If you have been following sales training articles and blogs recently, you would think that the role of salesperson as consultant and trusted advisor is dead. These articles suggest that the ideal salesperson acts as if customers are wrong about their “real” problems and challenges customers about their knowledge and assumptions.
Now, it is true that a sales consultant should challenge a customer’s assumptions or facts when they may be wrong. But the effective consultant understands the difference between customers who need their assumptions challenged and those who are knowledgeable about their needs. While understanding strategy and challenging customers’ assumptions is critical, this is not a “style” of selling that has replaced the role of salesperson as consultant.
Having effective consulting skills is essential for selling today. Sales consultants provide added value by understanding the customer’s business, industry, and competitive landscape. They discover how the selling organization can play a strategic role in the customer’s business, are able to communicate credibly with the customer’s senior executives, and push back when the customer makes incorrect assumptions or reaches inaccurate conclusions. Effective sales consultants discern what influences the customer’s buying behaviors, anticipate those needs, and respond strategically. Consultants understand how the customer uses their product or service over time and establish profitable associations between and within the buying and selling organizations. In this context, the salesperson becomes a business consultant, promoting the business objectives of the customer, providing innovative ideas and solutions, and challenging the customer to think differently when needed.