The Importance of Collaborative Selling in Business Development

June 27, 2017

Gone are the days when businesses pitched their products or services to their customers. Thanks to technology, the playing field has changed – and that’s a good thing! Never before has it been easier to connect and engage with those who value your services. However, this forces you to change the way you engage with your customers and identify their needs.

In my previous post I discussed the importance of inspiring your customers through the power of a great story. Now I’m going to move on to the next step of furthering your business: Using collaborative selling to increase customer engagement.

Too many people make the mistake of limiting their focus to the domestic market in the United States. However, with every passing year, the importance of operating your business at a global level is only increasing.

In my articles, I’m going to put extra focus on giving you the foundations to build a strong value proposition for international markets.

Consultative Selling vs. Collaborative Selling

Many people use these terms interchangeably, but they’re actually very different approaches.

Consultative selling is currently the main method that businesses use for selling, and it’s practiced globally. It involves the seller acting as a trusted advisor to assist the buyer in identifying their needs, and then offering solutions.

But now customers want more. They don’t just want to be offered solutions – they want to be part of the process. This is where collaborative selling comes in.

Collaborative selling involves the customer working with the seller in a joint process to identify their needs, evaluate whether the solution is suitable, and then navigate through the decision-making process together.

Consultative selling is head-on. You take the lead. Collaborative selling is side-by-side. You and your customer are a team.

Why Collaborative Selling is So Much Better

You’ll be surprised about how much your customer can teach you about your own product or service. At the very least you’ll learn exactly how they use it and why they need it. In many cases, they might even share ideas about new applications and implementations you’d never have thought of that can improve your business.

Customers are more informed than they ever have been. As direct users of your services, it’s likely they can provide you with more valuable information on your product than most experts – and all for free!

Even more importantly, when you collaborate with your customers to jointly discover needs, challenges, and solutions, you build a deeper and stronger relationship, ultimately leading to more loyal and satisfied customers.

Making the Transition from Consultative to Collaborative Selling

You don’t need to be an expert – you just need to change your tactics. But how should you change them?

Here are some suggestions to help you get started:

  • Asking more questions to engage and involve your customers in the need discovery process.
  • Setting aside more time for discussions and meetings.
  • Spending more time exploring how you can help your customers and putting more effort into finding suitable solutions that will work for them.
  • Sharing expertise and knowledge with your customers without the pressure or expectation of them to buy your services.

The Need Discovery Framework

In my next post, I’m going to discuss the process of using Need Discovery to leverage your business even further. [include a link to need discovery post when it’s published].

To learn more about how to succeed when bringing innovation to market, you can check out my book, Built for Global, where I share what I’ve learned from decades of selling advanced technology to large companies all around the world.

About the Author:

Robert Pearlstein has 25 years experience working with Silicon Valley companies to sell advanced technology to global companies. He currently works as Vice President for Global Business Development as part of SRI (Stanford Research Institute) one of the largest independent research and development in the United States.