Are You a Consultant?

2018-11-20T15:51:35+00:00 November 20th, 2018|

Do you have sales or a consultative approach? To be fair, most of you can’t objectively answer this on your own. As a starting point, think of the intent of your prospect conversations. Are your conversations a part of the value you bring to your prospects and clients, or are your conversations a mechanism to deliver and communicate your value?

Here are a few questions that will help you determine the role your conversations are playing when it comes to the advisory value and experience you are creating with your prospects and clients.

  • When you anticipate and weigh the possible outcomes of the meeting, do you define the commitment of a second meeting as a win?
  • When you research the company, do you search for the information that helps you align your specific expertise with your talking points?
  • When you prepare your questions, do you prepare the questions that help you identify and clarify the prospect’s pain points, so you can offer your expertise as a solution?
  • Are you often sold on your ability to help the prospect within the first 15 minutes of a conversation?
  • When the prospect stumbles to answer a question, do you feel compelled to break the awkward silence and save them with an easier question, or share one of your ideas?

Here’s the tough truth, if you answered “yes” to any of the above – then you may not be the consultant/advisor you think you are. You might be a really hard worker with a lot of determination, resilience, and experience, but at best you’re a well-compensated salesperson. And this might be enough for many of you.

The answers to these questions represent a domino effect in the sales or consultative experience you create for the prospect. In other words, once you commit to chasing an outcome or second meeting you initiate the sales process that your prospect is used to – this makes it hard to differentiate or deviate from the sales script.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to break down the reasons that a “yes” to each question says a lot about the lack of consultative acumen you may be delivering to your prospects. To this point, the following represent some common sales experiences, assumptions, and patterns related to each question…

  1. Outcome: Subconsciously or consciously, you start with the pursuit of an outcome because that’s what some old sales guy taught you long ago when you were young and impressionable, and hungry to make a sale. Well, you made some, and this false success trigger has stuck ever since. But you’ve never questioned the validity of this correlation.
  2. Talking Points: To solidify this outcome, you’ll work really hard at your talking points so when cued you can message them with confidence and clarity. After all, your talking points are your value. They are the features and benefits combined with your expertise that will help you get that second meeting – and one step closer to your sale.
  3. Questions: If by chance your prospect doesn’t seem to be cooperating because they didn’t read the email where you thanked them in advance for their time (the opportunity to come in and sell them), or where you listed out what you will pitch to them – you may have to prepare some questions to get your prospect back on track. Crafty questions that help you ready your prospect and set up your talking points for center stage. It’s your sales Jedi mind trick.
  4. Experience: You have some hard-earned wins under your belt (mainly because you’ve followed this track too closely) and a bit of expertise entitlement has settled in. So, you are quick to assess the prospect’s situation based on your perspective vs. taking the time to help the prospect create their own perspective. You push for the second meeting and your prospect acquiesces, or more accurately “the dude abides.”
  5. Awkward Pause: Lastly, if the prospect stumbles during your interrogation and set up, and doesn’t seem to be putting enough energy into answering your questions – you’re ready to double down on the conversation with a more impassioned declaration of your expertise through a third-party success story. Finally, after asking the prospect, “How do we earn your trust and business?” your prospect relents and schedules a second meeting. You’ve won!

Yes, there’s some playful sarcasm in the scenario above; however, there’s some everyday realism to it as well. If you were the prospect and unsure about the risk of making a change, how would you react and respond to this experience? How quickly could you connect that you were a part of a sales process, or being qualified as part of someone’s “sales” pipeline?

When someone gives you advice that you can tell is tied to an outcome they have a vested interest in, how credible is the advice they give, and how secure do you feel in taking it?

Again, are your conversations a part of the value you bring to your prospects and clients, or are your conversations a mechanism to deliver and communicate your value? Stay with me as I break each question down further…