In part one of my interview with Janet Jordan of Keynote Communications, she shared her insights into brand communications and the power of storytelling. Here she discusses the necessary skills for effective consultative selling.
Q. Your Consultative Selling training program seems to reflect the approach you take in working with companies to help them strengthen their message. In what situations is a consultative selling approach effective and why?
A. The skills we cover are essential in any situation in which there is dialogue, where one party has a need and the other can fulfill it. Such a scenario lends itself to a productive conversation, where the two parties are trying to arrive at a win-win.
In consultative selling, you need superb listening and questioning skills, and must effectively use the time to surface the issues that will tell you early on "are we a match?" Good questioning involves uncovering the need – many times people don't know what they need or that they have a need.
You also need the right balance of listening and talking. Achieving that balance shows the other person that you're on the same page. At the same time, you need to know when it's time to move forward. As part of that, it's critical to know how to respond when someone is over-talking – you need to guide the conversation forward without putting the other person on the defensive.
Q. You say that your Consultative Selling program participants come to appreciate that selling is an art that demands "common skills done uncommonly well." What do you mean by this?
A. Listening is one of the skills that many people don't do well. That's largely due to bad habits. Many people give the perception that they're not listening because they're playing with their BlackBerry during a meeting. Or they're typing away in the background while on a conference call. Those people often end up saying something that makes it clear they haven't been following the conversation.
Getting better at listening starts with making time for important conversations. These days, too many people schedule back-to-back meetings that don't leave enough time and space for productive conversations. Get rid of distractions. Allow your conversations to run long if necessary.
Other ways to improve include doing more listening and less talking. In a business environment, many people try to demonstrate their value by jumping in and getting airtime. They're thinking "I'm challenging the speaker by asking questions." But doing so doesn't allow the other person to follow his or her line of thought.
If the speaker is flowing along, don't feel you have to jump in. When you let others talk uninterrupted, their thought process can go in interesting directions. In meetings, reconsider that talk is "power." Instead think of listening as powerful. If you have an interesting observation or question, raise it after the meeting has run a bit. Asking good questions at the right time shows that you're listening and adding value to conversation.
Recognize that silence can be good. It's almost like a dance – you have to figure out who's leading and who's following.
Stop by tomorrow for the final part of this interview to find out how to maintain your real voice in the business environment, and how to be certain you've delivered a persuasive presentation.
Read more Savvy B2B posts from Stephanie.