The art of mastering a consultative relationship revolves around asking questions to discover others’ pain and then presenting and discussing a solution to the problem.
To master being consultative you must learn to walk a mile in your client’s shoes, or, figuratively sit alongside them versus across the desk.
Being successful with consultative relationships is about being successful in thinking in the way your client thinks. To do this you must first discover and understand their needs. Being consultative may or may not always result in increased sales; it will result in better relationships with your clients.
Getting to know your clients better will result in learning about issues they are having or tasks they are managing that could be better managed, or easily managed by you or by someone else with expertise in an area.
Through these discussions you may learn their pain would be remedied by a service you provide. Conversely, you may discover you cannot resolve their issue, which gives you the opportunity to help them find a solution. The art of being consultative boils down to listen first and ask questions to discover, then relate, then resolve.
Listen first and ask questions to discover
Think of yourself as a knowledge-broker. You have a lot of knowledge about financial matters. Your job is to meet with clients and ask questions to discover their needs and pains. The result of this meeting should be a series of recommendations that resolve their needs.
Some recommendations will involve products or services you offer, some may not. Recommending the best fit solution separates trusted advisors from their competition. Trust builds in the relationship as clients take your advice and discover their pains have been resolved.
Asking great questions helps you improve your business while gaining a better understanding of your client’s situation. Actively listening involves body language such as eye contact and sitting up straight or leaning in and taking notes.
If your client gives you a long-winded or convoluted answer to your question, ask a follow-up clarifying question such as, “If I were to summarize what you just explained, you are most concerned with xyz, is this right?” Follow-up questions reassure them you are listening and will ensure you are on the same page.
Consider asking clients these questions:
- What are your three most important priorities for next year?
- What tasks that you currently handle 1) give you the most stress, 2) require the most time, 3) do you wish you would not have to manage?
- How have you been handling 1) payroll, 2) financial planning, 3) Etc. How has this been working for you, what do you find most bothersome or challenging about these things?
- What could I do to serve you better?
Having the capability to appreciate, understand and communicate that you feel the same way a client feels about a problem will promote a stronger relationship with the client. Being an active listener, using positive open body language, and asking them to tell you more will help you to better see where the client is coming from.
Once you have posed your questions, had a conversation and believe you understand your client’s situation and needs, your time has come to deliver trusted advice. As you prepare to offer your advice, you might preface your recommendations by first summarizing their issue and the desired outcome.
For example, you might start in this way, “You mentioned you are most concerned with xyz, and that one of your main priorities in the next year was […]. If we could find a way to eliminate that concern, and satisfy your priority, would that be of help to you? This approach to resolution puts their concerns and needs first, leaving them agreeable that what you are about to recommend may meet their needs and satisfy their concerns.
Be prepared to not have an answer for everything.
The resolution may not be immediately apparent and you may not feel confident in making a recommendation without first looking into possible solutions. When you find yourself in this situation, tell them you will look into a solution and get back to them.