3 Steps to Improve Consultative Selling that are Key to Your Business Sales Recovery
How to Right-Size Your Sales Team to Maximize Recovery, Hunter Byington’s recent article, was a hit. Hunter and I are working together with a number of clients who are committed to raising the bar on their sales and sales management game in order to recover well in 2020. Thus, I invited Hunter to share some additional insights that I believe will be helpful for you as you chart your own recovery effort.
“What might I do to replace lost sales, market share, and revenue after this disastrous second quarter?”
This is a question every future-focused business leader is asking right now.
Because of their deep concern, most presidents, owners, CEOs, and sales leaders I’m talking to are joining the Midyear Territory Reviews delivered by the salespeople. Your salespeople need all the help they can get. They haven’t faced this type of economic conditions before.
When you join the Midyear Territory Reviews at your company, what actions, behaviors, or insights are you looking for from your sales managers? Your salespeople?
When I ask leaders these questions, I get a variety of answers.
However, when we net it out,I believe we need to hear that our salespeople are meeting with real decision-makers, having real business discussions, about real issues, based on real strategies and plans. Click To Tweet
We don’t want or need to hear about their recent products and service pitch.
Most pipelines look like baseball scorecards – tracking activity and focusing on who is scoring. Pipelines usually spotlight who is and who isn’t playing very well. And, they often just focus on the prospect’s receptivity to our product or service pitch.
For this Midyear Territory Review, the rules of the game need to change. This is not a typical Territory Review or Pipeline Review meeting. Instead of just sitting and observing when the salesperson delivers their pipeline report, the sales manager will need to do this:
- Ask deeper, business-related questions about each pipeline entry
- Conduct more one-on-one coaching conversations to ensure progress, and
- Focus on developing and measuring new and current connections.
Your sales managers need to strengthen three key sales performance strategies over the next 60 days.
Shifting from transactional to consultative conversations
What needs to change in post-COVID-19 conversations? Pre-COVID-19, many of your salespeople’s conversations have been transactional in nature, focusing on the benefits of the product and/or service. Many sales leaders thought their salespeople were having consultative conversations. Now they are realizing that everyone on their sales team might not fully grasp the meaning of effective consultative selling. Our research tells us that 70% of the sales teams are only asking a few questions, and not asking business-related questions nor digging deep enough to learn real issues, plans or strategies.
So, what does a post-COVID-19, consultative conversation sound like for your sales staff?
- They ask questions to identify and discover what your client’s New Normal is. That can only be done as your salespeople intentionally dig deeper and go wider into the dialogue with decision-makers in their accounts.
- They conduct strategic reviews with key executives in each key account. They seek to understand a comprehensive view of their clients 6 to 12 months of plans and strategies.
This is a hard transition to make if your sales team has been in a transactional selling mode before the pandemic struck. However, to replace lost sales, market share, and revenue, you will need to make the change to a consultative selling process.
Developing new pipeline criteria to visualize the salespeople’s progress
How do you visualize the progress your salespeople are making on their consultative conversations? How do you know when and where they are digging deep and going wide?
With your renewed focus on consultative conversations, this move now needs to be an integral part of your pipeline or scorecard. While you are tracking your sales teams’ steps of the sale and their activity, you might also track additional criteria that demonstrate an understanding of the prospect’s and/or client’s situation. Items to track might also include:
- Calls to other divisions, other departments, or recent expansions;
- Clients’ introductions and/or referrals;
- In-depth Business Conversations focused on the next 6 to 12 months;
- Account planning based on building a strong business case in the New Normal;
- Strategic Recovery Plans, both short and long term activities
Focusing on the Top of the Funnel
We’re learning that most of our clients are experiencing a reduction in revenue. In many cases, that will affect your numbers also. How do you and your salespeople compensate?
For starters, you need to double your input at the top of the funnel. To succeed, your salespeople will need to focus on finding new people to talk to. There are two areas to consider for additional selling efforts:
- Current accounts: Look deeper into your current clients for new revenue areas. That’s why you’re tracking calls to other divisions, other departments, or expansion efforts.
- Business Development: Your salespeople will need to expand their Top 100 Business Development list. The list now becomes the Top 200 Business Development list. Or, maybe more!
To build new business development lists and find more revenue, your salespeople need to go deep and wide in every situation.
How much more will they find when they go deep and wide? When they move away from their tunnel vision and their comfort zones, they may be surprised at what they discover. They might find divisions, affiliated companies, or other areas of the company that hadn’t had a call or conversation in years. Plus, they will need to dig deeper into their SalesForce or CRM database.
Warning: Because this effort is a consultative selling effort where your salespeople cannot lead with the latest new product or service, your traditional “elevator pitch” won’t work. They will need to start the conversation differently, or they will be sent directly to purchasing where their chances of being successful on being a Trusted Advisor are close to zero.
Plus, your salespeople will have to make more calls, using their consultative selling skills, and having more business-related conversations that dig into the prospect’s New Normal. This may be new territory for both your sales managers and salespeople. They will have to listen deeply and build their value on the questions they ask, not on the products or services they show and tell.
You need this new strategy to be measured in your sales development pipeline. It is your path to reach your numbers by end of the year.
We use several A.I. tools – from strategizing to coaching to quickly getting your salespeople on track with these new selling skills. Drop us a line and let’s see if we might help get you and your team going in the right direction.
To replace lost sales, market share, and revenue, invest key leadership time by actively participating in your company’s Midyear Territory Review Process.
Forget about the pipeline review meetings you held last year. Forget about being a spectator, watching the sales team deliver their pipeline reports. This time your salespeople need all the help they can get.
It’s time for sales leaders and managers to coach their salespeople to build value for your clients and prospects by having consultative conversations; to developing new pipeline criteria so they can track the change effort, and re-double their efforts to strengthen the top of the sales funnel.