Why Consultative Selling Break Down Post-Training

Anthony Chaine
Feb 16 · 8 min read
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In a digital hyper-competitive world, everyone agrees that value-selling is the answer. Most sales organizations try to position themselves as consultative-driven rather than transactional-focused.

Every CEO or CRO prefer to lead a sales force that thinks, act, and perform in a consultative fashion while helping their customer achieve their business goals.

Sales organizations spend billions of dollars in training to upgrade their sales talent from transactional sellers to growth consultant. Yet, most fail miserably.

Consultative selling is a discovery-based approach that positions salespeople as expert advisors able to solve complex problems and grow organizational profits.

It’s a delivery system that strives to meet its promises by solving customers’ problems while improving profitability. Besides, it’s a collaborative approach that performs a holistic business analysis that covers known and unknown risk factors and impactful events.

Challenge

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The biggest challenge for most sales organizations is coaching their teams to adopt this value-based relationship selling methodology.

Sales leaders understand intellectually that the transactional selling approach is self-centred, discount-driven, valueless that widens the gap between the seller and the customer. But, they have no idea how to disassociate their salespeople from it.

Getting beyond transactional selling is critical for organizational, economic, and sustainability purposes. However, despite their concerted efforts, many value-based sales organizations find themselves competing in the same space where transactional selling reign supreme and where customers are not the only price-conscious but often cannot separate vendors from consultative growth partners.

Value of Consultative Selling

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In the payment industry, every sales organization claims to possess superior technology, better products, and first-class services that save time, increase profits, speed delivery, and guarantee specific critical outcomes.

However, product superiority-claims strategy leads to pricing wars. Claims to technological superiority strategy are met with competitors declaring even higher technological superiority.

When anyone can assert a product, service, or technological advantage, it leads to customer confusion, frustration, distrust, and price suppression — everyone loses in the process.

When chaos reigns supreme, consultative selling becomes a definite distinction that can be leveraged to build trust, reduce tension, improve relationships, while helping the customer to achieve their goals while eclipsing product, services superiority claims.

Consultative selling:

  • Convert the price from representing a product cost to a required investment that yields higher economic value.
  • It forces everyone to invest in products improvement that yields improved profits for customers
  • It elevates sellers to consultants and customers to clients.

The essence of consultative selling is the added value created by transforming a physical capital recommendation to intellectual capital that increase margin. In short, consultative selling is an intellectual differentiator, where the seller leverage tangible and intangible resources to prescribe a solution that returns better ROI.

It’s a profit improvement process that leverages issue resolution, cash flow inflow/outflow, working capital fluctuation, receivables, and solution delivery timeline.

Consultative selling is a transfer of intellectual capital in the form of insight, competitive knowledge, education, trade expertise, and the accurate evaluation of the business and probability of reaching its desired goals.

Transactional Selling

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A transactional relationship with clients is a commodity exchange that eliminates distinctions, lowers margins, and reinforces the idea that the velocity of winning a deal trumps profitability and relationships.

Training salespeople to become sales consultant happens in the classrooms, but rarely become the norm. Training doesn’t stick because the adoption period takes time, requires faith in the process, and deliberate practice.

When facing a customer, a salesperson may want to use the value-selling process learned in the classroom intellectually. Still, one instinct will naturally push toward the familiar path of less resistance — Transactional selling.

Research from Xerox has demonstrated that 87% of new skills are lost within a month of sales training. Salespeople often show enthusiasm and excitement, learning new skills in the classroom. But, fail to maintain that level of excitement applying that newly acquired knowledge in the field.

No wonder why 85% of sales training to upgrade salespeople’s ability fails to deliver results. Every year billions of dollars are invested by sales organizations to modernize their sales talent. However, most of it generates negligible ROI and becomes a waste of time, energy, and money.

A study conducted by CEB estimates that 45% of all learning isn’t applied on the job. In 2018, over $87.6 billion was spent on corporate training and development in the United States ( Training Industry Report).

Proven Methodology — Yes, But,

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The quality of training or the level of investment is not the issue here.

Consultative selling applied adequately leads to better results, higher-margin, more significant profit, boost employee confidence, and yield more valuable client relationships.

The question is, why do salespeople resist adopting a methodology that is superior in favour of a product-pitch-driven approach?

Just like a car is energized by its engine, results stimulate salespeople. The best salespeople would tell you that closing a deal matters more than the method used to close.

Spending money on upgrading sales talent is a good thing, but unless the methodology is built into the organization’s way of living its purpose and delivering its value to its customers. The core message will fade post-training quickly and will never get implemented as a way of doing business.

Senior management must lead this initiative proactively and continuously, reinforce, produce, and monitor the progress of its training, coaching, and educational seminars to ensure the entire organization synchronicity towards consultative value-selling.

Training is like a movie script. The screenplay feeds the actor the lines to develop a specific character, and any deviation may lessen the actor’s ability to deliver the punch.

Training provides lines of thought and processes. Still, it takes practice, courage, perseverance, and a mindset transformation to adopt the theoretical new consultative approach and discard the proven old transactional methods.

We know that consultative selling works, salespeople that perfected this art form are top performers. Salespeople that value-centric, achieve more profitability, build stronger relationships and are perceived as trusted advisors and growth partners.

The Disconnect.

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We all know that sales is a high-pressure profession. The salesperson must deal with constant pressure coming from all directions.

The reason most sales training fails to become a wild success is attributed to the gap between what C-level executives want to accomplish and what line-managers have to do to keep their jobs.

Imagine this scenario. Salespeople attend the training, where they’re told to forget their old way of selling and replace it with this new, untested sales methodology that requires total focus and attention on the customer’s critical needs.

No more product pitch, ask an open-ended question and listen carefully to your customer. Discover your customer objectives, current obstacles, inner fears, motivational factors, the desire for expansion then align your business solution with your strategic customer objectives.

During the training, the salesperson learns how to ask better questions, perform deep business-analysis, conduct a holistic economic and psychological discovery, strategically build a long-term relationship with his clients and clearly define and demonstrate compelling value to his clients.

Back from the training, the salesperson starts putting into practice what he learned in the classroom. Confident that it will take time to master this new methodology that guarantees a higher yield.

We know that the post-training period is vital to one success. The application of these newly learned skills is a transition period that should not be subject to traditional high output pressure.

Too much trouble from the manager querying about when the deal is going to close, or the expected volume that should be in for the month, breaks the camel’s back and forces the salesperson to revert to the old methods to satisfy the line-manager performance requirements.

If the manager doesn’t support the adoption of consultative value-selling, why should the salesperson?

Pressure is Tough

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Under pressure, salespeople will adopt a hybrid method where they settle for 20% of consultative selling and 80% transitional methods. However, when C-level sales executives reinforce value-selling by allowing a grace period of adoption without significant worries about quota attainment. It often leads to team adoption and stickiness.

Sales consultancy is a business approach that comes to life only when everyone in the company embraces the whole ecosystem of support around that philosophy.

Moving from a transactional selling model to a consultative model requires a significant transition of skillset, mindset, and toolkit.

The old adage states, “Sales is a number game.” However, when you treat your customers as such, they will treat you worse because they are in control of the economic resources you desperately need.

A strong focus on sales without any consideration of your customer leads to a transactional environment where the sales force and the sales management become insensitive to customer’s needs, desires, and objectives.

Conclusion

Transactional selling is a product of the last century, where the seller was in control. Today the buyer is in control of information, time, and economic resources.

The market is filled with product substitutes, and the only way to create a compelling distinction is by adopting sales consulting as a way to help your customer achieve their goals, grow their business with you as a trusted, reliable growth partner.

The customer knows that they have an unlimited number of choices, but that takes effort, time, and energy; they rather spend it somewhere else. That is why 78% of business buyer seeks to work with an industry-trusted advisor that add value to the business just like a CPA or an attorney would.

According to the Salesforce report, 57% of salespeople have missed their quota in 2019. Transactional selling continues to be the dominant selling methodology in the field.

Without the full support of C-level leadership post-training, the implementation and success of consultative selling will be impossible, and all investment in training will continue to be a waste.

Real transformation occurs when the ecosystem surrounding salespeople is in total congruence with the organization’s expectation, mission, and purpose.

Thanks for reading.

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Anthony Chaine

Written by

CEO of Elite Leadership Consulting, CRO of F500 Co, Author, NSA Speaker. Maladroit Golfer. Find me at: www.asalesleader.com; www.linkedin/in/anthonychaine

The Startup

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