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Contributed by AFFLINK.

Consultative selling is one of the most powerful selling techniques jan/san distributors and account reps have available to market their products and services.

According to Michael Wilson, vice president of marketing for AFFLINK, consultative selling can be defined as: An exchange of information in which the salesperson uncovers an understanding of a facility’s needs and helps the customer select products and services that will address those needs.

However, many customers don’t know exactly what their needs and challenges are, which can make the process difficult. This means the salesperson must ask questions. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do this.

According to Wilson, to make sure the consultative process works, there are some pitfalls distributors should avoid:

Avoid turning the sales process into Dragnet. The now-famous television series, Dragnet, starred two cops who rattled off questions in their search for “Just the Facts.” While this may have worked on TV, it rarely works with clients.

Instead, guide the prospect with questions based on the conversation. Show genuine interest, empathy, and your desire to understand their issues.

Avoid leading questions — a question that contains its own answer. Many distributors are taught this technique because it helps them focus the customer on their product offerings. However, the customer can feel manipulated, start putting up defenses, and become skeptical.

Instead, keep asking questions that show your interest in the client’s needs and then slowly introduce your products and services, discussing how they can help address those needs.

Avoid “convincing” behaviors. Studies have shown that when salespeople try to convince a client to purchase a product, it creates negative “vibes.”

Instead of convincing, concerned behavior creates much more positive energy, helps stimulate conversations, and builds mutual trust, one of the cornerstones of consultative selling.

“[The] consultative selling approach is powerful, results in sales, and can build long-term relationships,” says Wilson. “Doing it right brings it to life.”