series of conversations and trainings around the concept that client service requires a similar approach. Few argue that client service is needful.

Rich Grehalva writes and speaks about the array of sales/business development models:

CLOSING SALES MODEL
The 1950’s introduced this model, which concentrated on the product being heavily emphasized.
Key Elements:
✗ Presentation Skills
✗ Trial Closing
✗ Overcoming Objections
✗ Final Close
This model is still in use today, usually in high-pressure sales.

PRODUCT/SERVICE PUSHING THROUGH
PERSONALITY, PERSISTENCE AND PRICE
➲ The salesperson is tenacious, persistent and usually has a low-cost item and works on a numbers game.
➲ The natural born salesperson enjoys interfacing with people and usually has an engaging personality.

RELATIONSHIP SALES MODEL
➲ The salesperson builds a relationship, over time, with repeated visits.
➲ The buyer and seller get to know each other on a personal and professional level.

PROBLEM-SOLVING SALES MODEL (1960’s)
Focusing on:
➲ Open-ended questions – Role-playing is used with students to get them to understand how to get clients or prospects to talk about the things that are important to them.
➲ Closed-ended questions – Closed-ended questions require a yes or no response.
➲ Listening skills is a key component.
➲ The salesperson takes the information and then presents solutions.

VALUE ADD SALES MODEL (appeared in late 1960’s).
Price objections raised by the “Problem-Solving Sales Model” can be countered by adding additional services. In this way, adding these services to the base product/service gives a perception of the value received versus the price.

CONSULTATIVE SALES MODEL (surfaced in early 1970’s)
➲ Determines how to lower the clients costs and/or
➲ Determines how to increase the client’s revenues The company requires a depth of understanding of their clients’ business, as well as a solid track record in delivering proven results. Start-ups find it difficult to compete in this
type of sales model.

PARTNERING
This model became the buzzword used by salespeople–not in creating a legal entity, but in building a joint plan for
creating an opportunity. The sale is conducted at the highest level of the company and an output is a business plan
targeted at a niche within the clients’ market. The term partnering became highly overused and misused. Clients and
prospects soon tired of hearing the word.

TEAM SELLING MODEL
Though not new, the Team Selling Model became increasingly more integrated into the sales model. The salesperson
in this model must coordinate all of the activities within the organization and external to the organization, in order to
win the business.

COMPLEX SALES MODEL
✗ Large ticket sales
✗ Multiple decision makers
✗ Extensive coordination, both internal and external
✗ Long lead times
The role of the salesperson involves taking on a strategic role in developing win themes, internal politics, competitor
analysis, and legislation, as examples.

It is important to think about your client base, your reputation and brand, your team–whether they are salesmen or technical people who happen to need to bring in business, and what your goal is. (Hint: a sale that is undone a year later when the client is not retained is not an accomplishment.) In general, it is best to educate and involve the prospect, help them feel good about choosing your company, and guide them through letting the current provider go. When we consistently approach prospects with consultative solutions rather than hard closes, then we are developing business rather than selling.

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