Written by Jamie Irvine | 3.5 Minute Read
In my current sales role I have been managing my territory for nearly a year and in the last month, I have had three very productive meetings with customers where I was able to be a truly consultative sales person.
Let me tell you the story.
If you are like me you probably have read many sales books, business books, listened to podcasts, and read many articles. You read about concepts like Consultative Selling and you get it, the concept that is, but then perhaps like me you struggle to make what you read about and what actually happens to look, sound and feel the same.
The perception you have when you learn about this stuff and the reality you experience when you try it in the real world don’t always align. Perhaps the customer just doesn’t react as you would expect, or the word tracks so clearly in your mind as you prepared for the call abandon you and your mind is blank in front of the customer.
In any case, it just isn’t going like you had planned.
This is what happened to me. After spending many years learning about all this stuff I was eager to put it all into practice when I took over my territory. I expected a transition period where I would have to build rapport. I thought that one month was more than enough to earn my customers trust. It took six months!
Once I had earned their trust I figured it would be no time at all and I would be able to use my sales experience, entrepreneurial experience, business development experience, and product knowledge to establish myself as a strategic resource for my customers.
In my mind they would be setting up meetings with me, pouring their hearts out to me, telling me all their business problems, and I the master sales person that I am would put on my consultative sales hat and would solve all their problems. This would translate into huge purchases because after all the products I am selling must be the solution to all their problems – right!
First off no one was scheduling an appointment with me.
Second, no matter how much rapport I had built with them they didn’t recognize me as a business leader, someone with expertise beyond the products I sold.
Third, the products I am selling are a commodity that they require to keep their equipment working. We are nothing more than I line of expense on their ledgers, eating away at their profits, a necessary but unwanted part of doing business.
Then after almost a year, something special happened. The first time it happened I thought to myself “wow, finally, I got to be a consultative sales person.” Then it happened again a couple weeks later, then a third time in the span of a month.
The first occasion came when a customer asked me to prepare a proposal on some bulk lubricants. His contract was up with his current supplier and he was pricing to see if he could get a better deal.
As I was going through the needs analysis conversation I recognized that he had been buying the products he needs from three suppliers and not all of them are local.
My consultative sales hat went on and I explained to him the benefits of consolidating purchases with a local supplier and how the increased buying power with one supplier would lower his total cost of ownership.
Okay so this went exactly like they talk about in the sales books and it just so happened that my products and service was the answer to this customer’s most pressing problem.
Frustrated Business Owner
A couple weeks later a prospect that I had recently converted into a customer who had purchased about $5000.00 worth of our products seemed irritated when I stopped in to follow up with him.
I asked him if he was happy with the products and service he had received from our company and he said: “Yes, yes that is all fine.” The tone of his voice told me he was concerned with much larger issues.
So I put on my consultative sales hat and asked him what was wrong. He told me that although his business was going very well from a financial point of view he felt trapped by his business and he didn’t know what to do. After asking a few questions to get a better understanding of how he operated his business I explained to him a concept I had learned when I was an entrepreneur called “the E-Myth Paradigm”.
We talked for nearly an hour and I told him about how I had built a business using this paradigm, I told him about how I was able to sell that business, and I showed him that although the company I work for now does not use this paradigm I had used the process to establish a set of systems within my own job. After showing him my documentation he was very impressed. Since that conversation, which had nothing to do with the products I sell, his purchases have sharply increased.
Surely this was just a fluke, I was the right person, with the right background, at the right time. Twice in one month was a coincidence and nothing more.
Hiring a new mechanic
Within a week of my second consultative sales experience, I was traveling to a part of my territory that is approximately 100 kms (60 miles) from my office. As I was driving I was listening to a few podcasts. Pat Helmers (@pathelmers on Twitter) the host of Sales Babble was discussing the process he used as a Sales Manager to hire great sales people. Listen to the episode.
When I arrived at this customers shop he told me that he was looking to hire a mechanic because his business was growing. Again I put on my consultative sales hat and discussed with him the process used by Pat Helmers to find great people.
A stock order was placed the next day.
Don’t give up just because what your learning doesn’t happen in the time frame you expected, or in the manner that you were expecting. Keep learning, keep studying, keep practicing, and most important of all keep showing up.
In all three of the examples above it was because I have a regular routine that puts me in front of my customers on a consistent basis that provided me the opportunity to be a consultative sales person.
“Consistently put yourself in the path of opporutnity!” – Jamie Irvine
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