Great salespeople know exactly what they are going to sell before their clients know they need it. This “crystal ball" approach to sales requires more than just a great sales team; it requires the entire company be structured around clients' success.
That's the genesis of my company's brand promise: At Fourlane, we are driven by our clients' success. We provide solutions and processes that promote growth and meet our client's unique business objectives.
You see, we aren't in it just to sell another service. We're in it because our passion is truly helping clients succeed.
This passion requires a consultative sales approach. Here are the steps our sales and services team use to help increase our close rate and improve client satisfaction via consultative sales:
1. Know your client.
Define, as specifically as possible, what categories of people you sell to. Our company has two types of clients and prospects: the Stretchers, who have outgrown their current accounting software solution, and the Switchers, who are converting from other accounting packages. Both of these clients need us, but the way we approach them is vastly different because their needs are so different.
2. Create services to meet their needs.
This is business strategy 101—the better our services match the needs of our clients, the more successful we can be. For our business, once we know what type of client we are working with (the Stretchers vs. the Switchers), we suggest the best solution that fits their needs. As a consulting firm specializing in QuickBooks accounting software, the proposed solutions often fall into three buckets: Workflow and Integration, QuickBooks Enterprise Customization, and Inventory Management.
Creating the right offerings and selling them are two different things. By listening to the client, you can apply your list of solutions to their problems and anticipate the other issues they are facing. The key is making sure they feel they are heard by repeating their pain points back to them, validating their frustration and sharing how you've solved problems like this in the past.
4. Know what's next.
On top of our brand promise, one of our core values is to continue the road to what's next. That means our sales and services team needs to understand our clients' goals. Are they pursuing a major growth strategy, will they be offering new services or is a key staff person retiring? To know what's ahead, we start by scheduling a follow-up to check in with the client once the project is complete. We also offer year-end or quarter-end services tied to the work we've already done.
5. Understand their niche industry.
I identify key questions for clients, depending on their industry. This helps me establish credibility and potentially add to the list of services they may need in the future.
6. Share the ROI, ASAP.
Showcase the return on investment you've helped other clients achieve, in terms of time or money saved, efficiencies gained, increased sales or whatever else it may be. Clients are looking for similar results and may gain a sense of confidence in you when you tell your story.
7. Phase it.
Develop an implementation plan that starts at Phase 1. This implies that you will have multiple phases and sets the expectation of a long-term relationship. Ensure that the plan addresses the current situation, desired results and the tasks required to implement. If the task list is too long, make it Phase 2 or 3.
Consultative sales are not simple or transactional—after all, we're not selling widgets. As consultants, we've found this approach the best way to help our clients succeed. Taking the time to understand each client deepens our relationships, and frequently leads to referrals. Don't take my word for it, though. Try it out!