Is Consultative Selling Dead?

It’s a good question with the new emphasis of sales teams toward an insight-driven sales strategy.

Here’s what we know:

Commercial Salespeople and selling teams are spending more time convincing buyers to change to radically different ways of getting work done. Less competitive selling, more evangelism.

For buyers, it’s a digital deluge. More companies than ever have a new platform or app – the Subscription Economy in action! As a result, customers are feeling overwhelmed. They’re not debating the value of the technology being sold, but whether their employees will adopt it.

So, what’s the best sales approach in this hyper-digital age?

In other words, what is the best approach to create demand for your new technology?

When creating demand (as opposed to competitive selling), you can take one of two selling approaches:

  1. Hypothesis-Led Approach: You go into an initial sales call with a pre-determined insight meant to “provoke” or create buyer dissatisfaction. Challenger has led this movement.
  2. Diagnostic Approach: You enter this first-step call with the strategy to listen & learn in an unbiased manner to see if there are opportunities to help the prospect or customer.

With sales teams betting the farm on these two very different approaches, I think it’s important to ask the question.

Which is better?

The answer?

It depends.

On what?

Whether the information you have is Emergent or Determinant:

  • Emergent Information: Emergent information “emerges” through a conversation.  This assumes there is much “unknown” going into a conversation.  It’s probably the norm for most early sales calls.
  • Determinant Information: Determinant is the opposite – it is known information.  For instance, the salesperson enters the first call already understanding the buyer circumstances or challenges.

The Best Path

If you’re selling into Emergent Information scenarios (a lot of unknown), you need to use a Consultative Selling approach. Leading with insight into these scenarios is risky, and will often lead to failed sales outcomes since it will create early resistance due to misalignment (you don’t want that!).

On the flip side, if you are equipped with information certainty heading into that first conversation, an insight-led scenario makes sense. During this scenario, you teach buyers to connect their problems to your insight. That should lead to an agreement to advance to the next step – a successful sales outcome!


Consultative or Challenger Selling?

So, do you find yourself in early sales situations (first calls) where there is a lot of unknown? If so, Consultative-Based makes the most sense (learn to ask great questions like FOCAS). On the flip side, if you’re fairly certain your contact has a specific set of problems (that they already see as serious), leading with insight makes the most sense.

Stay flexible in your selling approach early-on.

It would be ideal if salespeople could use a one-size-fits-all approach for their early sales conversations, but that doesn’t reflect reality. You’ll be on more solid ground to drive successful sales outcomes if you adjust to the information – or lack thereof – available.

With the cost of a meaningful sales call at about $1,000/per visit, it’s worth the flexibility.

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