How To Develop A Consultative Approach To Selling
In traditional selling, the emphasis is on manipulating the customer into buying by applying a range of techniques such as rapport, closing techniques, and systematically stripping the customer of all reasons not to buy. We've all been subjected to this at car dealers and I think it's safe to so no one enjoys being on the other end of it. Because consumers are getting smarter and more informed, we have seen a gradual shift away from this one-way process.
On the contrary, in consultative selling, the salesperson becomes a consultant and focuses on filling the customers' needs, asking questions before recommending solutions, establishing ongoing relationships, and seeking mutually satisfying transactions. It's more about having something custom-fit for the customer.
This move from a traditional product-focused or service-focused selling to a more need-focused selling came as a direct result of the marketing changing. Marketing just isn't what it was 10 years ago. There is much more competition for customers’ attention and more access to information. The modern consumer is more informed and more prepared when they go to buy. That is why a consultative selling approach is much more effective in this day and age.
How to Use Consultative Selling For Your Accounting Firm
Focus On Their Needs
To adopt a consultative selling approach, you need to start off by asking a series of questions, just like your doctor would, and show some empathy towards their situation. Your goal is to address their immediate need, and become their trusted advisor for the long-term. While their immediate need may be somewhat unattractive to you, you never know how valuable their network may become for you.
Realistically, how often have you been in front of a prospect and caught yourself saying "I haven't got time for this low-end client and need to lose them". The next time you feel this urge, challenge yourself to give them the same level of professionalism that you would provide a high-end client. You never know how their referrals may bear fruit for you.
Listen more, talk less
A consultative approach requires listening attentively on your end. Push yourself to talk less and listen more. Keep in mind that prospects are much better informed these days and have many options to choose from. They are probably knowledgeable about the services you provide and know some of the other options. By listening to their needs you can better address them directly.
Focus on benefits
After you fully understand their needs and demonstrate a true desire to meet their needs, your recommendations should focus on the benefits of your service. Customize your response around the information that they've provided.
As a rule, customers don't care about the process and what needs to be done. Even worse, they don't care about how much work the project entails. They are looking to outsource their headache to you, want quick turnaround, and need to be reassured that you will handle it completely at a fair price.
If price becomes a sticking point, resist the urge to talk about what YOU have to do for them. Focus the discussion on how this will free them up from doing it themselves and how they benefit (e.g., save money, no worry, completed quicker, etc.).
As we know, closing a deal doesn't always happen right away. Sometimes they need to think things over or discuss with a spouse or partner. Make sure to stay top-of-mind with the prospective client. You can add them to your email newsletter or follow up with them directly. If you haven't heard from them in a week, consider sending them an article that ties to the service you would provide. Don't let your hard work at the beginning of the sales funnel fizzle off. Follow through and stay top of mind.
By Hugh Duffy
Hugh Duffy is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-Founder of Build Your Firm, a practice development and marketing provider for accounting firms. They work with small and medium sized accounting firms and offer a free email newsletter. Visit www.buildyourfirm.com or call 888-999-9800.