The Theory of Evolution for Channel Partners Part 2

Buying Behavior Shifts Sales Model

By Pam Avila

Wake up! The days of selling products are long over. Theres a reality that we all need to face sooner rather than later the traditional channel partner business models and strategies are evolving through necessity. Aside from the convergence of voice, data, video and mobility technologies, a major driver for this evolution is the change in how and why customers are making their buying decisions. This shift requires a very different sales model than the channel has used in the past.

Today, a consultative selling sales team can mean the difference between success and failure for a channel partner. For years weve given lip service to consultative selling” (aka “solution selling”), but few salespeople actually know how to do it. And too many business owners and sales managers are unaware of the long-term price that is paid for continued product-focused selling.

Consultative selling requires a different set of skills than typical product (feature/benefit) selling. One required skill is the ability to identify all of the players and the role of each in the process. More people involved in the sales process means the salesperson will need to know how to manage a complex sales process. Who are the influencers? Who are the true decision makers?

In 77 percent of companies queried in a 2011 study by the IT association CompTIA, the executive staff was involved in technology decision making. The line-of-business managers and department heads also have become involved in the process. The point of entry for technology sales into a business is no longer always the IT manager or CIO; it is with the executives running departments where the pain” is felt.

Another skill is understanding the real criteria for making a buying decision. These line-of-business managers and department executives are looking for tools that will help them solve a business problem or address a business need. They are not looking for technology.” CFOs are approving expenditures only if they meet at least one of these criteria:

  • improve overall profitability
  • increase revenue
  • reduce expenses
  • improve competitive position
  • improve customer service
  • address the needs of a changing workforce (remote, mobile, tech-savvy)

Asking line-of-business managers, department heads and CXOs about problems and issues requires an understanding of business basics. This is also a key to gaining trust and confidence during the sales cycle. The ability to develop an ROI will aid in positioning the salesperson as a problem solver and better position the offered solution.

How can you tell if a salesperson is consultative (and not product) selling? Here are two of the biggest clues:

No. 1: He/she is listening 90 percent of the time and talking 10 percent of the time. In the product sale, a salesperson is telling” the prospect about the features and benefits of the product, i.e., talking 90 percent of the time. In the consultative sale, the salesperson is asking questions to uncover the customers needs and issues and listening to the responses.

No. 2: The sales proposal focuses on the identified customer needs and issues and the business benefits that will be realized with the implementation of the solution. The solution” is explained in terms of how it will address each need/issue/goal.

Finally, it is important to remember that consultative selling is a process with specific steps to get to the end goal closing the sale! Miss a step and the sale could be in jeopardy. What are those steps?   

  1. Discovery/Interview
  2. Problem Analysis
  3. Influence Decision Process
  4. Propose Solution
  5. Overcome Objections
  6. Negotiate
  7. Close the Sale

Pam Avila is founder of Sierra Summit Group, a channel consulting firm. She is well known as the founder of CT Pioneers, a group of telecom and IT VARs focused on convergence. Avila is a  principal of, a member of the 2012-13 Channel Partners Advisory Board and chairperson for CompTIA’s UC Community.

Twitter: @pwavila



Hear more from Sierra Summit Group’s Pam Avila in the session, “Creating a Transformation Road Map,” at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, Feb. 27-March 1, in Las Vegas.

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