I just finished going through Jeff Thull’s most recent book “Mastering the Complex Sale: How to Compete and Win When the Stakes Are High!” Jeff is a master sales consultant and this work beautifully lays out the three evolutionary phases of consultative sales.
Era 1: The Presenting Model
Sales efforts are focused on presenting the solution and handling objections. This method is based on a two assumptions; customers understand their core problem and the vendor has a deeper insight into what works than the one with the issue.
Can this work? Absolutely, a derivative of this is exactly what Steve Jobs and Apple does. Think back to the iPod… or iPad it is exactly what Apple did. They evaluated the entire process and put forth a solution that solved the issue of complexity.
The question is do you believe that you possess the innovative insight of a Steve Jobs for your marketplace? You may, but there are certainly less risky sales paths to follow.
Era 2: The Consultative Model
This is the ‘Columbo’ (an American crime fiction Television film series) method. One asks questions about needs so that they can position their product as the right solution. Of course once again one is assuming that the client understands their core issue. The conversation is often characterized by points of circumstantial speech and irritating asides.
Era 3: The Diagnostic Model
You do not assume that the client has a complete understanding of the problem; in fact, you assume that they may not recognize that a problem exists. You examine the situation, hypothesize about the root problem(s), and propose ways to work with the client to verify then address the root problem(s). The result is a well fitting solution, one that often could not of been realized independently.
Which is best for you to employ?
I’m completely biased towards the most recent iteration – diagnostic. It could be my inner engineer but more like it is because whether one is promoting a service, product, or them self this approach is based on a conversational foundation bolstered with naturally slotted proof points. A good representation of this framework is the methodology of business model design laid out by Alexander Osterwalder in ‘Business Model Generation’ or better yet Steven Blank with his Pivot philosophy.
Better question, why am I reading this? Because the desire to present your insights and findings in a manner such that people come to the same conclusion and take action is a sales process. And, there is deeper buy in when one contributes to the realization of the solution.