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Why is this even a topic of discussion? Based on my personal experience and feedback from the majority of sales people that I meet, a consultative sales process is often misunderstood and almost completely lacking. Especially in smaller businesses the sales process is often performed by the founder, or at a later stage the founder may employ a sales person who is expected to deliver the goods. The more established and larger the company the more established this process becomes, but to a point. Often there is a documented process, but it is neither followed or worked on. The result: lost opportunities, lower margins and frustration. What is this really costing you?

I have created this article in an attempt that you will challenge your CSP. If you are a sales manager or report to a sales manager, the information contained here will set you up with the basics, like a DIY kit. Just so that you don’t feel like I am luring you in with my charm, I am not. I am more direct than that J.  If you would like help with your CSP (yes you do!), and you feel you need more than this article then reach out to me.  This is what I do: I fix sales processes!!

So, what exactly is a Consultative Sales Process (CSP)? (You need to know what it looks like to get there.)

A Consultative Sales Process is a comprehensive, realistic, step-by-step documented outline of what the salesperson is expected to do. This includes:

* activities and calls that they should make, such as when, how, quantity made and frequency.

* the relationships that they should establish. Document how these should look and with whom – think about the present and future value of each customer and prospect. Categorize your customers according and invest in those relationships accordingly?

* what materials should be used in the sales interview process (on the phone and face-to-face). This should include both the hard material as well as the know-how process and pre-scripted dialogue (this is a big field!)

* the issues that must be discussed or resolved. Managing this aspect proactively will be appreciated by your customer.

* the tangible goals that must be achieved and in what sequence. Make sure these are matched to measurable KPI’s. In addition, record history and tasks in a CRM program.

Download your CSP summary here: CSP

If you consider the above points you should come to a logical conclusion, and that is: you are now better equipped to monitor the overall sale’s force activity, progress and results.

You will be in a better position to assess problems as they arise and to redirect the sales person’s efforts for a better result (Gold!). Use this template to guide your sale’s meetings.

But here are some home truths. For you to have a fool proof CSP, which works for your business, you need to regularly review it so as to ensure that it is improving, adapting to change and delivering. You can have the best system in the world, but unless you do the following it is almost worthless.

  • Is it customer centric? Most businesses I meet all have the same message – they are customer focused. I have found that this is often not so. Few businesses invest time in developing a CSP around the true customer drivers.

The following are some handy hints to make your CSP work for you:

  • Involve customers – ask them how they would like to be sold to (focus groups, surveys, discussions held etc)
  • Identify best practice – what is the feedback from the top performing sales people, do you have a competitor that is performing really well in this field, what is their process? Are there case examples from another industry type that you could model off?
  • Sell the benefits of your CSP to your sales team to ensure you get momentum and buy-in.
  • Develop value adding quality control measures such as a CRM program, weekly meetings and simple but meaningful KPI’s.

A final word: the message I get from just about every business I meet now days is a scarcity of quality employees and this is restricting the growth potential of businesses.  I also subscribe to the 80/20 philosophy of life, so my question to you is what are you doing to be in the top 20% of performing businesses?  Are you sufficiently investing is skill and capabilities within your business?  Have you developed a culture of ongoing innovation and learning in your business? Great employees only stick around when they are in an environment that supports this.

Remember, even sharp axes get blunt with use.