Pressure stemming from competition, budgets, and schedules has driven sellers to look for more efficient ways to reach customers. In recent years, advancements in sales and marketing automation have provided a solution: inside sales. Now, more sellers can reach more customers in less time without the burden of travel or coordinating schedules. Consider, for example, that AstraZeneca exchanged a field sales team for a 300-person inside team. Similarly, IBM accelerated their high-quality inbound lead rate with renewed investment in inside sales. Moreover, some industries are reporting that 55% of their sales originate from inside sales teams. The trend is clear.
Inside selling, however, cannot succeed on volume alone. More customer conversations will not move the needle unless the seller can adopt a framework to yield value from each interaction. While efficiencies in technology spark the initial contact, sellers must still develop that outreach into a sale. To make inside sales work, sellers are learning that they need an approach that uncovers customer needs. The answer is Consultative Telephone Selling. Here, we look at three ways to unlock the potential of inside sales with a consultative approach.
Balance Questions with Insights
Reaching the sale means positioning a solution that addresses the customer’s needs. However, competition has forced many businesses to leverage nuanced differentiators. As a result, sellers need to make a greater effort to understand these details across a range of customers. Less than half of customers believe that sellers adequately address their problems according to Gallup. To leverage volume, sellers occasionally rush through the important step of clarifying customer needs. The result is a mismatch between the solution delivered and the challenge that the customer faces. Sellers need to ask more questions.
Effective questioning starts by providing the rationale for the inquiry. This preface encourages customers to share information. However, questioning shouldn’t be an interrogation. Sellers need to earn the right by balancing their questions with insights. By offering relevant ideas, the seller establishes credibility. As the seller moves through these questions, they must acknowledge what the customer said as they lead to the next question because it’s too easy for the customer to disengage over the phone.
Having insights ready for calls requires preparation. By researching potential gaps and needs in advance, sellers can identify opportunities to create differentiated value. Once these differentiators are understood, sellers can map their capabilities to customer needs. Ultimately, customers are receptive because the information is relatable. This approach is critical because only 60% of B2B companies believe that they do a good job of “aligning offers to target customer segments,” according to Bain & Company.
Remember, keeping information relevant means avoiding the tendency to show the volume of one’s findings. Sellers must share only the most relevant information; otherwise, they risk losing the customer’s attention.
Objections are especially frequent within inside sales because it’s easier for a customer to walk away when they’re not in the room. The best way to resolve customer objections is to understand the underlying concern. In many cases, the underlying concern stems from cognitive dissonance. This principle represents the common tendency to discount, dismiss, or oppose information that is new or conflicts with our beliefs because it creates emotional discomfort.
Sellers must begin by maintaining their presence and avoiding the natural, almost involuntary, defensiveness we feel when someone disagrees. Open-ended questions should follow. Sellers need to know what base concerns are causing these objections. These broad questions prevent the customer from feeling that the seller is trying to elicit a specific response. Knowing the core driver of the objection is critical because it allows the seller to address the detail, rather than giving a flat “no,” which offers no information.
Take Ownership of the Conversation
When the customer speaks to the seller, they’re getting a preview of the solution. That is, the customer is getting a sense of what it will be like to work together. For this reason, the seller must demonstrate that the customer is in good hands.
While the consultative process relies on a dialogue, it’s important for the seller to remember that they need to drive the conversation. From the start of the call, the seller needs to demonstrate their preparation by signaling a clear game plan. Maintain focus on the customer without allowing your surroundings to distract you. This approach demonstrates credibility by using concise phrasing that gets to the point. In a call, the seller has less time than in a face-to-face meeting. Sellers can also demonstrate their credibility by referencing examples of previous, relevant work in the customer’s industry while emphasizing key points with silence.
Today, more companies are embracing inside sales. Therefore, customers are hearing from more sellers. Winning the sale means going further than other sellers by taking the time to understand customer needs. A consultative framework accomplishes this goal. It is the key that opens the power to inside sales.