SI Review: July 2012

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Power Seller

It’s an Art

Embrace the consultative sales approach to provide true value

By Sabrina Clay

As the staffing industry continues to strengthen through the recovery, one thing is certain: the industry is becoming more dynamic and complex. Legislation and regulations are changing rapidly, more companies are embracing flexible workforce models and buyers are becoming more sophisticated. In addition, the sales process is becoming more complex as more individuals are involved in the decision-making process.

Because of these changes, staffing companies need to employ a more consultative selling approach to help potential customers develop the most efficient and cost effective flexible workforce program. This is a difficult balance, as suppliers are confronted with the ongoing demands to achieve results. A consultative selling approach takes vision and dedication to develop a long-term partnership with a customer versus a transactional approach to make the short-term sale.

The Approach

Let’s face it — nobody wants to be sold to. Consultative selling is the process of gaining a greater understanding of your prospect’s needs and providing clear, relevant solutions that will positively impact their business. A consultative selling approach takes time and involves building trust and credibility with a prospect. The way to achieve this is by consistently demonstrating the following:

  • Knowledge of the prospect’s business, specific challenges and needs
  • A deep understanding of market trends, industry trends and supplier products and services
  • A robust solutions approach to how your products and services can help solve customer problems

The first and most important element to a successful consultative selling approach is to gain a deep understanding of the customer’s business and their business challenges. Most sales professionals are so anxious to “make the sale” that they rarely take the time to listen to the customer’s needs and understand their challenges. By taking the time to listen and ask questions, you can gain a better understanding of the best solution.

In addition to understanding the prospect’s business challenges, the consultative selling approach requires the sales professional to take the time to remain current on the prospect and their own industry trends and issues. This can be accomplished through third-party research and understanding the trends from your current customers. By understanding the trends that affect your prospects, you are in a much better position to offer ideas and suggestions that can help them achieve their business goals.

Finally, after you gain the understanding of the prospect’s critical business drivers and industry trends, it’s time to use this information to propose a solution that clearly outlines the business case for your offering. This goes far beyond simply presenting the features and benefits of your services, but defines the return on investment and unique capabilities your solution provides. By following the steps mentioned, you have gathered vital information that enables you to build a customized solution that is based on your prospect’s specific needs as well as their business and financial goals. In order to develop the optimal solution for your prospect, the consultative selling approach requires critical skills, specifically questioning and curiosity, active listening and problem solving.

By possessing and applying these critical skills, not only do you gain a greater understanding of the prospect and their needs, but you begin to build the trust that is essential to achieving a successful long-term partnership. It is the nature of selling to want to present your product and service and how it can benefit a potential customer as early in the sales process as possible. The consultative selling approach reverses the traditional approach to selling by asking several open-ended questions to learn about the prospective customer, their business and their most pressing challenges.

Consultative selling takes time and requires a new set of skills from traditional methods of selling. By embracing this approach with prospects, not only do you provide a better solution for your customer’s needs, but you set your- self apart from the competitors who are simply trying to make the sales numbers.

Sabrina Clay is VP, strategic alliances, at Synergy Services Corp. She can be reached at sclay@synergyservicescorp.com.

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