Posted January 3, 2020

Exclusive: Why consultative selling may fail and how to make it work

Today's customers are looking for sales consultants, partners, guides, leaders and friends.

"Consultative selling is about one friend trying to help another friend deal with a problem. That's the long and short of it."

With the New Year before us, many distributors are now reviewing their sales and marketing strategies to determine what works and what does not.

One proven sales strategy that some distributors have difficulty with is called consultative selling.

The essence of consultative selling, according to Michael Wilson, Vice President of Marketing and Packaging for AFFLINK, "is about one friend trying to help another friend deal with a problem. That's the long and short of it."

Mack Hannan, the author of the book, Consultative Selling, defines it as a "selling process, in which the salesperson acts as an expert consultant for his or her prospect, asking questions to fully understand the prospect's needs. The salesperson then uses this information to suggest products or services that might address those needs."

Sounds simple. So why do some distributors have problems with it? Wilson says among them are the following:

  • The salesperson was not adequately trained in the consultative process.
  • The consultative process is not handled correctly or is inconsistent.
  • The salesperson does not adequately qualify the customer, which is typically the first step in the process
  • Some distributors do not feel any incentive to use the process or make it work.
  • The distributor did not plan in advance to address objections that may come up in the consultative sales process.

However, all of these issues can be addressed, according to Wilson, through more and proper training.

"Distributors should practice role-playing the process. Role-playing builds the salespersons' confidence, helping them become more comfortable with this approach."

He also adds that for salespeople to be successful in today's sales and marketing world, they may have little choice but to fine-tune their consultative skills.

"Today's customer is not looking for a traditional salesperson. [Instead,] they are looking for a consultant, a partner, a guide, a leader, and someone they can call their friend. Proper training in the consultative process can help salespeople fill these roles more effectively and with greater success." CS

Connecting more than 200 manufacturers of Facility Maintenance, Packaging, Safety, Office and Industrial Supply solutions with over 300 independent distribution experts, AFFLINK is, just as its name suggests - that critical link offering clients innovative products, market expertise, and improved profitability, all of which is fueled by our leading-edge information technology. 

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