You’ve nailed your opening call, delivered a superb value proposition and you’ve piqued your client’s curiosity. But there’s only a small window of opportunity to present a proposal, so timing is mission critical. Are you sure you’re ready––and what about the client? Is there such a thing as too soon in the world of consultative selling?
To help, here are a few sales presentation tips to help perfect your timing.
1. Don’t present until you understand the problem
Never present a solution until you’ve fully understood your client’s problem. If you’ve gone through a consultative line of questioning you should have a clear understanding of what your client’s objectives are and what problems are preventing them from achieving them––along with the costs.
“We see a lot of salespeople do what we call a ‘show up and throw up’,” says Paul O’Donohue, Founder and Group CEO of SalesStar Global. “They go to a meeting and go: ‘Here's our proposal, here are our solutions, here's our product, it's all about us, buy, buy, buy.’ They don't take a step back and leave the product and solution in the car and ask some questions first to see if the client qualifies. ”
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2. Don’t present until you understand the value
Until you fully grasp the scale of your client’s problem, particularly in terms of what it is costing them, along with their budgets and timelines, it is almost impossible to understand the value your proposal has.
Think of like this: say you have one million dollars. Sounds like a lot right? It must be valuable! But what if that one million dollars is actually from a hyperinflated economy? It might not be enough to even buy a loaf of bread. All of a sudden, your one million dollars doesn’t have the same value as you thought it did.
Understanding the value of your solution to your business helps you put things into perspective, as well as gauge the seriousness of the problem and how motivated they are to fix it.
“Once you've fully understood that, then you can go ‘Here's the value this solution brings’,” says Paul. “If the customer pushes back, it allows you to say ‘Well, Mr/Ms Client, you're saying this is too expensive, but you've got a challenge here, which is costing you this, and this solution is going to fix your problem. So it's good value isn't it?’”
3. Slow down to speed up your sales cycle
It might seem counter-logical, but if you want to speed up your sales cycle, you need to slow down. Take the time in your consultative interview to complete a full line of questioning in your initial meeting before presenting a solution.
“It’s important to understand how your client goes about making their decisions, what their time frames are, and if they’ve budgeted for a solution to their problem,” says Paul. “If you haven't got all of that then you're probably presenting too early.”
4. Stay in control of the process
The trick to staying in control of a consultative sale is to make the client feel like they’re in control. How? Your line of questioning is crucial here, it’s no good pointing out their pain points for them, they must discover them on their own.
“If you tell them that they have a problem, then you're the one with the problem because the client won't appreciate you—a virtual stranger—criticising their business,” says Paul. “You risk coming across as quite arrogant. But with Socratic questioning, you can control the conversation to get the right emotional reaction from your client and motivate them to change things.”
Many consultative sellers use a two-meeting process. The first as an exploration meeting to learn about the client, their pains, the costs associated with that along with their motivation to change. The second meeting is to come back and present a solution.
“There can be a bit of time between that first meeting and second meeting,” says Paul. “And the key to making the sale is getting the buying temperature up, and that happens when you talk about the client’s problem and the costs associated with it.
“If there are new people in the room, then draw them in by asking them your open-ended questions again, ‘John, you weren’t here at the last meeting, but how do you feel about this challenge? How has it affected your side of the business?’.”
5. Present at the right time for the client, not you
Never leave your first meeting without booking a time for your second meeting. Try asking your client when they’d like you to come back to present a sales proposal. This will put the ball back in their court and make them feel in control, while in actual fact you are. What’s more, you won’t end up presenting too soon (and risk turning into the stereotyped pushy salesperson) or too late (and risk losing the sale to someone else). Instead, your presentation is at a time that’s right for the client.
Tip: apply the 80/20 rule of consultative selling to your proposal. Spend 80 per cent of it talking about the client, their problems and how you will enhance their profit and the remaining 20 per cent on how your service or product will help them.
Could your business harness the power of consultative selling? Learn the basics in our free guide, Stop selling, start consulting: the power of a consultative sales strategy.