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LET’S FACE IT. Many people don’t have a positive reaction to the word “sales.” It’s often associated with old-style, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer tactics that involve selling a product or service even when it’s not right for the customer. Consultative selling is much more effective. Some call it needs-based or strategic selling. This method’s success hinges on one simple yet often overlooked fact: There is no basis for a sale until you solve a problem. With this approach, the salesperson works as consultant, uncovering each customer’s needs and pains. Provided the sales rep’s products or services are indeed a good fit for that prospect, the rep then tailors his sales pitch to explain how so. It’s all about personalizing your messages to meet a specific prospect’s actual, self-identified needs. While this approach can certainly accelerate sales, the challenge is to keep quiet until you really know what the prospect needs. Because the prospect’s needs are at the heart of the consultative-sales process, the most important component of a sales meeting is the needs assessment, where you ask a series of thoughtful, open-ended questions designed to uncover your prospect’s deeper needs and buying motives. Even if that sounds easy at first, it’s not. Consultative selling is an art form, and like any art, mastery takes time. You need to ask precisely the right questions, in the right order to succeed. You have to listen intently, modifying your questions to suit each individual prospect. Your questions should almost always be open-ended, so that you can keep the prospect talking 80 percent of the time. Remember that a talkative prospect is the telltale sign of a good sales call. Start by asking the prospect to tell you about a particular aspect of his business. If you’re selling financial planning services, you might ask questions like these: “How do you think a successful relationship with a financial planner would look?” Prospects answering this question may give you insight into the benefits of your product or service that speak most deeply to their own needs. “How often does your current financial planner meet with you, and what do you see as the most valuable aspect of those meetings?” You might uncover a desire to see more of the planner or for more substance during meetings, which you could emphasize in your pitch. “What’s worked well with financial planners you’ve used in the past? What could have been better?” Questions like these are nice, low-key ways of revealing the prospect’s pain points with your competitors. “What would it take for you to give our company a shot at your business?” This is a great wrap-up question because, if your prospect answers candidly, he is handing you a formula for securing his business. Whether you are a salesperson or the CEO, mastering the power of questioning will serve you well for a lifetime. Not only will you close more business, but you will also make your customers feel understood and respected.

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RedRover Sales & Marketing

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