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The Way That Consultative Selling Fosters Trust

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    When Sanitary Maintenance was first published in 1943, Franklin D. Roosevelt was the president of the United States. World War II dominated the news. Only a few thousand homes had televisions.  

    Congratulations, Sanitary Maintenance. You have evolved and stayed relevant for over 80 years. The same cannot be true for most salespeople who continue to use a sales approach that dates back to Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency.  

    The traditional legacy sales approach goes by many names and it's common to see strategies older than the salespeople using them. You'll know a legacy approach when you see it. It has a very predictable progression: 

    1. Rapport-Building: A salesperson tries to build rapport through small talk.  

    2. My Company: Then they move on to talking about their company to prove the prospect can trust the company.  

    3. My Customers: Next, the salesperson brags about all the company's great customers in an effort to convince the prospect that they are both trustworthy and successful.  

    4. Discovery: The seller attempts to discover or identify the prospect's pain points, which is nothing more than a veiled attempt to determine whether a fit exists for the seller's product. 

    5. My Solution: The seller recommends a solution to solve the problem. 

    6. My Proposal: The seller presents their proposed solution. 

    Customers have heard this approach so often that they immediately tune it out. The traditional legacy approach positions the salesperson as an expert on the company and its products. As a result, the customer sees them as the consummate peddler. Our research shows that over 85 percent of sellers fit into this group.  

    Customers have access to more information than they've ever had. They desperately need salespeople to help them make sense of all the information, trends and constant change. They don't need technical specifications or product information — they can get that with a few clicks. What they need is insight. Customers want to work with salespeople who are trusted advisors. 

    The modern consultative seller creates value by knowing the prospect's pain points. They understand the customer's issues and have a theory of how to improve business outcomes. They focus on helping the prospect understand why the problem exists. Then they guide the prospect to the right decision. The modern consultative seller is someone who can help the prospect and their company achieve the desired results. 

    Here is the litmus test. Which statement most accurately describes your sales force? 

    • You talk about your company, its products and its services. You ask the customer about their problems instead of knowing more about the reasons for the problem than the customer. If you can't have a customer conversation without mentioning a product or company, you are using a traditional legacy approach. Your sales will be price-oriented and you rarely are in the C-suite. 

    • If you're comfortable discussing your customer's business, know the things that keep them up at night without asking, and can provide insights to improve their business, then you are likely using a modern consultative approach — and on the way to becoming a trusted advisor. 

    Walt Disney's words provide a nice connection between our past and what's next: "Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future." The world is completely different than when Sanitary Maintenance was first published. Has your sales force's selling style evolved? 

    Jim Peduto is the Managing Partner and the co-founder of Knowledgeworx, LLC. Owners and CEOs rely on Jim's strategic thinking and transformational growth expertise to win market share and achieve performance gains.

    POSTED ON: 4/27/2023


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