Baseline Selling is a consultative sales approach that covers the sales process from prospecting to closing. It’s designed to overcome the difficulties of learning more complicated sales methods.
This approach is easy to memorize and apply, as it’s based on the natural course of the conversation rather than a sequence of sales tactics.
In this article, we’ll describe consultative selling, break down the stages of Baseline Selling, and detail the benefits of this sales approach.
What Is Consultative Selling?
Consultative selling (or needs-based selling) is a sales approach that focuses on relationship building and keeping an open dialogue to identify solutions that meet a customer’s needs.
This approach focuses on the customer rather than the product or service you’re trying to sell. It helps sales professionals to understand their customers’ challenges to better position their solutions.
Note: The Challenger Sales Process is one example of the consultative selling approach.
According to LeadSquared, 53% of sales reps believe a consultative selling approach will make their sales process more efficient. However, Objective Management Group found only 14% of salespeople are strong in the consultative selling competency.
The strength of consultative selling is that it helps you to better understand customers’ needs. Customers want to be understood before being sold to. A Salesforce report found that 84% of business buyers are more likely to buy from sales reps who understand their goals.
Baseline Selling follows the consultative selling approach. Let’s take a look at the Baseline Selling approach to understand how it works.
What is Baseline Selling?
Baseline Selling is a consultative sales approach developed by Dave Kurlan. It’s the basis of his book, ‘Baseline Selling: How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know About the Game of Baseball.’
Baseline Selling shows salespeople how to visualize and touch all the “sales bases” by simplifying the sales process. This simplicity is the strength of this approach, as it’s easy for sales reps to understand and apply.
According to Kurlan, the four bases of the Baseline Selling approach “easily correspond to the evolution of the sales opportunity, as it moves from suspect to prospect to qualified to scored.”
The Four Stages of Baseline Selling
Baseline Selling consists of four stages, or four bases, which ties into the baseball analogy. As the sales process reaches a stage, the probability of closing the sale increases.
Before you can move to the next stage, you must achieve certain customer-focused milestones.
The four stages of Baseline Selling break down as follows.
1. First Base – “Suspect” Stage
The suspect stage involves scheduling the first meeting. It consists of achieving the following customer-focused milestones:
- Make the call
- Identify the main issue
- Schedule an appointment
Make the call
The primary goal is to get a face-to-face, telephone or virtual sales meeting with the “suspect”. Get the meeting by:
- Making prospecting calls
- Asking for references
- Prospecting through social media (e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter)
- Lead management through marketing
How you get the meeting doesn’t matter – you just have to reach the suspect.
Note: Refer to the optional “On-Deck Circle” section below for tips on how to contact potential customers.
Identify the main issue
Once you’ve made contact, engage with the suspect. Use this first contact to capture their attention.
One way to capture the suspect’s attention is to use a positioning statement. This expresses how your product or service meets the suspect’s need in a unique way. It should include an emotional element to describe how you will solve their problem.
Here’s an example of a positioning statement: Weflow helps salespeople spend less time doing Salesforce admin work so they can spend more time on moving deals forward.
Schedule an appointment
If you’ve captured the suspect’s attention, move forward and schedule an appointment.
2. Second base – “Prospect” stage
At this stage, you’ve identified a real opportunity. It consists of achieving the following customer-focused milestones:
- Identify the prospect’s need
- Determine their compelling reason to buy
- Differentiate yourself from the competition
- Quantify the cost of the problem
Identify the prospect’s need
Identify the prospect’s real need. They might say they have a specific need that’s not their actual need.
Ask probing questions to uncover this need. For example:
- Why are you trying to solve this problem right now?
- What other problems are you trying to solve?
- What one issue or feature would you like to change right now?
- What will happen if you don’t make this change now?
Also, pay attention to the prospect’s questions. This will guide you toward their real need and direct your probing questions.
Determine their compelling reason to buy
Determine the prospect’s compelling reason to buy. This will motivate them to begin the purchasing process and proceed to the final sale.
The compelling reason to buy tends to fall into one of these categories:
- Making money
- Saving money
- Saving time or effort
- Reducing risk
- Addressing a human need
The compelling reason to buy is often tied to the consequences of not solving the problem. Those consequences may be:
- Professional - loss of status or position
- Financial - decrease in sales, increase in costs
- Operational - inefficiencies in production, delivery delays
- Personal - higher stress, overworked
Encourage the prospect to state the consequences of not taking steps to solve the problem. There is power in verbalizing the consequences rather than simply describing external reasons for buying.
Differentiate yourself from the competition
Getting to second base depends on differentiating your offer from the competitor. In baseball speak, this is known as “getting speed on base.” You’re forcing the prospect to pay more attention to you than the competitor.
To differentiate yourself, focus on:
- Developing rapport to build the relationship
- Being truthful in all instances, even when it’s difficult
- Building credibility by understanding the situation from their perspective
- Providing real value by challenging the prospect’s thinking (e.g., getting them to rethink their beliefs about their situation, helping them to identify unseen pitfalls)
- Acting as an advisor rather than a salesperson (e.g., offering advice and solutions rather than selling your products or services)
Quantify the cost of the problem
The final milestone is to quantify the cost of the problem. Guide the prospect to understand how much their problem is costing them. This will get them to make a choice to reduce that cost.
Don’t calculate specific costs or create complex graphs. Lead the prospect to estimate the cost to create that sense of urgency. For example, ask:
- How much is it currently costing you to ship these goods?
- How much time are your salespeople spending on administrative tasks each day?
- What is the annual cost of your software licenses?
3. Third base – “Qualify” stage
At this stage, the potential customer is able to buy and it’s time to qualify them. It consists of achieving the following customer-focused milestones:
- Determine their commitment to act
- Verify they’ll pay for your solution
- Meet with the decision-maker
- Determine the timeline for making the decision
- Identify decision-making criteria and process
Determine their commitment to act
Qualify the potential customer’s commitment to act. They must show they are ready to solve the problem now. This ensures you’re not wasting your time and can make the sale within a reasonable time.
Ask the potential customer whether they are ready to move forward. For example:
- Do you have enough information to make a decision on our product?
- Are you ready to move forward with making a purchase?
- Do you have the budget to purchase a solution?
Identify decision-making criteria and process
Understand what’s involved in making a decision. Determine:
- Who will make the decision
- When will they make a decision
- What they need from you to make the decision
Now’s the time to bring in the decision-maker. If they’re not involved in the discussions, plan to get in touch with them or get them on board and return to a prior stage.
Ask qualifying questions to identify the decision-maker. For example:
- Who is involved in the decision-making process?
- Who will be using the product, and who approves its purchase?
- What evaluation criteria do the different stakeholders use in choosing a product?
- Who made the decision to purchase the current product?
Determine when they will make the decision. Ask for:
- Specific dates or timeframes
- Deadlines for approving budgets
- The typical length of time to approve new purchases
Collect details on what the potential buyer requires from you to make the decision. For example, they might need:
- Pricing breakdown and options
- Timelines require to implement the solution
- Technical details
- Support and service details
Identify the competition or other suppliers. Collect this information and take steps to exclude them from future stages.
In the previous stage, you helped the potential customer to calculate the cost of not solving the problem. Estimate how much it will cost them to solve the problem (i.e., buy your solution).
4. Home base – “Conclusion” stage
At this stage, the close is within reach. It consists of achieving the following customer-focused milestones:
- Discuss your value proposition
- Present your offer
- Make the close
Discuss your value proposition
When heading home, set guidelines with the potential customer. At this point, you’re entering into an agreement to do business.
Demonstrate how your company has solved problems similar to those of the potential customer. Case studies and real-life examples work well.
Present your offer
Present your offer. Explain how you will solve their problem. Don’t go into every technical detail – show the value of your offer.
Validate your solution and the related cost to meet the potential customer’s needs. Use the information from previous steps (i.e., cost of problem, price range of solution) to make a verbal offer.
Make the close
Now comes the inoffensive close (no signature involved – it’s a moral commitment). Ask questions to validate:
- How the potential customer feels you understand their problem
- They believe you have the expertise to help them
- They want to do business with you
Follow these steps for using an inoffensive close:
- Restate what you know. For example, “Based on our discussion, there are three main areas we can help you with through a partnership. They include improving the efficiency of your sales team, growing retainer revenue, and providing your team with training. Did I miss anything or would you like to add anything else to this list?
- If the potential customer says “No,” then follow up with these questions:
- At this point, do you feel I understand your business and what you’re trying to achieve?
- Do you believe the plan we’ve discussed will help you to achieve these goals?
- Do you have a different plan to achieve these goals?
- Provided the presentation (or demo) meets your needs, do you want our help through a partnership?
The final question is the inoffensive close.
Two More Stages (Optional)
These stages depend on your company’s sales context. They also tie into the baseball theme.
This stage occurs before heading for first base. It involves strategies for determining how to contact potential customers.
First, create profiles of potential customers. List demographic information (e.g., age, gender, location, industry, job role) when creating a profile. Collect this data by:
- Speaking with your sales team
- Analyzing your analytics (e.g., CRM, website)
- Surveying existing customers
- Doing industry research
Determine where to find potential customers. For example, you can:
- Ask current customers for referrals
- Attend tradeshows and industry events
- Search on LinkedIn and other social media channels
Then decide on how to contact those potential customers. For example, you might:
- Contact them by telephone, email or text message
- Reach out through their website or social media page
- Meet them in person
- Set up a virtual meeting
Scoring occurs once you’ve made the close. If it applies to your business, make a budget proposal before making the final proposal.
Benefits of Baseline Selling
Some sales methodologies involve steps and criteria that hinder the speed of the sales process. For example:
- They enable sales reps to move too quickly to the proposal stage, which results in loss of control over the sale
- Sales reps qualify prospects too early in the process
- The sales process focuses on the presentation over the solution
- Sales reps pay too little attention to the decision-maker
- It’s all “give and no take” – the sales rep does all the presenting without asking for anything from the prospect
Baseline Selling has six benefits that address these issues:
- Repeatable: It’s a repeatable process. You can apply it when selling to either B2B or B2C customers.
- Comprehensive: It involves every stage of the sales process – including before prospecting and after closing.
- Simple: The steps are easy to memorize and apply. This makes it easy to execute.
- Conversational: It does not require remembering complex sales tactics. It uses a conversational approach that is more natural and works with anyone’s style.
- Visual: It’s based on the shape of a baseball diamond. This makes it easy for salespeople to visualize their progress through the steps.
- Structured: Its structure helps to fill the gaps in a salesperson’s competencies. It does not require them to learn negotiation skills.
Baseline Selling is a consultative sales approach that walks the salesperson through every step from prospecting to closing the deal.
It’s a conversation-based method and follows a simple and visual approach. It’s easy to learn and execute, and helps to fill the gaps in selling competencies.
It’s also adapted to the needs and behaviours of today’s decision-makers, and can be used with all types of customers (B2B or B2C).
Whatever sales approach you choose to use, Weflow can help you keep track of insights you collect from leads and phases of the sales process to ensure you always get the deal. Using Weflow will help you to be more productive, keep leads engaged, and close more deals. Sign up for a trial to learn how.