Don’t Be Pushy: Empathetic Salespeople Are the Future

New age sales tactics lead with emotional intelligence and empathy.
Written by Jenny Lyons-Cunha
July 12, 2022Updated: July 22, 2022

You know the moment well: You’re browsing the racks of your favorite brick and mortar store on Beacon Hill when a salesperson greets you. The greeting is fine  — welcome, even. They ask how your Tuesday is going and offer to answer any questions. 

With each subsequent encounter, small talk about the muggy weather subsides into pushiness, and your blood pressure rises. By the third time they’ve forced eye contact across the aisle and promised an unbeatable deal, you are likely to hurry out and take your search to Newbury Street instead.  

This dreaded encounter mirrors the type of sales interaction that Ryan Peltier at Reveneer aims to banish from tech with a more consultative approach. 

“There’s a stigma in sales that we will do whatever it takes to close a deal,” Peltier told Built In Boston. “A consultative approach to sales instead focuses on developing a relationship with your prospect through open dialogue.”

SmartBear Sales Manager Alex Porter believes that a lack of customer care begets negative buying experiences. “We are much more likely to buy, go back to or recommend a company that puts the customer first,” he said. 

Emerging consultative strategy gives professionals the opportunity to reclaim human connection in the sales process — and it starts by venerating the customer’s needs.  

Bonnie McLellan, strategic account manager at Alteryx, recommends leading with incisive questioning. “If you take the time to engage with clients on their key initiatives, you identify what really matters — for both the organization and the person,” McLellan said.

There is good news, she added: “For most salespeople, being consultative is a natural skill that they can easily hone with practice and commitment.” 

While the pushy sales trope may never completely fade, sales leaders from Alteryx, Reveneer and Smartbear have made it clear that empathy is in — and it is carving space for more meaningful relationships in tech sales. 

 

Alteryx colleagues having a team huddle in the office
Alteryx

 

Bonnie McLellan
Strategic Account Manager

 

Alteryx is a big data and machine learning company that specializes in analytic process automation (APA). The Alteryx APA platform strives to unify analytics, data science and business process automation into a single platform. When Strategic Account Manager Bonnie McLellan transitioned to sales from strategic consulting, she brought with her a sense of inquisitiveness — which lends itself naturally to a consultative approach. “I brought that same curiosity and willingness to listen to clients both as a direct contributor and as a sales leader,” McLellan told Built In Boston. 

 

Have you always had a consultative approach to sales? 

I am a huge advocate for the consultative approach in sales! I started my career as a strategic consultant at one of the leading digital consulting firms, so I have a strong foundation on the strategic side. 

I’ve always enjoyed building an understanding of my clients’ broader enterprise goals and priorities and helping to define a path to accelerate positive results. It’s very rewarding to gain the trust of clients and, in turn, to be able to help them deliver results.

 

How do revenue results and client relationships change when salespeople take a consultative approach to their work? 

A consultative approach elevates the relationships with my clients and enables me to help drive accelerated revenue for both the client and my own organization. It is more meaningful and exciting when you know you are making an impact on your clients’ careers and businesses. 

When you can align your solutions with critical-path strategic goals, the sales part is natural, and you are able to accelerate your transactions. I remember one of my C-suite clients being so convinced of the impact we were going to make together that he said bringing our solution to his company was going to be his legacy to the organization. I was so excited to hear him say this and realized my team and I had accomplished something great — we had created a relationship based on confidence and deeper meaning.

Other results that have meant a lot to me are seeing clients I’ve worked closely with get rapidly promoted or overachieve on aggressive goals.

You earn the opportunity to build deep strategic relationships by showing up prepared, knowing the industry and bringing creative ideas and strategies to the table.” 

 

What would you say to a person or team that was resistant to the idea of shifting to a more consultative approach?

I’ve been part of organizations where I helped to lead this shift — it is so worth the investment. It can be a significant cultural change that helps internal teams feel more focused and impactful. 

While you put in more effort to know your clients, their industry and values, the investment pays off exponentially. You earn the opportunity to build deep strategic relationships by showing up prepared, knowing the industry and bringing creative ideas and strategies to the table.

You will form longer-lasting relationships by understanding what clients need on an enterprise level and being part of strategic planning looking forward. Clients are appreciative because you are truly partnering with them to help them achieve their long-term objectives. At the same time, it makes our role as sales leaders more rewarding!

 

 

Alex Porter
Sales Manager

 

SmartBear is a company that provides solutions designed to enhance every phase of software development — from idea to delivery. SmartBear’s tools are meant to streamline DevOps processes while integrating with the products its customers use. Sales Manager Alex Porter frames empathetic sales as a way to stand out among the competition. “I always tell my team that the competition is just a Google search away — it’s incredibly important that we prioritize customer needs instead of ours,” Porter shared with Built In Boston. 

 

Have you always had a consultative approach to sales? 

Early on, I never pushed my customers too much. I learned quickly that wasn’t going to get me very far — more often than not, it led to customers going dark. Once I started listening more and asking more questions, I began to see more success. 

In looking back at the deals I lost, I began to notice that, although I thought I was taking a consultative approach, it was very surface level. I understood the customers’ problems but lacked a strong understanding of how those problems affected the customer and affected their business — which is ultimately what they are trying to solve. 

Once I started listening more and asking more questions, I began to see more success.” 

 

How do revenue results and client relationships change when salespeople take a consultative approach to their work?

Companies should see an increase in both revenue and client relationships, as they go hand-in-hand. 

By putting the customer’s needs first and prioritizing the customer relationship, you establish trust — which will lead to better retention rates, expansion and a willingness to provide referrals to their colleagues. 

As an example, we have been working with a very large e-commerce customer for the past nine months. During the initial engagement, we focused solely on uncovering the customer’s pains and how those pains impacted them and the business. We used this information to guide the customer through a successful POC and aligned a solution that fit their needs — rather than trying to push the most expensive product. Throughout the process, we became their trusted advisor, which not only won us the business, but led to three referrals to other groups within the company. 

By prioritizing the relationship up-front and really getting to know the customer, we established a loyal partnership that we expect will lead to both short-term and long-term success.

 

What would you say to a person or team that was resistant to the idea of shifting to a more consultative approach?

I would tell them to put themselves in the customer’s shoes. Today’s selling environment is more competitive than ever, and it is becoming increasingly hard for companies to truly separate themselves from the competition on features and functionality alone. Assuming pricing isn’t drastically different, buyers will likely look to the sales process as a deciding factor. 

If you aren’t making the buying process about the customer and trying to understand their pains, needs and wants, they can find someone who will with the click of a button.

 

 

Reveneer team member working on a laptop in the office
Reveneer

 

Ryan Peltier
Inside Sales - Strategic & Partnerships

 

Reveneer is a fast-growth sales enablement services company with a process that aims to deliver inside sales solutions for its customers’ challenges. The professional services company leverages data-driven insights and tech-enabled sales processes to generate pipeline and drive revenue. Ryan Peltier, inside sales at Reveneer, revels in being a resource for prospects. “We always want anyone who comes our way to find success, whether that’s with us or not,” Peltier said. “Prospects often come back when the time is right — or even refer us to someone in their network.”

 

Have you always had a consultative approach to sales, or is this a relatively new shift for you? 

I personally love the approach, because it’s all about connecting with your prospects and creating value and trust through understanding their needs and pain points. Our new customer acquisition grows 80 percent annually by referrals alone — because we view and treat customers as partners.

Our new customer acquisition grows 80 percent annually by referrals alone.

 

How do revenue results and client relationships change when salespeople take a consultative approach to their work? 

We know our model isn’t going to be the right solution for everyone. So, having an in-depth understanding of their revenue goals, pain points, et cetera, allows us to mutually determine if we can be successful for them — only bringing on new customers that are a fit.

Sometimes it’s not a good fit, and that’s okay! I spoke with a prospect the other day, and it wasn’t the right fit on both sides. Based on our discovery, we referred them over to a company that better aligns with their needs. 

 

What would you say to a person or team that was resistant to the idea of shifting to a more consultative approach?

Think about when you’re out shopping, and a store rep is continuously hounding you to purchase something. It can be enough to drive you away. Prospects are similar and can see right through that. If you’re reluctant to adapt to a consultative approach and are only in it to close deals, then you won’t see much success. 

If you’re open to giving it a shot, here’s my best advice: Give them the chance to bounce ideas off you and ask questions, and, most importantly: listen.

 

 

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