Being a problem solver instead of a solution expert: The story of Biners' client-centric approach in Consultant sales.

Av Marie Bredberg

In this article, we look at Biners' sales process and the story behind why customer relationships are our number one focus. Being a "problem solver" through building relationships, actively listening, and asking the right questions. Through personal stories and professional insights, our Client Engagement Lead proves why engaging and establishing trust outshines traditional sales tactics.

"You have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak," said Epictetus, Greek philosopher (A.D. 55-C.E. 135). Listening more than talking is essential in the sales process and even more critical for consultant sales. When we use active listening and ask the right questions, we move from being a "solution expert" to a "problem solver" and inevitably build trust with our customers."The better you are at understanding the business issues and problems your prospect or customers are experiencing, the better you become at uncovering needs that your products and services can address, and the better you'll be at integrating your solution(s) into the context of your prospects' businesses." Thomas, J. (2006) Value Selling
Stereotypically, salespeople are seen as pushy and self-serving, focused only on making a sale. Most salespeople need to focus more on active listening and genuine care in the relationship. Building and maintaining relationships with prospects and existing customers is critical and needs to be emphasized in the sales process. Recently, I heard Brian Tracy, an author and expert sales coach, refer to a Harvard study that suggests the future of successful sales lies in building and maintaining strong relationships.

Let me tell you a personal story that simplifies this point.
My son was tasked with selling cookies and cakes over two weeks to earn money toward an end-of-the-year school trip. The value for the customer was clear, the emotional tug was also unmistakable, the price was right, and the timing could not be better; it was the holiday season. I sent him out through our neighborhood with his little brother to try to sell as many cookies and cakes as possible. They visited over 30 homes and managed to land only five sales. He said, "Mom, that was so difficult and not fun. Selling cookies to Grandma and Uncle Tom was much easier and more fun." Aha, a teachable moment presented itself! I said, "Well, what can you learn from this situation?" "I dunno", he said. "It is much easier to sell to people who know you and like you than strangers or acquaintances."

"It is much easier to sell to people who know you and like you than strangers or acquaintances."

So, the key to sales comes down to building customer relationships. Moreover, the right way to establish trust is to listen actively and ask the right questions. If my son is wise, he will say hello and smile to all our neighbors, hold open doors, and start conversations, so next year, when he sells his cookies, there will be a greater chance of him landing a sale than there was this year.

Recently, Biner embarked on a journey by establishing an official sales organization. In years past, consultant sales were conducted through personal relationships with our founders and consultants. It worked well. But now, with the company's mission to grow and be more impactful, having a dedicated and official sales organization with (sales-passionate) consultants felt right.

Last year, we came together, had an offsite workshop, and meticulously planned the year. We set ambitious targets, defined clear objectives, and devised comprehensive plans. We were determined to impact our sales numbers significantly through a well-executed strategy—we are all seasoned project managers who are experienced in executing a plan. Our three main objectives were to build a robust and effective sales organization, cultivate a sales culture, and double our core sales; we were dedicated and ambitious.

After returning from the summer break, we were all set to execute our strategies and plans—and then the market took an unexpected turn. Not only did the market drop significantly, but the broker agencies became significant players in consulting sales, cutting small consultant companies, like Biner, out of the sales process almost entirely. All our big strategies and plans were put to the test. How would we manage this new normal and not lose hope in the effectiveness of our new sales organization?

The unique thing about our sales team at Biner is that it was built (staffed) from the inside – we were and are consultants at the end of the day. When we began to regroup and evaluate the situation, the need for a consultant mindset in sales became obvious. For us, a consultant mindset is to be curious, ask questions, build relationships, and care about the actual business and digital problems our customers are facing. We regrouped, reevaluated, and developed a new approach to our sales strategy and objectives.

"We focused our efforts solely on engagement activities – with no agenda other than building a relationship, listening, and asking the right questions."

As we looked at our objectives, the term 'Key Account Manager' or 'Sales Manager' to build, cultivate, and double felt inadequate. It needed to capture the essence of what we were trying to achieve. We realized that our role was more than just having a strategy and plan – but rather about building and nurturing relationships and aligning our services with customer needs. It was about listening, asking the right questions, being available, and following up. We were not salespeople but engagement managers, a fundamental part of Biner's past way of selling consultants – returning to the basics.

The word engagement has so much in it. Engagement implies how one builds or approaches a relationship, establishing trust as a cornerstone. We had to change our sales approach. We had to do away with strategy and numbers and focus on building, maintaining, and engaging with our customers and clients.

As a result, we focused our efforts solely on engagement activities – with no agenda other than building a relationship, listening, and asking the right questions. Of course, brand positioning, stating our value proposition, and clarifying what we offer are all critical aspects of the sales process, and we do that, but in a more natural way.

Consultant sales are about listening, patience, and establishing trust. If this is properly done, the sale will not feel pushy; instead, it will feel like a collaboration to solve a problem and deliver value. This approach preserves the relationship between the customer and supplier, which can be (should be) applied no matter how ambitious a company's growth mission is. At the core and heart of what we do is to help our clients Aim Higher by preparing, guiding, and helping them to solve their most critical problems in their digital journey.