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How to Turn a Transactional Relationship Consultative

When you engage a new prospect for the very first time, you have to decide whether or not you are going to be a transactional salesperson or a consultative salesperson. Your dream client doesn’t know who you are, and they are going to do their best to discern how to think about you based on your interaction. This first interaction sets the tone for the relationship—including your future discussions, interactions, and negotiations.

Here is an example. Your perspective client calls and engages with you about something they need to purchase. You decide to give them a price, and you make it a price that ensures you win the order. Now in every future interaction your new client will expect you to compete on price. This is what you’ve trained them to do.

The best way to avoid finding yourself in this precarious position is to avoid transactional behaviors from the beginning of the relationship. But if it’s too late for that, and knowing hindsight isn’t very helpful right now, here’s a play to shift to value.

Shift To Value

If you are going to make the shift from transactional to consultative, you are going to have to have a serious conversation with your client about the value you create—and capture.

The language may sound something like this,“I am sorry, Bob. I believe we have done you a disservice. I believe there is more value that we should be creating for you, and by competing to win your business on price, I am afraid we’ve failed to produce the greater results that we should be creating for you. The results we should be producing for you will require a greater investment on your part, and we should have shown you the value we could create for you. This was wrong, and I am sorry. I’d like to talk to you about how we might charge you a little higher price and get you a far, far greater return on the money you’re investing. Can I share some ideas with you?”

If having this conversation doesn’t appeal to you, then your best decision is to never need to have this conversation in the first place. Being a consultative selling trusted advisor isn’t for the yellow, lily-livered, weak-kneed salesperson.

Questions

How do you prevent yourself from being perceived as transactional?

What behaviors make you appear to be a price-based, transactional vendor?

How do you make the shift from a transactional salesperson to a consultative salesperson?

Comments

comments

  • Brian Kenimer

    Love it – thanks Anthony

  • Tamara Schenk

    This is a very important topic, thanks for adressing this in such a clear and “spot on” way, Anthony! “Shift to value”, that’s it.
    A few thoughts I want to share:

    What I learned is, that there is a huge change effort behind. Because either way, people have their comfort zones, transcational or consultative.
    A transactional sales person has to make a very conscious decision to get out of this comfort zone in the first place, then to adjust the messaging, what you pointed out perfectly and then to practice, practice, practice – hopefully with the adequate coaching support from the sales manager.

    On the other hand, the stakeholders at the customer organization may change as well. If the conversations have taken place with IT management and procurement in the past, e.g. to renew a contract or to deliver on already specified needs (presenting features and functions and prices basically), the consultative conversations may be focused on other roles, different levels, often with lines of business.
    So, a lot of change effort on different levels!

  • Dennis H

    I have used this exact script, almost word for word, and it works wonders.
    There is something really disarming about an unsolicited apology – even the most hardened buyers are caught offguard when you start off the conversation this way. Cadence is definitely important as well – pause after you tell them you’re sorry – it has a great effect.
    I work in IT, and the customers I deal with are bery left-brained, logical, yes/no type people. This conversation definitely disrupts their thought process and natural resistance to speaking with salespeople.
    Great post.