Consultative Selling Skills: Interview with Brian Taylor, AuD
Douglas L. Beck, AuD, spoke with Dr. Taylor, an audiologist and author of Consultative Selling Skills for Audiologists, about his new book, as well as trust, value, consumers having a visceral response to marketing, the neuroscience of selling, and more.
Academy: Hi, Brian. Thanks for your time and congratulations on the new book.
Taylor: Hi, Doug. Thanks very much. I appreciate your interest.
Academy: My pleasure. Brian, let’s start with the obvious…Why did you write this book?
Taylor: It seems that for many people in the trenches, the professionals doing audiology day to day in the office, there’s a gap. That is, they find themselves doing a fantastic job with respect to their clinical and rehabilitative work and skills, but they’re sometimes not able to work successfully with patients with specific regard to selling hearing aids. I know the term “selling” might sound harsh to some, but the reality is that audiologists need to embrace –even own the concept of consultative selling. It’s something most of us do every day in some capacity and if we embrace it we can begin the process of studying it and continuously improving it.
Academy: This is an issue I’ve been hearing about for 30 years and you are right. Some professionals don’t like to “sell” products and they feel that it’s somehow demeaning to do so. And I think you’re right, for some people it’s a difficult thing to do. Which leads us to the definition of consultative selling skills. What’s that all about?
Taylor: Consultative selling can perhaps be thought of in contrast to traditional selling, such as you might find in a retail store where the product is essentially a commodity or a widget, and the same product is available at Target, Best Buy, Walmart, and Amazon. In traditional sales situations, the buyer’s goal is finding the lowest price, and for the seller it’s purely a transaction. Once someone buys something, that’s the end of the relationship.
Consultative selling involves a transaction, but it centers on the relationship between the patient and provider (also called the “trusted advisor”). Consultative selling is more about a personal or medical problem and solution, in which the product is important, but so, too, are the specific problems the buyer is experiencing, as well as the individualized solution and alternatives and after care, such as auditory rehabilitation and servicing the product over the long term.
Academy: Okay, that’s pretty clear. Brian, tell me about the neuroscience of selling?
Taylor: We are beginning to see that neuroscience has an enormous impact on sales. For example, our sensory systems are always taking in information, whether we’re aware of it or not. As you can imagine, there are times when our brains are more or less receptive to specific stimuli. For example, through neurophysiologic studies, the yogurt companies have learned there is a moment in time at which the brain is most responsive to “the yogurt experience.” That is, who would’ve guessed yogurt companies spent millions of dollars studying the moment you tear off the foil liner from the package? But that moment is very important because the brain is maximally aroused and indeed, yogurt companies have invested substantial funds on research and design to determine the exact thickness and tightness of the foil, so it’s all perfectly shiny and clean and makes the right sounds as the foil is torn open, so the person is totally engaged in the event.
And as you can imagine, if the yogurt company gets this right, the buyer desires and keeps buying the product. Of course, the consultative selling process we engage in is very different, but it would be nice to know when the patient is most receptive to our products and services.
Academy: Agreed. And of course we see neuroscience marketing efforts in trendy malls and boutiques clothing stores which might have particular types and styles of background music and unique smells and lighting all of which impact the brain and integrate a pleasant experience along with the purchase of a specific brand of clothing or a retail location.
Taylor: Sure, and it’s subtle, but it’s there. Many of the buying decisions we make are unconscious. Because the majority (70 percent) of our patients wind up paying for their hearing aids out of pocket and they have a choice as to when and where they purchase. And so, it’s up to us to be aware of their emotional and unconscious thought processes, or we can choose to ignore this. Of course, I would argue that it’s better to help influence and prepare the patient/consumer by offering and reinforcing positive and desirable messages, so as to set the stage for the successful acquisition of hearing aids and as I said in the book (page 38)…“A big part of your success in sales depends on your ability to reduce a patient’s fear and anxiety.”
Academy: And you noted messages need to be clear, quick, and concise. I agree entirely. In fact, I think we spend far too much time talking about things that are not beneficial, such as explaining terms like “hertz” and “decibels” and “audiograms” and “sensorineural”—most of which are of little consequence to the patient! I vastly prefer focusing on the patient and their listening problems, needs, and solutions…but that’s a different story for a different day.
Taylor: I agree…your point is well taken and represents another concept within consultative selling, which states that it’s best to not use jargon, as jargon confuses people, and then of course you have to spend time explaining it….so it’s better to be clear, concise, and simple.
Academy: I also enjoyed the section titled “The Psychology of Selling ” in which you remind the reader to make the patient feel good about him or herself and the professional should expect to be turned down once in a while, and that it’s really okay to admit to the patient that you don’t have all the answers. You also address sequence effects (for example, the consumer is usually best able to retain information from the beginning and the end of the consultation) and duration effects (the person engaged in an activity is less likely to notice the time associated with the event, and importantly, the longest most patients will wait to see a professional is 20 minutes) and rationalization effects, too.
Taylor: Yes, thanks for mentioning those, Doug. I believe the professionals who are knowledgeable about these issues and incorporate the lessons into their day-to-day interactions are more successful than people who aren’t familiar with the information.
Academy: In the March 20, 2012, online edition Entrepreneur they note brands people trust, such as; Amazon, Coca-Cola, Southwest Airlines, Apple, Fed Ex, Target, Ford, Nike, and Starbucks have created emotional relationships with their consumers that actually trigger a visceral response.
Taylor: Right. They’re not just selling widgets, they’re selling an experience, and importantly, people have less and less time to shop and compare, and so efficiencies and selling strategies matter a great deal. In the new book, I talk about something called the “Progression of Economic Value.“ Audiologists are well equipped to provide the memorable patient experience, but you have to read the book to find out!
Academy: And without giving away the details of your book, these experiences and values can be offered and applied to the hearing aid patient, too.
Taylor: Absolutely. There’s another section of the book that talks about the commitment phase of the appointment. Basically, the chapter on commitment states we’re very good at diagnostics and very good at reviewing and explaining test results, but often, there’s a disconnect with regard to getting the patient to commit to a purchase. And so the commitment chapter reviews the seven or eight specific things the professional can do to facilitate the consumer’s commitment.
Academy: Okay, these are great ideas and concepts. I have to admit there are many fun, interesting, and instructive concepts detailed in the book, and I think they’ll prove to be useful and beneficial for the professionals. Thanks for your time, Brian, and again, congratulations on the new book.
Taylor: Thanks, Doug.
Brian Taylor, AuD, is an audiologist and author of Consultative Selling Skills for Audiologists.
Douglas L. Beck, AuD, Board Certified in Audiology, is the Web content editor for the American Academy of Audiology.