The 20th century sales methodology was marked by the ABC (Always Be Closing) method. This method was all about saying whatever had to be said, stretching the truth even, to close a deal at any cost. However, the Internet has all but put an end to the ABC method. Nowadays, consumers can access information on a product or service in a matter of seconds – making even the most eloquent on-the-fly pitches seem over the top.
Through search engines, social media, and digital thought leaders, prospects are now empowered to make the most informed decisions possible. The name of the game in sales is no longer about pitching; it’s about focusing on the needs and experience of the lead. This is called consultative sales. Another name for this process is solution-based selling because it’s about honing in on a specific need of the client, and then taking actions to find a workable solution.
Consultative sales requires a business to gather in-depth analytics on lead behavior and buy-cycles. However, this information is not used to aggressively target or pitch to a lead. Instead, this information is used to effectively communicate with the lead. Sales teams that ask the right questions and actively listen to leads are able to leverage their data to find out exactly what the prospect is looking for (increasing the likelihood that team will convert the lead and deliver what’s needed most).
With the changing climate in sales, seller behavior must also adapt to allow for collaboration with IT and other sectors. A survey on B2B interactions found that 81% of respondents said their most valued interactions was with a technical expert, where as only 38% said their most valued interaction was with a member of a sales team. In the world of consultative sales, sales teams have to be highly educated and technologically-savvy, rapidly accessing information to empower and direct leads towards conversion.
We call a conversion in the consultative sales process an “immaculate conversion.” Oftentimes the ABC method for conversion turns prospects off. Getting an email out of the blue, being forced to fill out a form, or talking to someone who’s pitching to you can seem like desperate behavior from the point of view of leads. An immaculate conversion is clean, it’s not forced — it comes out organically from sustained interactions with leads.
In the end, consultative sales is about two things: trust and respect. In the information age, businesses have to respect the lead and trust that they are informed. The conversion process itself is about building trust between the seller and lead. The seller in turn shows the lead respect by actively listening to their needs. Instead of passively listening to a lead (while formulating their next pitch in their head), a consultative sales team listens and communicates with leads — genuinely wanting to empower them with information.