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Four Chicago-Based Companies Adopt a Consultative Sales Approach, Ditching the Sales Sharks


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    These companies want their salespeople to truly get to know customers.

    For a long time in some companies, the “sales shark” persona represented the ideal salesperson — that is, someone who can sniff out weaknesses and remain aggressive, selling the customer something they may not want or need.

    But times are changing, and the desire for sales sharks is sinking to the bottom of employers’ wish lists. Instead, many companies are recasting their sales team through a more consultative lens, prioritizing employees’ emotional intelligence and their ability to build authentic client relationships. 

    Bolstered by a passion for their products and services, many sales leaders report lending their advice, knowledge and experience to customers in addition to selling their solutions. Through the creation of lasting relationships, companies found that clients were more likely to return, invest in larger projects and recommend their services to others. 

    Built In spoke with four Chicago-based companies about their journeys to adopting and maintaining a consultative sales approach. 

    Adage Technologies team photo
    Adage Technologies

    Sarah Bordson

    Vice President of Strategic Growth

    At Adage Technologies, an e-commerce web design and development firm, a consultative sales approach was ingrained in the company culture since its inception in 2001. By truly getting to know their clients, Adage sales leaders sometimes found that customers required larger projects than they originally anticipated. 

    Have you always had a consultative approach to sales, or is this a relatively new shift for you?

    I’ve used a consultative approach to sales since I started more than 10 years ago. I learned that approach from our founder here at Adage Technologies, Roy Chomko. Learning from Roy, I experienced firsthand the benefits of consultative sales and saw how gratifying and fun the job can be when you think of yourself as supporting someone rather than selling them. Using passion and knowledge of the product with empathy for prospects, I’ve seen great success as a salesperson, and for the accounts that I’ve won. From these experiences, Roy and I have grown the marketing and sales department at Adage Technologies as a positive place to work that sees results and positively impacts our customers.

    I saw how gratifying and fun the job can be when you think of yourself as supporting someone rather than selling them.”

    How do revenue results and client relationships change when salespeople take a consultative approach to their work?

    First, prospects and clients actually want to talk to you! By leading with a consultative mindset, you become a welcome addition to their day rather than an unwanted interruption to avoid. Additionally, clients sold with the consultative approach tend to stick around longer and their projects are more extensive. 

    Recently, I was approached by a prospect interested in the ongoing support of their existing site. When talking through their current status and needs, we determined together that they would benefit from a complete rebuild and re-platform — a project 10 times the size of their annual support goals. By taking the time to learn more about their organization, we fully understand their needs and can now help them not just carry on with their status quo but grow their digital presence.

    What would you say to a person or team that was resistant to the idea of shifting to a more consultative approach?

    The quickest and most reliable way to win new business and keep those customers happy is by meeting them where they are. Rather than trying to sell, you become a helpful and trusted resource. Not only will your revenue grow, but this approach also leads to a more fulfilled life in sales.

    machinio

    Martin Rojas

    Senior Business Development Team Lead

    For Machinio, a sales platform for construction, medical, agriculture and other equipment, the shift to a consultative sales approach evolved over time. Now, they know their sales methods are working when customers return for more and recommend their platform to others. 

    Have you always had a consultative approach to sales, or is this a relatively new shift for you? 

    When I started my experience in sales 10 years ago, I was more focused on offering a product than a service, which unfortunately sometimes was not the most reliable approach. At Machinio for the last five years, I have been able to evolve into a more consultative approach to sales. The confidence and security of offering not just a product but a great business solution for our clients makes all the difference. My sales approach, and the one I use with my team, is now based on identifying our customers' problems and offering our experience and knowledge to find solutions. We build trust, add value, instill loyalty and promote the opportunity to do business together — if not today, then tomorrow.

    The confidence and security of offering not just a product but a great business solution for our clients makes all the difference.

    How do revenue results and client relationships change when salespeople take a consultative approach to their work? 

    With a consultative approach in sales, the customer understands from the start that we want to help, and that our goal is to win both ways. When that happens, you will see your client come back for more or spread the word in a way that brings us more opportunities. 

    In our industry, word of mouth is real and we have had tremendous success and additional revenue come from the positive experiences that our sales process has provided to our clients. Our customers have the confidence that they can rely on our support when they need it. Working in this way not only differentiates us from our competition, but it also keeps clients coming back for new projects. We had this happen recently with a South American client based in Brazil. They returned for additional services provided by our products for a newly built company/brand of theirs. They trust our relationship and the value we can provide.

    What would you say to a person or team that was resistant to the idea of shifting to a more consultative approach?

    I would say that a sales approach that does not incorporate a consultative aspect is unlikely to result in a long-term business relationship. The philosophy of getting to know our customers better translates into being able to offer them facts and solutions, not just words and promises. My passion for selling at Machinio is directly proportional to helping our customers solve their problems and generate more business, and it is rewarding to see them enjoy it.

    Salesperson talking to a client
    Shutterstock

    Shawn Mobley

    Chief Commercial Officer at XSELL Technologies

    XSELL Technologies uses augmented intelligence and cloud-based natural language processing technology to support companies’ customer service responses. At XSELL, a consultative sales approach looks like showing up for clients in ways big and small — whether it’s picking up the phone, modeling a demo or providing training opportunities. 

    Have you always had a consultative approach to sales, or is this a relatively new shift for you? 

    The shift to consultative selling, from a product-selling approach to more of a solution-selling model, mirrors technology shifts in a lot of ways. In the past, software sales were transactional. Customer interactions were more prescriptive, and in many cases defined by the terms of the RFI or RFP that guided the sales process. With the shift to cloud-based software delivery, the selling model changed, too. 

    In the past, software sales were transactional. With the shift to cloud-based software delivery, the selling model changed, too.” 

    With SaaS, you’re shifting to a team sales model in all areas of your organization to help deliver a solution and the resulting value to your customer. That means pulling in all of your internal partners to help achieve sales success by solving your customer’s problems — engaging pre-sales, customer success, value engineering and all aspects of the organization to partner with your customer, understand their business challenges and work with them to create an ongoing relationship that allows both sides to come together and deliver business value. Ideally, you as the seller know when there are problems before the problem happens and, as a team, you work together to fix them. You anticipate the customer’s needs. And if that customer relationship falters? You’re out. 

    How do revenue results and client relationships change when salespeople take a consultative approach to their work? 

    Relationships drive business results. If someone trusts you, they want to do business with you. If a seller is leaning into consultative selling, they know their customer, their business and the opportunities within and around the account, as well as what the levers are to drive action in the account. 

    What would you say to a person or team that was resistant to the idea of shifting to a more consultative approach?

    The days of drive-by delivery are over. Product-driven sales efforts don’t work. In this economy and in the long term, it is imperative to demonstrate the value of your solution on an ongoing basis. Consultative selling helps you do that. Helping to solve your customer’s problems gives you a real-world use case for your solution. As you work through the scenarios your customer brings you, you are not only showing the value of your product but you are also building a foundation of trust with your customer. You are showing them that you are there to help. Every time you answer a call, provide a demo or offer a training session, you are deepening that rapport and gathering more information that can, in turn, be used to better serve the customer’s needs. 

    If you can take consultative selling a step further and quantify it — really leverage value-selling principles to develop an ROI model for your solution, then help your customers take in a meaningful, metrics-based pitch for your solution that you and your team can deliver against? Everyone wins.

    Origami Risk team photo
    Origami Risk

    Kristie Wheeler

    Inside Sales Team Lead

    Many business development representatives at Origami Risk, a SaaS provider for the risk and insurance industry, came to the company with experience in creating transactional-based sales relationships. With time and experience, they have grown to embrace the consultative approach as a means of strengthening client relationships and increasing company revenue. 

    Have you always had a consultative approach to sales, or is this a relatively new shift for you?

    Many of our business development reps have not always had a consultative approach to sales. This comes with time and experience, going from transactional-based selling to relationship-based selling at Origami. 

    One of my team members, BDR Nick Ciufia, explained, “Aside from being naive, I didn’t understand how to truly add value to a conversation with a prospective customer. My mentality was always, ‘How do I get the most out of this for my own objectives?’ rather than providing value to a company or an individual who is battling an objective of their own. Learning how to provide a prospect with a relatable perspective has really empowered me to be a more successful salesperson. When you can build trust and credibility through industry similarities or pain points, there is a lot more transparency in engagements which benefits both parties. Regardless of a purchase, I know I can at least make an impact on their evaluation process by sharing meaningful insights I learn from their peers.”

    How do revenue results and client relationships change when salespeople take a consultative approach to their work? 

    A consultative approach generates trust and a greater buy-in from the prospect, which in turn results in a stronger client relationship and greater potential for sustained revenue over time. 

    Another team member, BDR Mike Fix, said, “I genuinely get a sense that the prospects I speak with appreciate the time I spend understanding their processes and day-to-day struggles rather than just rattling off a laundry list of features and benefits. Countless times, this has resulted in a shortened buying cycle as the prospect views me as a trusted advisor rather than a salesperson that will do or say anything for the sale.” 

    What would you say to a person or team that was resistant to the idea of shifting to a more consultative approach?

    There is a time and place for all sorts of sales practices, but things are ever-evolving and the demand for complex solutions keeps growing. 

    As Ciufia said, “A consultative sales approach focuses on solution selling rather than product or feature selling. By gaining a better understanding of my prospect’s unique situation, I’ve been able to equip myself to better educate and advise them on similar things I’ve heard or spoken about in prior engagements. Learning from client success stories and utilizing industry experts in my network has helped enable me to take on this approach. When you can hyper focus on the prospect or client’s needs, a certain type of open dialogue becomes natural in the relationship with that person, ultimately helping everyone win more.”

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