Consultative Selling: Laying the Groundwork Today to Solve Tomorrow's Problems

An image of two hands shaking.

Some of you may remember the seminal film Glengarry Glen Ross, which featured so many incredible performances and memorable lines, such as Alec Baldwin’s A-B-C speech. “Always Be Closing” he harangued at the team.

Like many things from the 80s (the movie was based on a play written in 1984), the whole “greed is good” focus was a little over-the-top, but when it comes to sales, that concept of “always” is key. Why? Because sales is about solving problems through a foundation of trust.

And how do you build that trust? Through relationship building.

Before we go any further, let me introduce myself. I’m Brad Lickman, director of sales at Digital Echidna. I joined the team a few weeks ago and wanted to share some thoughts about what I feel is an integral part of the customer experience -- building long-term relationships through consultative selling.

Most people looking for professional digital services aren’t making a decision on the spot. It’s a lengthy process. The catalyst may be ROI-based (we need more sales or we need to improve efficiency), it may be mandated (new policies, standards, regulations, the expiration of a contract), or it could simply be emotionally based (recognition, promotion, validation).

However the motivation comes about, executing that idea takes time, consideration, and research. Often they’re large investments -- especially on the types of projects we, at Digital Echidna, tend do work on -- so the selection process and implementation are naturally going to be time consuming.

That’s where the value of a good customer relationship can shine -- by engaging in consultative selling, you can help your client get the right solution for their needs.

So how do you start? The meet and greet is just part of the experience, but you have to put in some effort. It helps if you understand most, or all, of the following:

  • The buyer’s business: What market are they in? What are their strategies? What’s their motivation?
  • The buyer’s beliefs: What are their implementation strategies? Do they have a roadmap? What are their core values and how do you align with them?
  • The buyer’s corporate landscape: What’s the procurement process? Is there an individual or team that has majority influence on a vote regarding purchasing from a particular vendor.

And it goes without saying that you have to have an awareness of the products that you offer and how you can integrate your service offerings with their needs.

That’s the foundation. From those solid supports, you can build a relationship of trust. Trust isn’t given, it has to be earned -- and that requires execution and proof. On any project you need to measure and agree upon short and long-term project success, and deliver on ROI, efficiency, and/or emotional metrics. If you can do that, you’ve gone a long way to proving your trustworthiness.

But it doesn’t stop there. It’s not just about launching and leaving. Once you’ve delivered, you have to maintain that trust and continue the relationship. You’ve proven your value and are seen as critical resources that can be called upon to provide additional services and consultation. You don’t want to squander that hard-earned trust by letting a relationship go dormant.

Ideally, the end result of most consultative selling relationships is going to be the customer purchasing your product. But the great thing is that, even if they don’t, there are so many ancillary benefits to fostering a positive relationship. We’re not the company for everyone. Our projects tend to run larger, so some people may not be in our ballpark. That’s OK. We’ve worked with several people to help point them in the right direction of a solution that more aligns with their needs. If they’re happy -- and we’ve been a part of that -- we know that they’ll look favourably upon us for future projects. Or, if someone in their network needs a solution, we know that our name will come up in a positive light.

Always Be Closing -- it doesn’t need to be cutthroat. If you look at it as a way to always be providing your network with quality service, advice, and support designed to solve their problems, then that’s a positive.

Best of all, in my experience, the net result is the forging of positive relationships that can last entire careers. You gain friends and colleagues across various industries, institutions, and geographies, and it’s always great to be able to catch up. Few things brighten up a day than seeing someone at an industry event whom you haven’t seen in a while.

And if you catch up over a nice dinner, even better! Remember, we’re solving problems here and that’s supposed to be a positive experience -- so if we’re not able to have a little fun from time to time, why are we doing this?

If you want to get in touch with me, I’d love to hear from you!