Why Consultative Selling Requires Business Acumen

It’s astonishing to see just how much change has sprung about in B2B sales in the past few years – it almost feels like a different world at times. In the past, sales reps possessing solid rapport building skills, coupled with decent product knowledge, had a good chance of closing sales and cultivating account loyalty. Fast forward to today, however, and we live in an age where global competition and a well-informed customer has fundamentally altered the role of the salesperson.

At times though, this trend tends to be a victim of dramatization, with online pundits who tout their predictions that sales as we know it is essentially dead, and will ultimately be replaced by the Internet or Artificial Intelligence. However, that has yet to happen and we do not foresee this happening anytime soon.

Instead, we believe the resulting effect of the complexities of the rapidly changing salesverse has led to consultative sales becoming more important than ever. An unintended consequence of this trend is information overload, and having experts around to navigate is incredibly valuable. While buyers may have access to a wealth of information about products and services, they often lack the expertise for appraising the benefits or consequences of their purchase.

The resulting effect? A shift in customer behavior in that they now look at their vendors to provide a more intricate level of assistance and insight during their buying process. This shift in buying behavior has placed even greater importance on the B2B sales professional. The expectation now is that the sales professional will be a Trusted Advisor that will aid in guiding the buyer to reap the desired benefits of the solution they’re buying.

In order to fill the role of Trusted Advisor though, the seller needs three key elements in their process:

  • A solid understanding of the solutions being sold
  • A thorough understanding of how the customer’s business works and their needs
  • And ultimately, articulating how the solution will provide long-term benefits and solve problems for the buyer

In other words, the seller needs to have business acumen. A salesperson possessing this trait will be able to cultivate a deeper insight into customer needs and understand how to strategically position their products and services accordingly.

To understand the difference between a salesperson with and without business acumen, consider these two scenarios: Tom is a sales person who is primarily focused on closing deals and doesn’t give much consideration to what his customers’ true needs are. Tom is knowledgeable about the products and services he sells, but doesn’t go beyond satisfying his customers surface level needs.

Paul on the other hand is a salesperson with a genuine interest in his customers, their business challenges, and how he can help solve them. He asks probing questions and listens intently to identify what is most important to them. This discovery process positions him to provide insights his customers may not have thought of, and allows him to present tailored solutions that will help them overcome their challenges.

The difference between these two scenarios is clear: Tom has a short-term vision of closing a deal and boosting his bottom line. Paul is interested in earning the trust and loyalty by forging a long-term business relationship with his customer’s best interests in mind. Paul has won the account, not just a one-off deal.

To make a long story short, approaching a sales inquiry with business acumen can dramatically change the dynamic relationship between seller and buyer. It will create opportunities and paths for the seller to really demonstrate the specialized knowledge they have gained, and perspective will become an important component of the buyer’s long-term success.