A visit to the Doctor's is an unlikely place to find inspirational sales education and yet many B2B sales people could learn a great deal from the experience about consultative selling. Let me explain why. When we make an appointment to see the Doctor we are usually unwell and showing signs or symptoms of one ailment or another. As we enter the Doctor's office there is usually a short exchange of pleasantries followed by a question.... "So how can I help?" or "What seems to be troubling you?" Let's assume we have a chesty cough, so we reply "Doctor I've had a chesty cough for a few weeks now and I can't seem to shift it!" Does the Doctor immediately reply, "Here is a prescription for antibiotics, that'll shift it?"
Of course not, the Doctor will take time to ask you detailed questions and examine you thoroughly - why? The Doctor is more interested in the cause of the cough rather than the cough itself. The cough is just a symptom of an underlying issue. His questions may seem totally random but all are asked with a single purpose, to uncover the 'real' medical problem you have.
Only when the Doctor has finished his examination will he give you a diagnosis and only when he has a diagnosis will he decide on a course of treatment. In most cases the Doctor will discuss the possible treatments with you, and you decide between you what works for both the patient and practitioner.
You leave armed with a prescription and begin your course of treatment. If you come out in a sudden rash and feel worse you have 'reacted' to the medicine and a fast trip back to the surgery is required. However if you 'respond' to the medicine, you soon feel and get better.
Prescription Before Diagnosis Is Malpractice
Let's run through that story and check it against what great consultative selling looks like! Well first we have 'Rapport' where the salesperson (as the Doctor did) will seek to put the prospect client at ease. A great salesperson will then 'Diagnose' by asking the client lots of questions about his business and rather than take answers at face value (the symptoms) he will prod & probe further to uncover the real source of the business pains and needs.
Only once the salesperson has his diagnosis he can start to 'Position' how his organisations goods or services can provide appropriate solutions to 'Solve' the prospects issues. The prospect will usually have questions and concerns that will need to be addressed 'Objection Handling' before the deal can be 'Negotiated' and 'Closed'.
Specialist Doctors are often referred to as 'Consultants' which is where the term 'Sales Consultant' comes from. The work of both is to:
- Build Rapport
- Explore & Examine
- Position A Solution
- Resolve Concerns
- Agree Final Solution/Contract
- Follow Up & Support
I meet many sales people that jump straight from Rapport to their Pitch, or pay lip service to consultative selling by asking one or two questions until they hear interest, then 'wham', straight into Pitch! In contrast great sales people know that effective selling takes place in the diagnosis as much as in the pitch!
Author Bio: Managing Director of MTD Sales Training, Sean McPheat is regarded as a thought leader on modern day selling. Sean has been featured on CNN, ITV, BBC, SKY, Forbes, Arena Magazine and has over 250 other media credits to his name. For more help, support and advice, visit Sean's MTD Sales Blog - 5,000 other sales professionals and business owners do every week!
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