In the past, the successful salesperson was a persuader, a features expert in a market where customers had little information, were eager to buy and had limited sources of supply.
The salesperson’s role has evolved from being a player in a numbers or relationship game to being a business consultant, providing maximum value to customers.
Added value today
Offering added value now means understanding the customer’s business, their industry and the competition. It means discovering how the salesperson can play a strategic role in the customer’s business.
Today, successful salespeople are experts in their customers’ businesses and function as consultants, promoting the business objectives of customers and providing innovative ideas and solutions. They are also strategists, providing opportunities for customers while demonstrating value.
It takes two dimensions of effectiveness for salespeople to achieve the roles of consultant and strategist:
- Personal effectiveness. This requires motivation, self-management, innovation, and the ability to handle stress, assess risks and generate creative solutions.
- Technical effectiveness. This requires high levels of product knowledge, applications, business processes and other factors that affect the purchase and use of products and services.
Consultant skills required
The four skills salespeople need to be effective consultants:
- The ability to recognize buying behavior. Knowing what the customer values in terms of having a strategic relationship is the first step in being a consultant. A consultant starts with the customer’s point of view and tailors advice accordingly.
- The ability to create a competitive offering. A consultant adds something that the prospect would value enough to pay for. The “something extra” is usually not in the product itself, but in how the customer uses it.
- The ability to establish a partnership. Both the seller and the customer need to work together to make doing business easier.
- The ability to understand business priorities. Salespeople must be able to identify the things that keep customers awake at night and offer the right solutions.
Strategist skills required
The four skills required to be an effective strategic seller:
- The ability to manage opportunities. Successful strategists know where to put their resources to the best use, where to do battle, and how to qualify accounts objectively.
- The ability to manage decisions. Sales strategists understand and influence the dynamics inside the customer’s decision-making process. They identify the key decision-makers and develop appropriate ways to influence them.
- The ability to manage competition. Strategists know where they stand in relation to the competition’s value in the customer’s eyes. They identify and execute the best competitive strategy based on how customers view competition, not on how they feel the competition should be evaluated.
- The ability to manage messages. Strategists articulate the value of their solutions by emphasizing the value differently to different executives. Some salespeople approach an opportunity with a single value proposition. Strategists create sales messages that incorporate the varying concerns of the entire buying team.