The core of consultative selling dates back 2500 years, still used today.
Updated: Feb 22
It seems that new flavour of a consultative selling method comes out every couple of years.
A new “truth” with a newly published book, which makes people throw away their earlier embraced sales methodologies in favour of this new “panacea” method that will solve all commercial problems, boost sales, and help the company get ahead of the competition.
Let’s be clear about something before I go any further. Introducing a new sales methodology in any organisation implies changing people's behaviour, which in turn requires change management, coaching, follow up, and a lot of patience. It does not matter which flavour of sales methodology you choose. It is about how it is implemented, and to what extent you stick to it. The sales training is important, especially if it is implemented as a continuous blended learning program, but it is far from the only success factor. The theory needs to be converted into new abilities, which takes time to develop, many times outside of the comfort zone.
What is your definition of sales?
I bet that I would get almost as many answers as the number of people I ask.
My personal definition would be something like…….
“The art, or method of convincing people of an idea that they embrace, providing a perceived value, and which results in a transaction”
The convincing idea could be about that there is something that can help them to become more productive, better, more beautiful, happier, stronger, more successful, save, or make more money etc. It does not seem to matter if it is B2C or B2B, in consultative selling there are always people involved independently whether it is a personal, or company need that is addressed.
I ask myself, what is so different between this and the rhetorical models invented by the great minds of 400 BC ancient Greece, like Demosthenes, Aristotle and Plato? They stood on large rocks and elegantly convinced a crowd of people of a new idea through carefully thought trough methodologies, based on the psychology of the mind.
The rhetorical model of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos, modes of persuasion invented by Aristotle and used to convince people of an idea that you want people to accept and embrace.
Ethos - Presence, or ethical appeal in order to convey credibility and trust. The word Ethos is a Greek word for character, and which the work "ethics" comes from. You build Ethos through physical appearance, tone of voice, body language and choice of words.
Pathos - Emotional appeal, connecting and aligning with people's feelings, energy, and appealing to their emotions. It can be ether to show sympathy, or make them excited, or even inspire anger, or worry. Pathos is used when you build rapport with people. The word "empathy" comes from Pathos.
Logos - The word "logic" comes from this Greek word and is used to convince people by using logic, or reason. This is done by citing facts, statistics, examples, referring to an authority on the subject, or using powerful analogies. In Greek Logos means "word" but has a much deeper meaning in Greek referring to how a thought is expressed, and also means reason, as in to give a reason for something.
The use of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos is crucial in any form of communication, wether in speeches, dialogues, and meetings. It is especially important in sales.
Another rhetorical model that you might have heard of is called the 4 Ps:
Most successful politicians are still today using this almost 2500-year-old model today. Let me give you an example.
“During the last few years, an increasingly large portion of our students who graduate cannot find jobs and either spend a lot of time unemployed, or are forced to accept low paying jobs.”
“This creates big challenges for both our society as well as for the individual students. The skills and knowledge of these young talents are wasted and do not contribute to grow our economy. A large portion of them have large student debts that they cannot pay back”
"There are several ways to solve this. One way is to decrease the corporate taxes, allowing companies to hire more people. Another way could be to create government subsidized innovation centres, and to provide grants and favorable loans, so that many of these young talents can start new innovative companies."
"As our party strongly believes in ________, we propose to________, in order to boost the economy and create a competitive country, which does not allow for any valuable resources to be wasted.
Do you recognize this? Have you heard the politicians in your country use similar phase order in their speeches?"
You might ask yourselves, - What on earth does this have to do with consultative selling?
I would claim that it has everything to do with selling. Maybe this particular format is more suitable for presentation forums like a podium, TED talk, or on the stage at a Sales conference.
The only real difference between this method and consultative selling is that this method is based on a monologue, while consultative selling has to be a dialogue. Another aspect of consultative selling is that we need to find out more about the needs of our customers in order to know which proposal to make and how to frame it. This means that we need to make a lot of questions to help us guide the conversation in the right direction.
This is why we need to convert this old method to new ones where we ask questions rather than making affirmations, but the thought process is the same no matter what the name of your chosen sales methodology is.
Can you see the similarities? It is all about psychology. It is about how we guide the thought process of our customers to clearly define their situation (position), define their challenges or pain (Problem), Evaluate the possible solutions to satisfy their need (Possibilities), and finally see the value in, and accept our suggested solutions (Proposals).
Obviously there are many steps and activities before, during and after, and depending on the complexity of the buying evaluation and decision, the preparation and implementation of the consultative sales can differ. Even organization of resources and how to approach the customers can differ.
I invite you to comment on this article.
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