In today’s commerce landscape, competition is fierce and consumers are inundated with options. Now, a superior product isn’t enough – instead, service is the key differentiator. Therefore, sales reps must be able to attract prospects, meet objections, and solve clients’ problems. As such, they can no longer afford to merely focus on transactional sales; instead, they need to focus on nurturing long-term business relationships. This means that sales reps have to present themselves as knowledgeable strategic advisors. In this article, we explore this notion of consultative sales techniques and how artificial intelligence can support this strategy.
Index of Content
The characteristics of a consultative sales process
In essence, the consultative sales process consists of six key principles. With this basic outline of a consultative sales methodology, businesses can develop their unique approach to customer service. For example, businesses should take into account your product, the typical sales cycle, the sector, and the average buyer persona. These six key characteristics are:
- Research: Find out what the customer wants
- Ask: Ask questions to establish their needs
- Listen: Listen to their problems and objections
- Teach: Provide useful, informative responses
- Qualify: Assess the likelihood of the lead converting
- Close: Close the sale and ensure to maintain consistent contact
However, research published by the Objective Management Group suggested that from 350,000 salespeople across 200 industries, the average individual only deployed around half of these principles. In order to address this, sales teams need to master artificially intelligent technologies. According to experts, sales teams across the spectrum are preparing to implement considerably more AI. This is because artificial intelligence is the answer to increasing knowledge whilst driving sales productivity.
AI ROI in consultative sales
Most people associate AI with e-commerce giants like Amazon and Netflix. However, industry insiders have reported a record return on investment from AI for smaller businesses. Considering the multitude of success stories, you might think it is fairly safe to conclude that most sales teams are extracting value from AI. However, the truth is, only a small number are leveraging AI to its full potential. For instance, AI can substantially increase the sales team’s productivity, enabling them to gain more qualified leads; get a deeper insight into customer preferences; and coordinate sales across channels. The results of these strategies are impressive, including more conversions, lower overheads, and significant productivity gains. However, to leverage these benefits, companies need to:
- Create new roles. Creating bespoke AI solutions requires a specific skill set. Furthermore, the sales team needs big data experts to advise on sales strategy.
- Diversify data sources. AI systems rely on vast swathes of data. Therefore, companies need to ensure they capture structured (e.g. demographics, purchase histories) and unstructured (e.g. words from emails or audio recordings) datasets.
- Align tools and workforces. Businesses need to integrate AI tools with human workflows and provide training on its use.
Merging AI with consultative sales principles
The key to a well-developed consultative sale process in customer-centricity. AI can play an important role in supporting these principles, as artificially intelligent programs enable businesses to deliver a level of service consumers have come to expect. Ultimately, this focus is win-win: clients feel supported and businesses gain loyal, long-term clients. Now, sales teams have gone beyond traditional sales rep roles; instead, they are trusted advisors. This is as a result of consumer expectations, which are broadly influenced by their day-to-day encounters with technology. With this in mind, sales reps can seek to develop positive long-term relationships with their clients.