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Sales Techniques and a Consultative Selling Guide for Today's Marketplace
Guest articles > Sales Techniques and a Consultative Selling Guide for Today's Marketplace
by: Steve Eungblut
A few good sales techniques and being motivated are no longer enough! It used to be true that if a sales person had a great sales technique and was highly motivated they would be great at selling. Well that’s no longer true in the world of B2B selling. People used to say ‘she’s a great closer’ or ‘he’s a great objection handler’. However, being great at one or two individual sales techniques won’t give you success in today’s more complicated world. If you want to be successful, you have to have a whole armoury of sales techniques that form an effective and integrated selling system.
Buyers are far more sophisticated than they were a couple of years ago because of the availability of online research and the pressure to measure and demonstrate value for money with every purchase. Whether they are buying ‘price-based commodities’ or ‘strategic solutions’ (and by the way, purchases are always one or the other so don’t get ‘stuck in the middle’ by trying to be the cheapest AND the best!), they expect sales people to be more sophisticated in their sales techniques and strategies.
The great news is that there are systems for selling in today’s world that make all of the criteria for great selling very accessible and you don’t need a degree in business studies to succeed! All of the crucial techniques can be learned within a single system that can be applied to a specific customer scenario or market sector for immediate success.
The ‘MIDAS’ System for ‘Black Belt Consultative Selling’
We use a proven and easy-to-learn (and easy to-apply) system called MIDAS for making consultative selling (or what we call ‘Black Belt Selling’) really work.
So what is MIDAS? Well, the ‘M-I-D’ part of MIDAS represents the client’s world, while the ‘A-S’ of MIDAS represents what you can sell to them.
M-I-D: The Client’s World
The M-I-D of MIDAS stands for the following:
M - Macro and Micro (external) forces. These are external pressures, trends and events that affect your target organisation (and may well also affect other organisations in the sector or industry). This is a REALLY crucial element of consultative selling because these external forces represent all of the known (and unknown) threats and opportunities that the senior decision maker(s) in your prospect organisation are faced with. You should do a bit of research on their organisation or sector and choose two or three of the main external trends, pressures or forthcoming events that are likely to combine to cause a real threat or opportunity for the client in the near or medium term (and which your solution may be able to help with). A combination of M factors, for instance, might be the downturn in consumer spending, online competition and VAT increases affecting high-street retailers. This combination of pressures is a really powerful conversation point with an owner of a high-street retailer, if you’ve got something that can help him or her counteract the negative effect this powerful combination of forces will probably have!
I – the Implications (or ‘Pain-Points’) that these external forces have, or will have, on your target organisation and your target contact’s personal role in that organisation. Your analysis of these implications should include some sort of calculation or estimate of the financial implications that could result from his or her failure to respond to a specific combination of external threats and opportunities that you have identified. In the high-street retailer example, this might include sales volumes falling, revenues falling, stock levels rising, marketing costs rising or profits falling– all of which will have a direct impact on (and cause pain for) the owner if that’s who you are targeting.
D - the Desire (or ‘Need’) for the decision makers in your target organisation to make changes in order to avoid the negative financial implications of ‘doing nothing’ or responding in the wrong way. This ‘need for change’ may or may not be known by the client and this is why we use the term ‘need’ as well as ‘desire’ for this stage of MIDAS. In the high-street retailer example, this might mean attracting more customers, increasing the average purchase value per customer, reducing the cost per sale, or improving stock forecasting.
Now let’s look at how you actually use the Black Belt Selling approach and the MIDAS analysis to develop a consultative sale.
Developing, Shaping and Creating a Client’s Needs
In order to shape or develop a client’s needs, after your initial ‘sign-posting*’ introductory statement, you should start a discussion by introducing your pre-determined ‘ M-forces’ and asking the client what are the internal pain-points that result from these pressures, now and in the future, if they are not addressed. Even though you’ve got a good idea what the implications are, keep the question open and be prepared to really listen to the answer!
Once you’ve probed and agreed the potential cost implications of the pain-points, shift the conversation to a positive question. Ask the client what the positive results (and potential financial value, if possible) could result in if the pain-points are avoided or removed. For instance, you could ask your contact, “What would the impact on the company be, and on you specifically, if we could reverse the falling number of shoppers or could improve the cost of sale?” This shifts the mood from negative ‘pain’ to positive ‘desire and need’ and this is crucial if you are going to get the client to associate your solution with positive thoughts. It also opens the client’s mind to other possibilities and you can ask “are there any other potential benefits?”
Once you’ve got the client to discuss and quantify the desire and need, remind the client of both the pain of doing nothing and the value of making a change, then go for a trial close. Ask: “So if we could propose a solution that would deliver these benefits within your required timescale, would you be willing to commit time and a relatively small amount of money (compared to the cost of doing nothing and the value of delivering the change) in order to start realising the benefits immediately?”
At this point, the client is likely to raise an objection which is actually a buying signal! He or she will probably say “tell me what you are thinking of proposing”. So now all you need to do is convince the client you can create real value and credibly!
A-S of MIDAS: Aligning Your Solution to the Need to Win the Sale
This is where the A-S part of MIDAS comes in. The A-S part of MIDAS stands for the following:
A- The Added value (benefits and advantages). In other words, the unique selling points that the client will get with a solution from your company. This includes the benefits and advantages the client will get from the things your company can give them. For example, this might be your own insight into the client’s world, your design or integration capabilities, your service delivery capabilities, or your support capabilities. However, they must be clearly aligned as benefits that directly contribute to satisfying the client’s needs. So if you were selling an online marketing solution to a high-street retailer, you would need to explain or articulate how the way you would design, implement and support your solution would directly increase the spend per customer, reduce the average cost of sale or grow revenues.
S- The last part of this five stage process is to introduce the actual Solution you would propose and the features that would enable the benefits and advantages you are offering. This will ensure that the client’s desires and needs can be met.
Make sure you DIRECTLY align the benefits, advantages and features of your solution to the desires and needs you’ve just developed. That’s how you create real value! Present the added-value benefits and advantages BEFORE talking about specific features. The features are only to be discussed to develop your credibility!
If what you propose is credible (and you may need a case-study or reference customer to make it completely credible), you should agree the next stages to move the solution forward in order to alleviate the pain and deliver the value for the customer.
You should spend at least half of your meeting with the decision maker on the M-I-D of MIDAS and only move to the A-S when the client is ready. Go too soon and you’ll frustrate the client and instantly lose credibility (and the deal!).
This kind of selling really works and will transform your personal and company’s selling and business development performance. It will transform your client satisfaction and increase the value of every one of your accounts.
*Sign-posting (or purpose-process-payoff) involves an introduction covering the ‘purpose’ of the discussion, the ‘process’ you would like to follow and the ‘pay-off’ (i.e. the potential benefits you can see for your prospect).
Steve is the founder and managing director of Sterling Chase Associates. In his corporate sales career, he became one of the leading sales practitioners and sales leaders in Europe, with over 20 years experience in consultative selling and sales leadership. He has delivered success for individuals, teams and organizations around the world. Steve has won numerous awards for his sales and leadership achievements. He is a Harvard Business School alumni, and has developed award-winning sales-force transformation tools and selling techniques that deliver a sustained shift in sales performance for organizations of all sizes and all industries. Visit his website at the Sterling Chase homepage or drop him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributor: Steve Eungblut
Published here on: 01-May-11