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Movin On UpMoving from the role of salesperson — implementation of the consultative approach


November 13, 2002

Salespeople sell…

Consultative experts advise …

Salespeople enter bidding wars…

People vie for the consultative experts’ time at any reasonable cost…

Every salesperson knows they should be acting as a consultative expert and yet very few achieve this distinction. The question is — how do you make this transition?

First, you must achieve the level of expert within your domain. Achieving this level is not performed overnight. Many stop learning after reaching the minimum level necessary to perform their jobs. In many cases this is achieving a license and/or fulfilling continuing education requirements. An expert continues to learn every day through a variety of methods:

  • Benchmarking with industry leaders. You do that by learning the methods and expertise that made them leaders.
  • Attending technical, sales, and marketing classes designed not only for your industry, but the industry of your target(s).
  • Reading articles and books on a regular basis.

Learning is one thing. Showing your expertise by sharing within your industry is quite another. Experts become the teachers of their peers and their targets. They share what they have learned and move a step further by demonstrating how this knowledge can help make their peers and targets more productive. Sharing knowledge for the sake of sharing knowledge is not quite enough. It is the transformation of this knowledge to practical application that is imperative.

Experts move into a consultative approach by learning the needs of their customers. This is the juncture where many who become knowledgeable fall short. It is too easy for us to assume that what the customers say they want is what they really need. Too many times we listen to the sentence, “I want a _____, please tell me how you can help me,” and we then try to find out how to give the customer what he or she wants.

Unfortunately, we may not really help customers if we merely fulfill their wishes. Finding out their more basic needs will put us in a position to serve customers at an entirely new level.

The first step of the needs assessment process is the development of trust. Customers are not likely to drop their guard and give us more information if they do not trust us or our motives. If they really trust that we are trying to help them, they will certainly become more open.

The second step of this process is asking open-ended questions in such a way that we fully exploit this trusting relationship. If we ask what the most important benefit is of the desire they expressed, we may find out that we can provide that benefit in a much more effective manner. For example, a customer says he would like a home in a particular neighborhood — what is it about that area that is so important?

It is the issue of trust that makes personal referrals easier to sell than cold calls. Personal referrals start from a standpoint of trust. With cold calls we must develop this trust before we can effectively investigate the prospect’s needs.

Finally, the full transition to a consultative approach is complete when it is determined we can deliver added value to the customer. It is not enough to give her what she wants or to fill her needs. The delivery of additional value is the key, and we stand no chance of delivering it if we just understand the wants but not the needs of the customer.

When we discover our customers’ real needs, it puts us in a position to understand not only how to fill these needs but how to deliver better service than they expect. Surpassing their expectations is easier than one would think. For one thing, delivering education in the form of seminars and articles can help customers understand the relationship between their desires and needs.

From there, you can really help them help themselves.

Dave Hershman is the author of seven books, including two bestsellers for the Mortgage Bankers Association of America. An advertiser for, Hershman also is a speaker for the mortgage industry and heads Mortgage School.

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