Taking the Pitch Out of Sales

selling, consultative sales, retail, small business, customer retention, CRM, client, sales

Retail sales grew about 3% in 2016 and Kiplinger predicts an even stronger growth in 2017. Small businesses account for just over 50% of retail sales per the Small Business Administration. To get a piece of that pie and improve sales, you need a consistent process that involves more than just telling the customer about your product or service. The practice of consultative selling will engage your customer and show them that you are committed to solving their problem with your product or service. The basics of consultative selling will help bring in more revenue, and if you document your activity and results, you will see positive growth in your company's sales performance.

I visited a local used car dealership recently to sell my daughter’s car (or what was left of it – she’s had a few accidents). The salesman, who I’ll call “Dave“, had a great consultative approach. It had been a long time since I sold a car without it being part of a trade-in (no way my daughter’s getting another car until she can pay for her own insurance). I had done some research on the valuation but was still worried I might get taken advantage of. Dave didn’t just spit out a sales pitch. He asked a lot of questions about why we were selling the car and what was proactive in addressing my concerns which are common in his industry. He presented a solution that directly addressed my concern that I was not getting a good deal. I could take their offer for the car and it was good for two weeks. I was free to take the car anywhere else to see if I could do better. This gave me the confidence I needed to make the sale immediately. At no point did he waste his or my time addressing concerns I did not have, nor did he oversell. But he did close the deal and I’ll go back when my daughter is ready to buy a new car.

It's been said that only 2% of sales are from the first meeting, from proactive customers who have already researched the product or service and know that they are purchasing. The rest need convincing that they need what you're selling. Consultative selling focuses on helping your customer solve their problem. While you do want to teach the customer about your product or service, you aren’t just educating the client on your technical features and benefits. Learning what the customer needs and wants is key to starting the process. When the customer relates their problem, listen to and engage them. With this interaction, it's not just a one-way pitch with a yes-or-no outcome, but a conversation that creates value for your product or service by showing the client how what you sell addresses their needs. When you continue the conversation, you build a relationship that you can't obtain when you just use a sales pitch.

Once you begin a plan to practice consultative selling, document your activity and track your results. Keep a log of when you contact your customers with dates, what was discussed, and if any needs or wants were conveyed by them. Remember, your main goal is to solve their problem with your products or services.

When you follow up, make sure to continue any conversations you've already had to show your commitment to solving that problem. And when you are able to acquire a new customer, notate what created the value of your product or service for them. Every client will be different, but when you track your results, you'll find a common pattern that will highlight what to focus on.

Using a consistent sales process, especially when supported by good systems like customer relationship management (CRM) software will always yield the best results, especially when you have employees that will be carrying out the sales process as well. This will empower your employees to satisfy your customers. Keep a conversation going between you and potential customers, and show them the value that your product or service provides them. When your customers feel that what you offer is beneficial, the mutual benefit is immeasurable.