The highest paid and most successful sales professionals are those involved in what’s known as consultative selling. What is consultative selling? Simply put, it’s a technique in which a salesperson acts as an expert consultant to his customer, asking questions to identify needs and then choosing the solution that will bring the greatest benefit.

This approach requires that you position yourself as someone with the experience and insight to help customers meet their needs. It’s a valuable tool in dealing with complex accounts where many factors are involved and competition is a factor. With consultative selling, you can easily best the competition.

Here are 5 tips for using this approach:

1.     Know your customer. In consultative selling, it’s important to know exactly who your customer is and what she needs and wants. It requires that you think of yourself differently, focusing on getting your customer financial results rather than making a sale.

2.     Do your homework. One of the key variables in consultative sales is your knowledge of the customer’s situation. You must learn everything you can about the customer’s situation before you even dare to suggest a solution or course of action.

3.     Focus on financial improvement. Your customers want to save time or money, and your goal is to look for ways to do these things. They want to achieve their goals in a cost-effective way, so your solution must cost less than the immediate benefits they seek.

4.     Show the anticipated ROI. If you can demonstrate how your product will pay for itself quickly and dependably and go on to generate a net profit for a considerable time thereafter, the sale will practically take care of itself.

5.     Accept responsibility for the results. One of the keys to consultative selling is accepting full responsibility for implementing your solution and getting the results you promise. It’s important that your customer see you as a partner.

In consultative sales, you must earn the right to offer your customer advice by preparing thoroughly. Study your prospect’s company in advance of your first meeting. Then demonstrate that you’re not just a salesperson but a sales consultant.

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Brian Tracy is the CEO of Brian Tracy International, which specializes in business training, and the author of the best-selling Psychology of Achievement. For more information, go to www.briantracy.com.