Neil Rackham is a friend of mine. He’s a really good guy – even though he’s off writing children’s books now and basically retired (and I’m jealous as hell).
Since I’m getting heavily and happily into the Collaboration of all of the aspects of support around the Sales Profession, I thought I’d spend an entire blog just on Consultative Sales.
Let’s start with at the beginning. Linda Richardson was the person who first introduced Consultative Sales. Many of you may not know that, but she’s the brains behind the idea, although this fact might have gotten lost over the ensuing years. Once she introduced the model – it has been a much-needed addition to traditional sales and really begins the process of bringing the buyer into the process rather than have the buyer be a mere object at the other end of the seller’s pitch – a whole slew of folks took it from there, most notably Dave Sandler (the brains behind Sandler Sales) and Neil Rackham.
Before I get into SPIN, I’d like to offer one small comment about my late friend Dave Sandler: before Dave died, and after my book Sales on the Line came out, Dave called me to ask if he could buy me out. Unfortunately, and maybe stupidly (ok. It was stupid) I said ‘no’. Dave’s comment to me was interesting: “I’m very impressed with your work. I understand that the sales profession hasn’t known how to help manage the system behind the buying decision, and I tried to address that area with my model, but I didn’t know how to get far enough outside the box. You figured it out, even though you had to go ‘way outside the box to do it. Good job.”
Neil took us one step further: he added a questioning system that was not only easy to learn and understand, but very valuable in terms of how to help the seller determine what and how and when and why a buyer would buy. Brilliant. So brilliant that many major organizations are still using the model today. It has become a staple for Consultative Sales, both with sellers and sales programs.
But – and Neil and I have had several conversations about this – SPIN still doesn’t manage the internal, systemic, hidden (sometimes even hidden from the buyer) criteria that not only created the darned Identified Problem to begin with, but hold it in place.
For those of you who are happily using Consultative Sales and SPIN, I’d love you to have a look at Buying Facilitation: it actually sits on the front end – before you pitch, gather data, or do needs analysis – and walks the buyer through all of the internal issues they need to consider prior to even being willing to add a new vendor or product, or solve their own problem.
Are their internal folks fighting about changing vendors? Or is the current vendor a favorite to some? Is the problem part of something larger – and if so, how will the decision team know when it’s time to address the larger problem – which would need to be addressed prior to resolving the problem your product could resolve? You’re new to the prospect: how will the prospect know to trust you? Just because you have testimonials, or that you’re really good, doesn’t mean that will manage their criteria.
Consultative Sales is wonderful: it brings the buyer’s Identified Problem into the sales process and gives the buyer a voice. Let’s just add Buying Facilitation to the mix and give the buyer the thinking tools to walk through all of the issues they need to resolve before they can make a purchasing decision (they have to do it anyway, and Buying Facilitation will make it easier for them). That way more of them can make room for your product much quicker. And because you will have helped them put together all of the pieces of the necessary decisions (not just product or problem related, but related to the entire set of givens that created the problem to begin with) you will be a true Consultant.