In order to be an effective sales consultant, active listening skills, empathy, and the ability to ask appropriate probing questions are needed. Consultants work best when they get an accurate picture of customer needs and are able to suggest solutions that will meet those needs. It is also important that they thoroughly understand the products and services that they represent in order to properly match them with the appropriate customers.
Contrary to popular belief, an excessively outgoing personality is not necessary for success as a sales consultant. In fact, those with more subtle personalities and natural listening skills may fare better in the long run. The foundation of success for this job is building relationships. This cannot be accomplished without the ability to actively listen to what a customer is saying between the lines and to proactively address those desires and concerns.
Besides being an effective listener, to be successful, a consultant also needs to possess the ability to put himself in the customer's shoes. He or she should not just focus on making a sale and reaching a certain quota, but also on solid customer service. Since customer satisfaction and future sales tend to be directly linked to the quality of customer service, overlooking small details may be detrimental. It is important for the person to be approachable and welcoming, engaging in small conversations that move beyond the actual sales transaction.
Understanding customer preferences and what makes different customers tick is an important aspect of this job. For example, if a commercial retail customer is not comfortable with elaborate displays, it may be best for the consultant to suggest smaller displays or additional shelf space in order to increase sales volume. Effective salespeople tend to be flexible and creative when it comes to devising potential solutions that often involve a compromise from both sides.
The ability to ask probing questions is also important in a successful sales career. Without being able to determine what customers are looking for or need, it will be fairly difficult to satisfy them. It is also important to be able to overcome potential objections by demonstrating how products other than those originally suggested can meet customers' needs.
Obtaining an adequate level of product knowledge is vital for effective sales consultants. Making suggestions and incremental sales can be difficult if the consultant is not aware of the available product options and their features. It is important for him or her to be able to match up the features of the available products with specific benefits that the customer is looking for. Knowledge is also crucial when it is time to educate customers on what the products can provide and how they can positively contribute to the customer's profit levels.