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I work with a variety of clients and I’m often asked if the sales approach is the same in industries where want’s normal is a transactional sales process.

Many salespeople find it difficult to overcome price objections, especially when their sales process is short and their product isn’t highly differentiated. But what do we mean by transactional selling?

Transactional Selling

The term usually refers to the process of conducting one-off, generally impersonal sales where immediately generating revenue is the main (if not the only) priority. Ecommerce and retail are two of the more obvious examples of this. Explaining value when your prospect is focused on price is a challenge salesperson faces with each new customer. While guaranteeing the lowest cost over an extended period of time is definitely a competitive advantage, it is not always the best way for a customer to buy.

It’s also not necessarily a good way to build a relationship, unless you can be sure of superior pricing and availability for ever.

Transactional Selling v Consultative selling

Where transactional selling is impersonal and immediate, consultative selling is a more long-term, needs-based approach where salespeople establish trust and personal relationships with prospects to understand their pain points and tailor solutions to suit their circumstances.

Transactional selling, on its own, isn’t always sustainable. It’s a quick fix method that tends to pay off less than consultative sales in the long run. It doesn’t empower prospects to the same extent as consultative selling, and in turn, makes them less inclined to consistently engage with you and your organisation.

That said, your industry might naturally lend itself to transactional selling. It could be ingrained in how you operate, but that doesn’t mean it has to define the full extent of the sales strategies you use. You can still incorporate elements of consultative sales into your broader sales efforts.

So here are four techniques you can employ to engage in consultative selling in a transactional industry.

  1. Build trust by understanding the end goal.

Differentiate yourself by instigating a comprehensive discovery call that helps you understand the company, the key contacts, the goals, plans, challenges, timeline, purchasing process of your prospect.

Good questions could include:

  • How often do you purchase?
  • Do you buy from single or multiple suppliers?
  • What do you expect from your supplier relationships?
  • Are there factors other than price that would be valuable to you?
  • How are you measured on performance?
  • What is the one thing that I can do today that would make your life easier?
  • How often do you do look for new suppliers?
  • How long does that take? Is the process easy or hard?
  • Are there any services that go along with that?
  • How much time does it take for you to source the lowest price?

Regardless of how the prospect is trained to buy, explain that your best customers value their supplier relationship. Sometimes, new clients like to speak to a current client to get relevant insights so using testimonials or connecting your prospect with a reference to explain a specific experience can be highly effective.

  1. Act like a consultant to point out areas of cost savings.

During the discovery call, identify ways the prospect can save time, effort, and money (outside of the purchase price) to make the conversation about total cost of ownership rather than just a spot transaction price. Availability, access to stock, payment terms, purchasing method (invoice or credit card), contract length, and legal terms can all help determine the price.

A good discovery meeting includes questions not just about the current transaction but also the longer-term relationship, and can uncover areas your prospect hasn’t thought about that demonstrate your experience, expertise, and goal of working toward a valuable relationship for everyone.

When a prospect jumps to price right away, it’s vital to dig in and figure out what that means. Is the purchase price the critical issue or does the cost include installation, training, ongoing support, account management, maintenance or other aspects of the ongoing use of the product? Even if the product is a commodity, there are value-added aspects from having just-in-time availability to delivery you can differentiate yourself on.

Some good questions to ask here include:

  • Is a 15% reduction in cost meaningful?
  • If I could help you save 10% off the purchase would that have an impact?
  • Is there anything other than price that could influence your decision?
  • How do you pay for your goods?
  • Do you get a guarantee of lowest price?
  1. Schedule a quarterly review with your customers.

If you have a current relationship with a client who is mainly focused on price, it may make sense to schedule a time to review the overall relationship and make sure you are providing the most value based on a total cost of ownership. Quarterly reviews are a good way to cycle in and make sure that you are meeting current needs and looking for new one.

Priorities or directions often change in an organisation, but salespeople don’t uncover this information because they don’t ask so check in frequently to determine if there are changes to the business, new needs, extension of a product line, new territories, or new opportunities to help.

  1. Keep your interactions conversational and genuine.

Consultative selling is a personal game, so it serves you to add a personal edge to your communication when conducting it. As I’ve said, you need to be able to build and sustain trust with your prospects. It might be self-explanatory, but you have to put your prospects at ease by keeping your conversations with them conversational.

Sounds obvious doesn’t it?

You need to understand your offering’s value, believe in it, and articulate it well. If you can do that, you’ll get more from a consultative selling approach in a transactional industry

No matter the nature of your industry or how you sell, it’s worth having a thorough understanding of both approaches — you stand to gain a lot from incorporating consultative sales strategies into your sales efforts in a transactional industry.

Are you struggling to differentiate yourself in a commodity market. Perhaps we can help

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