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Beyond the Consultative Sale: How to Influence Buying

What’s wrong with consultative selling? For one thing, it’s not inherently persuasive.

Buying is a decision, and decisions are controlled by the emotional part of the brain. When we’re invested in the pursuit of a decision – whether or not to buy that beautiful watch in the shiny glass case, for example – we favor the neurological processes in the emotional brain because they’re faster, easier, and more pleasurable.

Why, then, do most salespeople – even those well-trained in consultative techniques – invariable engage the part of the brain that not only has very little to do with actual decision-making, but which is literally neurologically painful?

Studies show that the brain uses three-hundred percent more calories for analysis than it does for so-called “mental cruising.” That’s a lot of extra energy. Studies also show the very same brainwaves being emitted during analytical thinking as when we plunge our hand into a bucket of ice water. When a selling process revolves exclusively around facts and data, logic and reason, it’s literally painful.

The old-school, glad-hand, Peddler approach to selling is the personification of painful buying, because for this seller profile, the emphasis is decidedly not on buying, but entirely on selling.  Although the Consultant profile is a vast improvement on the Peddler, and essential for getting the information you need for logical and emotional persuasion, there are some real limitations of sticking too narrowly to this allegedly superior consultative approach:

  • Everyone else has caught up to the consultative approach; it’s no longer unique
  • Customers can get frustrated or impatient with the same set of “survey questions” from every rep
  • Standard solutions can put too much emphasis on logical or technical factors, which don’t drive buying decisions.
  • Standard questions offer a good way to build solutions, but not necessarily a way to sell them or to influence buying.

The Evolution of the Seller Profile
The Peddler goes in with a standard presentation; the Consultant goes in with a standard survey; the Influencer goes in with a customer decision plan: To figure out what needs to be known, said, and done to move the customer toward a YES decision on a shared solution.

The concept of a shared solution for influencer selling is critical. Influencer selling is NOT about manipulation. You’re not coercing, or “tricking” your customer into something that they otherwise wouldn’t buy. Whatever you present must be genuinely right for both you AND your customer.

And that’s not only for the purposes of ethics and integrity; it is ultimately more persuasive.

The right questions will uncover not only what your solution should be, but how to connect that solution to what’s meaningful to that customer. Fundamentally, partnering works very simply: Help customers accomplish their logical and emotional goals, and they will help you accomplish yours. In practice, building a meaningful – and profitable – partnership takes some knowledge, technique, and bit of practice.

Using Every Phase of the Selling Evolution
Using peddler attributes: You still have to make presentations, for example, and focus at some point or another on product features – but if that’s ALL you do, you’re a peddler.

Using consultant attributes: You definitely want to ask questions and develop solutions that fit needs – but understand that everyone else does that, now, too, so it is no longer competitive – nor particularly persuasive.

Today’s competitive advantage is embodied by The Influencer. This approach encompasses BOTH existing profiles – the ability to ask questions, and make presentations – and adds a critical “layer of influence:” a knowledge of, and focus on, how to guide – trigger – persuade – customer decisions.

Learn more about influencing skills and science-based selling.

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