There is a good chance that you have not expected to be working virtually for as long as you have. The current pandemic has forced you to find new ways of connecting and communicating with your colleagues and customers. The challenges are that at times it may feel like you are building the airplane while flying it. Whether it is trying to increase your visibility with your manager, or building relationships with new customers, change never stops coming. The good news is you are not alone. Most people around the world are in the same boat. There are some tools and techniques that could help you maintain your current relationships, build new ones and elevate your current game above your competitors. The 3 Superpowers of consultative conversations are what you need now to conduct business virtually.
Be Clear on the Outcome in your Consultative Conversations
Powerful conversations require that you are clear on what your outcome should be before you go into a conversation. Now, this could be any conversation, not just a virtual one. Let’s use an example of a sales representative in an IT company. As a sales person, you know how to talk to your customers, and you know best how to solve their problems. Therefore, your outcome as a sales person could be another product or service to sell. However, there is a fine distinction between being the IT guy, selling a product or solution and being perceived as someone more than that. Let’s focus on what else could become possible? In today’s world of fierce competition, the last thing that you want to stand for is the typical sales guy who just wants to sell his or her products. What if you could become a trusted advisor?
Moving from Transactional to Transformational outcomes
Everybody wants to buy, but nobody wants to be sold. It is critical to first build trust with your customers before they decide to buy anything from you. We can divide outcomes into transactional and transformational. Transactional outcomes, for example, would be another virtual meeting, a call, or a request for proposal from your client. Thinking only of a transactional outcome limits you of what else could become possible. To truly create trust and learn the ways of consultative conversations, you need to level up your game. Transformational outcomes give you the edge and distinguishes you from anybody else. They lead you to build even more powerful relationships. Put yourself into the role of a trusted advisor that thinks and sees beyond the immediate solution. In response, such outcome could mean that the customer sees you and your company in a whole new light. You move your “label” that has been put on you from “selling a quick fix” to a “bigger and more comprehensive solution”. So how do we get them to perceive us in a different light? How do we manage to become more of a trusted advisor to our customers?
The Superpower of Asking Better Questions
Imagine that you could find out more about the concerns and issue your customers are having. What if you were to ask more questions? And by that, I mean open-ended questions. It is your curiosity that drives any type of conversation forward. No matter if you are in a sales conversation or any other type of conversation. There are two components that are under-used and of high value. If you get these two down, you are opening up yourself to a whole new world of value for yourself, and your customers. Those two superpowers of consultative conversations are “Inquiry” and “Acknowledgement”. Any conversation should start off with finding out more information from the other side. This is how conversations come alive. When you ask questions that you do not know the answers to yet, that is a true authentic question. It comes from a place of true curiosity. So, the next time you talk with your customer, do not assume that you know what they need. Instead, inquire more. Ask more questions to get a better understanding. Do not assume!
The Power of Acknowledgement Shows that You Understand your Customer
While you inquire and ask more open-ended questions to obtain more facts, background information, and anything else about your customer’s problems, you want to listen carefully. Often times, people advance too fast into their sales pitch, assuming they already know the solution. However, they are missing out on one key component. That superpower is called “Acknowledgment”. And that does not simply mean that you say: “I understand” to your customer. Show them that you truly understand them. This can be done in a few ways. One of which is re-phrasing what your customer just said or using the exact same words your customer used. And then wait. Acknowledge what you heard them say. In return, this gives them a chance to feel heard and understood. They will tell you if you did not get it correct or if something is missing. And that is the beauty of powerful conversations. You will get the feedback from your customer straight away. Therefore, you want to take the time to acknowledge what you heard, followed up by as asking whether you understood them correctly.
Practice Consultative Conversations to Develop Powerful Relationships
When I coach people on consultative selling in the virtual world, they first think they are already doing all of the above, namely asking questions and providing solutions. But have you checked whether your suggested solution is truly the right one? You may realize at times that if you had asked more deeper questions, you may have provided a better and more valuable package to your customer. Again, the art of this lies in asking the right questions and paying more attention to the acknowledgment part. These techniques need to be practiced. Only then do they become a true skill that you can use to develop powerful relationships.