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Uncover the secrets of effective client relationship management and consultative sales strategies for lasting success.

You don't feel well. You know exactly what you need to do. You spend time with Dr. Google, typing in your symptoms. You scroll through a long list of potential illnesses, encountering scary conditions, and worrying about your health. You continue searching for something that will guarantee your survival.

Your buyers do something similar when they research the companies and solutions they believe will help them improve their business results. These buyers are trying to understand information, often without the experience to fully comprehend it. In both scenarios, the person conducting the research will eventually need to speak to an expert with knowledge and experience.

Debunking the Myth of Perfect Information in Sales

There is an alarming number of content creators and commenters on LinkedIn who would have you believe that your buyers know everything they need to know, making the salesperson little more than a prop. Let's refer to this idea as "perfect information" and "no need for advice." This is a flawed perspective on buyers.

Understanding the Buyer's Journey in Consultative Sales

You are One-Up when you have greater knowledge and experience than another party. You are One-Down when another party knows more than you due to their experience. In the sales conversation, you need to be One-Up so you can provide counsel, advice, and recommendations. This is what it means to be consultative. This is how you fill the gaps in your client's knowledge base.

Embracing the One-Down Position for Learning

Your contacts are One-Up when it comes to their business and their industry. They know quite a bit about their peers and even more about what might be possible. Those who believe they should always be One-Up would do better by being One-Down, making you the recipient of new information. Learning from others often fills the gaps in your knowledge base.

Leveraging Expertise in Client Relationship Management

All one needs to do is flip through history to find that leaders turned to people with greater expertise to make important decisions. Churchill went directly to Harry Hopkins to plead with FDR for help in World War II. Alexander the Great was tutored by Aristotle, who taught him to allow the people he conquered to keep their culture and religion, preventing them from rising. Napoleon Bonaparte had Talleyrand to help him negotiate treaties.

These creators and commentators somehow believe that this dynamic no longer exists. Effective leaders and decision-makers seek experts to help shape their decisions through the counsel of those who have greater knowledge, experience, and a valuable perspective, one that will lead to success.

The Art of Leading in Sales

It's hard to discern if the salesperson is afraid to lead their client because they are too timid, because they don't understand what it means to be consultative, or because they are not truly One-Up, making them a poseur.

The Role of the Salesperson in Facilitating the Buyer's Journey

How does your client know what they don't know? When someone suggests that the client should determine what they should do next, instead of the salesperson proposing the next best conversation that will ensure the client is able to continue pursuing the change they need.

Recently, several books have been published about stalled or stuck deals. One of the reasons your clients get stuck is because they have a salesperson who doesn't recognize their obligation to facilitate their buyer's journey. A salesperson who doesn't notice that their contact is making a decision that will threaten their initiative is guilty of negligence at best, and at worst, complicit in the future failure of the client's project.

Strategies to Prevent Client Failure

At one time, winning a deal meant meeting with a C-level contact. In a single meeting, it was possible to get a signature on a contract. I won deals only to lose them because the C-Level contact didn't allow their teams to be part of the decision. Having no say in the decision, they sabotaged my teams. But over time, leaders decided they would delegate the decision, holding them accountable for executing when they decided.

Collaborating for Success in Consultative Sales

To improve results, it was necessary to convince the decision-maker that we would fail together if we didn't spend time with the people who were going to work with us. More leaders than you might imagine tried to avoid building consensus, and some still do.

You and I are responsible for preventing our clients from failing, even if it means a little conflict. Sometimes I would work to help my clients change before they were harmed, preventing them from failing. Most of the time, they changed. But in two instances, the leaders refused to make the changes they would need to succeed.

The Salesperson's Role in Client Success

You are sitting across the table from your contact. You are responsible for helping them to know what they don't know. It is important to know that your buyer doesn't buy what you sell often enough to have the information and insights that come from experience helping people and companies improve their results and reach their goals. If the extent of your advice is something like "buy our solution from our company," you aren't likely to make President's Club.

The salesperson who is afraid to help their client make an important decision by leading the client is no help to the client, even if their solution is perfect for the client and their results.

Leaving this article, assess how consultative you are based on how well you are leading your client and ensuring your client can make the change they need and achieve the results that mean they succeeded with your help.


Post by Anthony Iannarino on December 23, 2023

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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