Consultative + Strategic Selling

By Ricardo Roman, Director of Association Manager for Caliper, an employee-assessment and talent-management-solutions company that helps businesses align talent with strategy; hire better people faster; and develop leaders, teams, and mission-critical employees. This is the final part of a 3-part series based upon discussions on "Effective Sales Practices to Improve Your Performance" Roman facilitated during the recent 2017 TMSA Logistics Marketing & Sales Conference.

Previously in this series we introduced the concept of competitive positioning and discussed why it’s important to align your company’s strategy with the right sales model. We looked deeply at the New Business Development model in conjunction with an operational-efficiency strategy. Now, let’s look at two other models, Consultative Selling and Strategic Selling, and explore how they align with a customer-intimacy strategy and an innovation strategy respectively. 

The Consultative Selling model is based on customer intimacy: knowing about your customers, developing deep relationships, and customizing your solutions to their needs. As proof, look at the critical competencies in the Consultative Selling job model:

  • Active Listening
  • Influence and Persuasion
  • Relationship Building

Consultative sales professionals need to listen to their customers and influence decisions, but they also build and maintain relationships in order to provide targeted, customized solutions. In short, they position themselves as a partner for their clients in a way that the New Business Development salesperson does not. To deliver a specific solution that targets a customer’s exact needs adds a great deal of value into the process but probably means being less competitive on price. Think of the difference between New Business Development and Consultative Selling as the difference between buying clothes off the rack at a department store and developing a long-standing relationship with your own tailor.

Strategic Selling, by contrast, is a model based not on customer intimacy or operational excellence, but on a third category of competitive positioning: product leadership. In this type of sale, the sales professional acts as a subject matter expert who knows the market and can deliver a transformative solution.

Compare the critical competencies for the Strategic Selling model (below) with those of Consultative Selling (above):

  • Influence and Persuasion
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Learning Agility

Strategic salespeople must be able to think long-term, learn quickly, and update their knowledge in order to stay ahead of the curve in their market. This type of sale requires establishing oneself as an expert, being at the leading edge of product innovation, and prescribing a superior solution. That solution might cost more, and might not be as easily customized, but it’s likely to be at the forefront in terms of quality and function.

If New Business Development is an off-the-rack suit (competing on price at the expense of customization and innovation) and Consultative Selling is bespoke, made-to-measure (deeper relationships, customization), Strategic Selling focuses on getting the most advanced product (think Tony Stark and the Iron Man suit from the Marvel Cinematic Universe – maybe less formal, but it’ll let you fly and battle supervillains.) The bottom line is this: your organization can be successful with any of these three strategies, as long as you know what your competitive position actually is and build your sales team accordingly.

Review the other two parts of this series:
Part 1: What is the Best Sales Model for Your Company?
Part 2: What Do You Actually Need from Your Sales Force?

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