The Consultative Selling Presentation


P3, S5, T1

By Richard G. McNeill

March 25, 2000




A Brief History of Selling in the United States

            The selling presentation has changed over the years.  The changes are a reflection of the nature of the economy and underlying theories of how people buy.  The following periods in the United States witnessed different approaches to selling and selling presentations:


1.          Agrarian Age – Distant past to Approximately 1850

2.         Early Industrial Age– 1850 to 1920

3.         Mature Industrial Age – 1920 to 1950

4.         Post-Industrial Age – 1950 to 1980

5.         Information Age – 1980 to Present

           Agrarian Age. Before 1850 and the generally accepted beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, salespeople were still “peddlers” who traveled through the predominantly east coast US selling goods from horseback and wagons.  The selling presentation was based on self-learned skills of these itinerant traveling salespeople.  There were no major efforts to study the art of selling.


            Early Industrial Age. After 1850, the economy of the United States began to shift from an agrarian economy to industrial.  With the rise of manufacturing, the spreading population to the western United States and the linking of the east and west coast by railroad in 1869, salespeople became of increasing importance to the economy.  During this period, owners of factories began to shape the army of salespeople from a loose network of “peddlers” to a more organized selling force.  For example around 1850, Cyrus McCormick (the inventor of the wheat reaper & thresher) is credited in organizing a national network of selling agents who operated on stricter selling controls than the peddlers of the past.  As time went on, manufacturers such as Gillette, Eli Lilly, Scovill, and others began to hire salespeople specifically to represent one company.  This was a dramatic change from the past. 


            From 1910 to 1920, as selling and salespeople became more important to the economy, there was a growing interest in improving the selling process.  Psychology, notably Freud and Jung, essentially founded the discipline during this period.  As appertaining to the art of selling, many of the new psychologists began to study the buying process.  They were interested in discovering the mental states that buyers went through so that salespeople could better influence the buying process. 


As early as 1911, psychologists were studying and describing the mental states that customers would exhibit as they proceeded through various phases of making a purchase (Sheldon, 19ll). Essentially, Sheldon observed that customers in making a purchase will pass through five stages: (a) Favorable attention, (b) Interest, (c) Desire, (d) Action, and (e) Permanent satisfaction.  This later evolved into what has been named, The Buyer Action Theory.



Mature Industrial Age. Building upon earlier psychological observations, in 1922, Edward Kellogg Strong, Jr. wrote a book that would be the first attempt to translate the abstract psychological customer descriptions and observations into concrete techniques that could be used by salespeople. Essentially, Strong prescribed techniques that could be learned by salespeople to cause customers to enter the mental states that would lead to their making a purchase.  In other words, Strong believed that salespeople could learn to practice certain techniques and utter the right words that would induce people to buy. 


            In his book’s section called “The Tactics of Selling,”( Strong, 1922, pp. 351 – 465),  Strong talked about tactical selling techniques as a series of five steps.  He prescribed presentation techniques that if salespeople could make to cause the potential customer to enter each of the psychologically described buying mental states and, thus, would buy.  This approach is still being taught today and is prevalent in traditional “transactional selling.” 


Post-Industrial Age. Around 1950, selling and marketing made a tremendous leap forward.  Led by marketing researchers, the Marketing Concept was introduced to industry by academicians. The concept began its journey of  wide acceptance in sales and marketing theory.  The marketing concept is a customer focus as opposed to a seller or product focus.  Essentially, the selling practices as advocated by Strong in the 1920s were “seller-centric;” that is, they were focused on the various techniques that could be applied to the customer to induce or make them enter mental states which would lead to buying.  The marketing concept advocated that sellers start with customer needs and then try to satisfy these needs.  The marketing concept led to a new theory of buying called The Need-Satisfaction Buying Theory (CLICK HERE TO REVISIT THIS THEORY).


Customer Buying Theory

Steps of the Need-Satisfaction Buying Theory

            The Need-Satisfaction Buying Theory is the basis for “consultative selling.”  Essentially, sellers adopt the philosophy that they are consultants to help potential customers to solve need problems; the customer has a problem to be solved and the product/service has the potential benefits to solve the problem. This approach to selling is “customer-centric.”  The seller adds-value and is important to the buyer throughout the buying process.  The theory states that the buyer goes through the following steps to make a buying decision, especially a decision on complex and expensive products/services:


1.            Recognition of Needs – The value that a salesperson can add at this stage is the help customers recognize and define problems and needs in a new or different way.


2.            Evaluation of Options (Alternative products) – The value that a salesperson can add here is to show superior solutions, options, and approaches that customers may not have understood or considered.


3.            Resolution of Concerns (Decide on one of the alternative products)—Value here is created by the salesperson in helping customers to overcome and remove obstacles to acquisition.


4.            Purchase (Logistics of acquisition)The value a salesperson can contribute here is to make the purchase painless, convenient, and hassle-free.


5.            Implementation The salesperson adds value by showing customers how to install and use the product/service.


The Need-Satisfaction Buying Theory is the foundation to “consultative selling.”


Information Age. By 1980, the United States was “on the ropes” economically as they fought increasing global competition.  The “Toyota Phenomena” and the quality movement had invaded the US economy.  The US responded by copying the Japanese and other competing global companies.  With a proliferation of look-alike quality products, competition for customers began to shift to more abstract nuances to differentiate one product from another.  The salesperson, as well as his or her supporting company, became an important component of the product or service that the customer considered as value.  Additionally, the growing proliferation and availability of information (the Internet and Web) developed a generation of increasingly informed buyers. 


            In the past, salespeople were primarily providers of product/service information.  However, increased availability of information to buyers began to shift the salesperson’s primary roles.  Salespeople now had to reexamine who they were and why they existed.  While their traditional role of providing the means to make “transactional” sales was still important (there are still many products/services today requiring this approach), the legacy of the marketing concept and adding value within the Need-Satisfaction Buying Theory of the buying process became increasingly important. 


            Thus, for many commoditized (standardized and look-alike) products/services, potential customers are relatively sophisticated and have access to information. They do not need salespeople to make a buying decision.  And, selling, “transactional selling,” is taking place electronically.  However, for complex, customized products and services, salespeople need to add value during the buyer’ need-satisfaction buying process.  This is the growing role of sales in the future.  This is “consultative selling” and the theme of this article on selling presentations.


            NOTE: “Transactional Selling” and “Consultative Selling” exist side-by-side.  As a new approach evolves, it often retains some of the same language and form of an earlier approach.  This is the case of the following discussion of the “consultative selling” presentation.  Some of the language is similar, but the underlying philosophy and focus is different.



The Consultative Selling Presentation

            The Consultative Selling Presentation is composed of two major phases:  Phase I is Presentation Planning and Phase II is the actual presentation and demonstration.

Phase I - Presentation Planning

Prepare a written presentation plan prior to the actual meeting with the prospect/customer.  Here you set your objectives for the presentation and develop a plan to implement the presentation.  You should consider several scenarios: worst case, best case, and most probable case.  You want to anticipate as much as possible; for example, the resistance you might meet (objections) and how you would negotiate them (handling objections). Your best preparation is to know everything possible about the prospect/customer and your product, and your competition. Additionally, you need to know a lot about the potential customer themselves.


In a Single-Meeting Presentation (where you have never met with the prospect previously), you must do the following at a minimum: (a) establish rapport, (b) discover needs, (c) match your product features/benefits with customer needs, and (d) close (either ask for the order or get commitment for the next action step). 


In a Multi-Meeting Presentation (the most common in complex product/service selling- Consultative Selling), you must accomplish the steps above, however you may have: (a) a first meeting (either scheduled or have contact in another social situation) devoted only to relationship building, (b) another meeting devoted to needs discovery, and (c) another devoted to the benefit/need presentation itself.  Multi-Meeting Presentations are characteristically used in selling group and convention business; a complex and expensive product/service.  The primary purpose of the Phase I is thorough preparation for the presentation. The thoroughness of your preparation will strengthen the relationship bond between buyer and seller (essential ingredient for consultative selling).


PHASE II - Presentation and Demonstration


General. The goal of a “consultative seller” is to first, establish a relationship with and then to obtain (have him or her make a purchase) an initial customer, second, to maintain the relationship so that this initial customer will make repeat purchases, and third, to develop (intensify) the relationship so that the initial customer will make enthusiastic referrals. These goals are accomplished by adding-value in the need-satisfaction buying process.  Presentations are an important part of relationship establishment and maintenance.


Presentations can be categorized by three primary purposes: (a) Persuasion [attempting to have the customer take some type of action], (b) Informing [bringing new information to the attention of the customer],  and (c) Reminding [customer of your successful relationship]. Remember that you maintain and develop the relationship by varied contacts and make presentations that are not always aimed at persuasion.


Also, you may be meeting with the prospect/customer: (a) in person, one-on-one or selling to a group, (b) by printed material (letters and brochures sent through the mail, and/or (c) electronically, telephone (one person or conference call), teleconferencing (audio/video connections), and/or by computer (shared electronic documents, e-mail, and internet interactive discussion).


Guidelines for Developing a Consultative Persuasive Presentation. In preparing for your presentation the following guidelines should be of assistance (Manning and Reese, 1998, p.235):


1.         Place Special Emphasis on the Relationship. Good rapport between the salesperson and the prospect is a necessary foundation for the use of a consultative sales presentation.  People prefer to comply with requ3essts or suggestions from people they know and like.  They also will communicate more openly and freely when a relationship is one of rapport.


2.        Sell Benefits and Obtain Customer Reactions. People do not buy things, they buy what the things will do for them. Don’t make the mistake of listing a number of features and assuming that the prospect will interpret them into benefits that you perceive.  Make sure that you:


            a.            Translate features into benefits – We have a large meeting room (feature) which means to you (translation words) that your meeting attendees will be comfortable and relaxed (benefit).


            b.            Obtain a reaction from the buyer – Follow the above translation of features and benefits with a question, for example, “Is that what you had in mind?”            This confirmation question allows you to check to see if you are on the right track. It allows the prospect to object to what you said and, thus allows you an opportunity to clarify what the customer really needs.


3.           Minimize the Negative Impact of Change. In introducing new products/services and new solutions to buyer problems, salespeople are constantly threatening the status quo.  In nearly all selling situations the prospect is being asked to consider change.  Most people resist change.  Change is more acceptable to people who understand the benefits and do not see it as a thereat to their security. 


            The salesperson must     NOT create unrealistic expectations by exaggerating buyer benefits or long-term problems will inevitably surface (loss of credibility, destroyed relationships, dissatisfaction and negative word-of-mouth). Whenever possible, the salesperson should help the customer view change in a positive and realistic way.


4.         Place the Strongest Appeal at the Beginning or End of the Presentation. Research indicates the beginning or end presentation of something is the most memorable.  Appeals are the propositions which are of the highest concern or interest to the prospect. A strong appeal at the beginning with get the prospects positive attention and set the tone for interest in the presentation.  Placed at the end, an appeal sets the tone for the closing or asking of the order.


5.         Use a Persuasive Vocabulary. Words like partnership is a current positive and appealing word.  The prospect feels good about terminology like this.  Research has shown that the twelve most persuasive words in the English language are:  you, money, save, new, results, health, easy, safety, love, discovery, proven, and guarantee.


6.         Use Metaphors and Stories. A metaphor is figurative language that suggests pictorial relationships between objects and ideas.  You can quickly paint vivid, visual pictures for prospects that will command their attention and keep their interest.  For example, “This is the Mercedez-Benz of meeting facilities” which suggests high price and high quality/reliability of the product/service. Stories illustrate in a similar manner but also colorfully enrich the seller/buyer relationship.


7.         General Guidelines for Creating Effective Presentations

            a.            Enhance the presentation with effective demonstration.

            b.            Preplan methods for negotiating and closing the sale.

c.         Plan for the dynamic nature of selling (preplans may have to be altered on the spot – during interaction with the prospect as circumstances change)

d.         Keep your presentation simple and concise

e.         Summarize the presentation (summary of benefits close is discussed below)

f.          Use time wisely (since you have a presentation format to guide you, any long side diversions can quickly be brought back on topic as appropriate)


The consultative selling presentation is a six-step plan. This is the format of a PersuasiveConsultative Presentation.

1.         The Approach

2.          Presentation

3.          Demonstration

4.          Negotiation

5.         Close

6.          Servicing the Sale


            Briefly refer back to the “Need-Satisfaction Theory of the buying process (above) and reflect on how these presentation steps parallel or address buyer’s needs.


Step # 1 - The Approach


Learn how to establish rapport and/or reestablish your relationship upon greeting your prospect/customer.  This is a social contact and influences the tone of the meeting.  What will be your first impression? What would you talk about?  Hopefully, you did your homework in preparation and know a lot about the prospect/customer. After briefly making the social contact, you must transition to the business contact (this is the primary purpose that has brought you to this meeting).


Step # 2 - The Sales Presentation


Need Discovery. In consultative selling, the MOST IMPORTANT value-added activity is discovering and fully understanding the customer’s needs.  Without knowing needs, the seller cannot possibly recommend (as a consultant) product/service benefits that will address (solve) the customer’s needs (problems). In a Single-Meeting Presentation, after establishing rapport, you must ask questions to discover the customer’s needs. In a Multi-Meeting Presentation, you already have discovered the prospect/customer’s needs in a previous meeting.


There are three primary dimensions of “need discovery:  (a) Asking questions, (b) Listen and acknowledge customer response, and (c) Establish buying motives.

  1. Asking Questions. Questions are one of the most effective ways to involve the prospect (potential customer). Appropriate questions reduce tension and build trust in a selling situation because they communicate interest in the other person’s welfare.  A sales presentation without questions closes the door on two-way communication. There are several types of questions to ask in the consultative selling presentation (note that questions are used throughout a presentation not just in the need discovery stage of the selling cycle.  The following table from Manning & Reese Selling Today (1998) illustrates:


Type of Question Definition When Used Examples
Information-gathering questions General questions designed to get the prospect to disclose certain types of basic  information.  Classified: 1. Fact-finding (factual motives/needs)and 2. Feel-finding (emotional motives/needs) Usually at the beginning of the sale and during the need discovery stage.

How many attendees to you have for this meeting? (fact-finding)

What is your measure of success for this meeting? (feel-finding)


Probing questions More specific questions designed to uncover and clarify the prospect’s perceptions and opinions. When you feel the need to obtain more specific information that is needed to fully understand the problem. Usually used when the prospect has not fully answered a previous question.

What do you mean by your statement that, “you want this meeting to create a feeling of comeraderie?” (open-ended question)

So you are saying that you don’t want an open bar for the reception(closed-ended question – yes or no answer)


Confirmation questions Designed to find whether or not your message is understood by the prospect After each important item of information is presented.  Especially during ther presention of matching product benefits with needs. Is that what you had in mind?  Do you see be merits of having your VIPs housed in suites?
Summary confirmation questions Designed to clarify your understanding of the prospect’s needs.

Usually used at the beginning of the sales presentation (to confirm that you have all of the needs correctly identified). 

Also, used periodically to summarize if a lot of information is being discussed.


I would like to summarize what you have told me so far:  You need one meeting room.  You need lunch for 50. You need…etc. until all needs are summarized.  NOTE: you also summarize benefits offered at the end of a presentation.

2. Listen and Acknowledge Customer Response. The listening rate for most people is about 25%. This means they miss about 75% of the messages spoken by other people.  This ratio can be improved by Developing Active Listing skills – the process of sending back to the person what you as a listener think the communicator (sender) meant, both in terms of content and in terms of feelings.  It involves taking into consideration both verbal and nonverbal signals.


When the listener gives feedback, this allows a check on accuracy and gives the speaker the opportunity to confirm or amend (objection to interpretation/feedback) the listener’s perceptions. Active listening involves four techniques:


a.            Encourage Talking . “I see,” “good point,” and “go-on.” These short prompts or cues indicate that you are listening and that you understand the person’s message and want him or her to keep talking.


b.         Take Notes. Although not necessary at every sales presentation, it is critical during complex selling (“consultative selling”) where accurate and detailed information is essential to create a good written proposal. Be sure to ask for permission to take notes (polite).  And remember that the customer is often taken off the defensive (thinking, “here comes a sales pitch”) to a feeling of “my needs are important.”


c.            Parapharase the Customer’s Meaning with a Confirmation Question. This is also called “reflective” listening. It clarifies meaning and also shows the customer that you are interested in gaining accurate information. For example, “Ms. Client, what I here you saying is…” “Is that right?”  Also, echo your perceptions of what the customer is feeling or perceiving.  “You seem to be a little concerned with what I just presented, how are you feeling?”


d.        Obtain Feedback. Make sure that you get the customer to respond to you questions above.  This will actively involve the customer and demonstrate your interest in them.


            3. Establish buying motives. The primary goal of questioning, listening, and acknowledging is to uncover prospect needs and establish buying motives.  Our efforts to discover prospect needs will be more effective when the buyer’s primary reasons for buying are uncovered.  As mentioned in earlier articles, buyer’s usually have both rational and emotional reasons for buying. While a prospective buyer may state many needs, there usually is a primary motive for buying.  This primary motive or buying need, is often referred to as a hot-button in selling terminology.  Be sure you don’t miss this primary motive.  It is essential to know this motive when making a selling presentation.


            It has been said that buyers buy emotionally (out of fear of loss or for gain) and justify their purchases rationally.  This is more often true in consumer product/service markets, but is still operational even in business-to-business markets.  Thus, sellers should always ask fact-finding questions (to discover rational needs) and feel-finding questions (to discover the underlying emotional motivators).



Presentation of Product/Services that Fulfill Customer Needs. The following sequence indicates the parts of a Multi-Meeting Presentation after customer needs have been discovered:


(a) Summarize the customer’s needs,


(b) One need/benefit at a time, match product benefits with each of the prospect/customer’s needs. Use a sequence such as this, “You indicated a need for…; here is my product feature (need solution) and demonstration (proof) of that feature; which means to you…(translates the feature into a benefit); is this what you had in mind?”(confirmation question)


NOTE: in a Multi-Meeting presentation, you selected your product/service benefits that meet needs BEFORE this presentation and have written up a written proposal that shows these benefits matched with needs.


(c) Summarize all of the benefits that satisfy the customer’s needs , (handle any objections here-see comments on objections below)


(d) Make a closing statement or question (ask for the order/contract), and


(e) Make arrangements for an after-sale service. After the customer has made a purchase, the seller needs to “follow-up.” For example, you might tell the customer that after the contract has been signed, they will be contacted by a convention services manager (CSM) who will begin to help them detail plans for their future meeting.  Or, you may describe how you, the seller, will continue to work with them.


In essence, the above sequence is what a presentation should look like.  It’s logical and flows systematically from the needs first discovered, through statements and demonstration of product/service benefits that satisfy these needs, to asking for the order, and through after-sale service. 


Step # 3 – Demonstration


            Demonstration supports your presentation (above) and simultaneously occurs in the above sequence. Presenting in words alone is not sufficient to have the potential customer to fully understand how your product or service satisfies their needs.  You need to show how the product/service accomplishes this.  Demonstration, however, varies in its form.  If you have a tangible product that does something (auto, copying machine, etc), you might have the customer try it themselves—drive it or make copies.  If you have an intangible product/service (hotel, restaurant, etc.) you might have the customer experience it—stay overnight or eat dinner.  Having the customer have  first-hand exposure to the product/service is best, however you may be making a  sales presentation at his or her office, thus, pictures or video may have to substitute for first hand exposure.


            An example of having a first hand exposure while making a demonstration of a hotel being considered for a major meeting might be:  (a) inviting the customer (meeting planner) to stay in your hotel and (b) give a verbal presentation while walking the customer through a “site-visit” say to your meeting rooms, to meet your chef, meet a convention services person (who will be coordinating the meeting) and other important areas under decision consideration by the meeting planner.

Step # 4 - Negotiating Buyer Resistance

The following discussion is familiar to you as, “Handling Objections,” however; this term connotes a “win/lose” type of negotiation.  It also connotes that somehow you plan to manipulate the prospect/customer to make the purchase using whatever techniques or means possible.  Of course, a customer who later discovers that the purchased product does not fully satisfy their needs or that he or she has been manipulated, is not a candidate for a relationship with you.  Consultative Selling relies on “win/win” negotiations. These are open, a two-way problem solving dialogue, and conducted in an atmosphere of trust.  Thus, the term, “Negotiating Buyer Resistance” connotes the right for the customer to resist if the product does not satisfy their needs and/or if the customer doesn’t fully understand your presentation.  It’s imperative that you assume a problem-solving consultative stance, fully listen to and understand the customer.

NOTE:  Discussed below in Closing, methods used vary with whether or not you are involved with transactional selling (small sales that will be accomplished in a single sales call) or consultative selling (large, complex sales that require multiple sales calls). Similarly, negotiation/objection-handling methods vary with the type of sale in which you are involved. The following discussion primarily deals with negotiating resistance during transactional selling, but does provide insights into negotiating consultative sales.


Of course, your experience tells you that in most presentations you will meet resistance to your presentation (your presentation of your product’s ability to solve customer’s needs and problems).  Resistance can occur at any time during the presentation.  It may occur at the conclusion of a Benefit/Need statement when the salesperson asks a Confirmation question, at the Close statement, and/or anywhere else. There are common types of customer resistance and you must know these and be skilled in various methods to address this resistance.


            For example, price is the most common type of resistance. Other types of resistance include: (a) resistance to the source (customer has loyalty to a competitor), (b) resistance related to time (customer doesn’t want to make a decision at the time of the presentation closing statement), (c) resistance to the product itself (customer is not familiar with the product or is familiar but has preconceived misconceptions), and (d) resistance to the need for the product (customer truly doesn’t need or doesn’t know that they need).


            Methods to answer customer resistance include but are not limited to: (a) Direct Denial, which clarifies facts, (b) Indirect Denial, which acknowledges partial validity of the customer’s objection but offsets with a superior benefit, (c) Trial Offer of the product to reduce the customer’s perceived risk, (d) Superior Benefit, which outweighs the competitor’s offering, (e) Third Party Endorsement, which adds credibility, (f) Question Format, which restates the benefit and suggests an obviously rational choice to be made by the customer, and (g) Demonstration, which is a tangible supporting “proof” device that usually is combined with any of the methods above.


STEP # 5 - Closing and Confirming the Sale


Closing “asks” for the order and Confirming “reassures” the buyer that they have made the right decision.  Closing the sale is less difficult if the presentation process has been properly handled. Closing is part of the selling process and is a logical outcome of well-planned presentation management.


The closing stage in large and multi-call sales differs from the closing stage single-call sales.  In single-call sales, closing asks for the order.  In multi-call sales commitment from the customer can be expressed when the customer agrees to advance the buying process to the next stage (the next sales call).  A successful close in the multi-call sale might be the customer’s agreement to bring a higher level decision-maker into the selling/buying negotiation—an advancement of the process.  While the mechanics of transactional closing techniques (effective in single-call sales) are not always applicable to multi-call consultative selling, a well-rounded and developed salesperson knows these techniques and when and where to use them. The following describes these transactional selling techniques.

Closing a sale can be facilitated by some general guidelines.  These should be accomplished during the presentation: (a) focus on dominant buying motives, (b) negotiate the tough points before attempting the close, (c) avoid surprises [new information] at the close, (d) do not isolate the prospect/customer during the sale [ensure that there has been two-way dialogue and involvement during the presentation], (e) display a high degree of self-confidence at the close, (f) ask for the order more than once [don’t give up if the buyer says, “no” the first time that you make a closing statement/question], and recognize closing clues during the presentation [prospect/customer may indicate verbal or non-verbal clues and you must be ready to Close at that point] (Manning & Reece, 1997).


Closing a sale can be facilitated by some specific methods.  In preparing for your presentation in the Pre-Approach, it is advisable that you review the following closing methods and be prepared, if appropriate, to use one or all of them: (a) Trial Close, used at an opportune time during the presentation and when you perceive the prospect/customer is about to make a decision, (b) Summary of Benefits Close, used after you have presented the major benefits solving the customer’s needs and perceive his or her affirmative decision, (c) Assumption Close, used when you believe that there is a high probability of an affirmative decision, (d) Special Concession Close, gives the prospect/buyer something extra for acting immediately, (e) Negotiating the Single-Problem Close, used when there is resistance on a minor point and you move forward with a close attempt while simultaneously including a creative solution to the minor problem and resistance, (g) Limited Choice Close allows the prospect/customer several options and you to determine the relative degree of they buyer’s interest in each option; at the closing attempt, you then remove all options except those of high prospect/customer interest, and (h) Direct Appeal Close is simply asking for the order in a straightforward manner.


Confirming the sale occurs after the customer says, “yes.” The purpose is to reassure the customer by pointing out that he or she has made the correct decision.  This step is important is addressing "post-purchase remorse” which is a common emotion following a purchase decision. In Relationship Selling, Closing the Sale is the beginning of a long-term relationship with the customer. Your reassurance will be helpful in maintaining and developing this relationship.


STEP # 6 - After-Sale Service


Servicing the sale encompasses all activities that enhance satisfaction with the purchase and all activities that enhance use of the product/service that was purchased. Service management is an essential part of Relationship Selling because Customer Satisfaction determines the length, width, depth, and duration of a customer’s relationship with you and your company. Servicing the sale maintains the relationship, which leads to repeat business, and increased purchases.


Customer satisfaction is the result of product/service performance compared with customers’ expectations of product/service performance.  Customers obtain their expectations from messages from many sources but expectations come primarily from marketing messages and promises made by salespeople. Long-term relationships will not happen if promised expectations are not kept.


In the service industry [the hospitality industry] promises to the customer are met in two ways: (a) the employees of the organization [hotel] deliver the product/service that is promised by the salesperson and (b) you do what you say you will do. You have little or no direct control over employee performance; only indirect control through relationships you build with the employees [internal customers] and direct appeal to the general operations manager.  However, you have direct control of the delivery of your promises made to the customer. There are three general areas where you can actively manage after-sale service: (a) follow-through on Assurances and Promises that were part of your sales presentation, (b) add value with suggestion selling of items that relate to the main purchase and further enhance it, and (c) customer follow-up methods which have the major objective to express your appreciation for the purchase and further enhance your relationship with the customer.


            Service management after the initial purchase is the key to continuing long-term relationships.  In the model (Figure 1), these relationships are grounded by your continuous personal and professional development.  These relationships are developed by your commitment to consciously cycle through the Selling Process Phases. And they are maintained by your commitment to after-sale service management.  These long-term relationships will produce repeat sales and referral business.

Copyright ©2000 by Richard G. McNeill