Consultative Sales: Making a Smooth Transition

Important Considerations for Consultive Sales

Because of changing markets and customer needs, many companies are now moving from a transactional sales model to a more consultative one. Much ink has been spilled over the advantages of using a consultative sales model, so for purposes of this article, we'll assume that you know what consultative sales mean, and have decided that the consultative model is one you want to pursue for your company.

If you need a refresher on what consultative sales are, and why the consultative model might be a good idea to consider, go ahead and read last week's post, What is Consultative Selling?

Transitioning to consultative sales makes sense for many companies, and tends to lead to happier customers, more sales, and less attrition. However, it's important to properly manage the transition to avoid potential pitfalls and ensure that you give your new policies and procedures every chance to succeed. Here are some of the things you should consider and plan for as you move from a transactional to a more consultative sales model.

Reward Consultative Selling

In sales, the behaviors you reward are the behaviors that get repeated, so the importance of how you incentivize your sales team cannot be overstated. A compensation plan that worked perfectly for transactional sales will need to be seriously tweaked if you want to encourage consultative sales, which involves more relationship-building and different ways of engaging potential customers.

You should plan out a detailed sales cycle for your new consultative model. Identify the points in the sales cycle that are most crucial, and make sure that you are incentivizing your sales representatives to follow the right steps and not to cut corners. It's one thing to tell your sales representatives what you want them to do, or even train them to sell in a consultative style. But if you don't reward the specific behaviors and tasks that make up consultative sales, they'll simply revert back to their old way of selling. The best way to ensure that your new model "sticks" is to align the interests of your company and your sales representatives by incentivizing the consultative sales behaviors you want them to perform.

Train and Support

Sales representatives need some intensive training to go from selling a single product to suddenly offering a suite of products and services that can be custom-tailored to each customer's needs. Schedule some extra training sessions, or even an extended period of intensive training. Introduce each new product and service, and make sure they are comfortable with each one, and its benefits to the customer. As well as stepping up product training, do not neglect to train your sales representatives in the new techniques and processes they will use in consultative selling.

If your company is offering a large range of products and services, it may not be practical for the sales representative to become an expert on each one. In this case, another option is to give the sales team access to in-house or partner-company experts on each specific product or service. They can then call on these resources either in preparation for a sale, or as a part of the sales process. Your company should also consider having sales support staff take over some administrative tasks to free up your sales representatives for the time-intensive tasks of consultative sales.

Keep the Customer in Mind

Don't expect your sales representatives to come up with the perfect package for every customer on their own. Management should do some of the preliminary legwork for them by identifying customer sweet spots and putting together sample packages that can be used in specific segments. To the customer, it should look as if the sales representative is creating an individualized package. But in reality, your sales team should have several relevant packages to choose from, as well as the ability to customize when needed.

Be sure to train your team to identify how many resources they should spend on any specific customer. One of the pitfalls in consultative sales is that it can be easy to fall into the trap of spending far too many resources on an opportunity that isn't necessarily very valuable. Teach your sales representatives to identify the appropriate amount of resources to devote to each customer and opportunity--neither too much nor too little.

More and more companies are moving to a consultative sales model, and incorporating at least some aspects of consultative sales will likely benefit your company, no matter what you sell. If you need help with the transition from transactional sales to more consultative sales, Netpique sales outsourcing experts can help! Contact us today for a free consultation.