A Different Spin on Consultative Selling
Consultative Selling and its cousin, SPIN selling, are newer generations of the “Needs Selling” of the 1960s. They have been in vogue with salespeople for almost two decades - with good reason. In today's business climate, Information Overload isn't just a buzzword; people are overwhelmed with data. They may welcome assistance in tuning out the noise in order to tune into a viable solution to their problems. A concerned, helpful salesperson may understandably be embraced as an Advisor or Consultant.
The Consultative Selling Process appears well-suited to the needs and challenges of today's customers. Yet, in my opinion, consultative selling is most often implemented in such a way that it's merely a new name for the same old manipulative sales games.
Let's start with nomenclature: Salespeople who refer to themselves as Advisors or Consultants are essentially misrepresenting their true agenda - which is to earn a commission. A salesperson's primary objective is NOT to 'help' their clients and customers - they want to make money. If receiving money for their sales efforts were not possible, they would be doing some other kind of work.
Real consultants and advisors charge a fee for their advice. Good advisors make their client's best interests paramount. How many salespeople frequently advise their clients not to buy their product or service, or to buy from their competitors?
By implication, advising encompasses full disclosure, including warnings about the down-sides of choosing an option. Most salespeople are very good at explaining the features and benefits of their products and services. How many salespeople disclose the detriments as well - without a prospect's prompting? Those salespeople say that their job is to emphasize the positives. Some even acknowledge that they are telling “half-truths”. However, it is deceptive and unethical to “lie by omission.” For the typical salesperson, it's just “part of the game.”
This same old sales game is often dressed up as “Probing for Problems and Solutions” in order to help the prospect. In reality, anything we sell must meet at least some of the prospect's needs. It may be an explicit business need, such as reducing the volume of paperwork, or an executive's implicit want, such as possessing the latest “must-have” gadget. There's nothing wrong with selling something that someone wants to buy. However, it is deceptively manipulative to “probe for hidden problems” and “identify hidden pain” without disclosing your intentions, which are to persuade a prospect that your product or service will alleviate their newly discovered Pain. Furthermore, it is a very difficult and ineffective way to sell.
There is no probing for hidden needs in High Probability Selling. We won't even give prospects an appointment if they merely know what their needs are, and are “really interested” in meeting with us. In High Probability Selling, we distinguish between Want and Need.
A small portion of the universe of businesses and/or people will need our product or service in the relatively near future. Those that want our product or service - right now - are High Probability Prospects. We will schedule appointments with them now.
Those who will want our product in the future are part of the viable prospect universe. Many of them will become High Probability Prospects in their own time, and for their own reasons. The essential difference between Consultative Selling and High Probability Selling is that we do not attempt to persuade, convince, or manipulate those prospects into wanting. Selling that way almost always results in low closing averages. Although many may need what we're selling now, most will not buy until they decide they Want It Now. It's not just semantics - a prospect either wants what we're selling, or they don't.
Another distinction between High Probability Selling and “consultative selling” is Total Disclosure. In HPS, honesty and transparency are core tenets of the sales process. We trust and respect prospects, and require that prospects treat us with trust and respect as well. Practically speaking, we divulge the detriments as well as the benefits of our product/service. In turn, prospects must fully disclose their Wants (requirements for doing business). At each step of the sales process, the prospect explicitly states their conditions for doing business, and agrees to purchase, if we can meet their requirements.
Ironically, salespeople who implement High Probability Selling usually act as advisors. Like a trusted advisor, High Probability salespeople practice total disclosure, divulging both the strengths and weaknesses of their offerings. Because we never pressure prospects into becoming buying customers, the selling process is relatively stress-free, as dealing with a trusted consultant should be.
What kind of salesperson are you? If you're still pressuring and manipulating, this is probably reflected in a low closing rate. You may be playing the same old sales game while dressing yourself up as a Consultant. Maybe it's time for you to get real about who you are and what you do.