Consultative Selling Best Practices To Put In Action

BY Jessica Helinski
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Consultative selling is an investigative approach by which prospects are engaged with thought-​provoking questions that help them identify their own pain points.”

Consultative selling benefits have been proven again and again, yet some reps still haven’t embraced this sales style. Instead, salespeople rely on transactional selling, which relies solely on hitting their sales goals without much participation by the customer. “When you have a consultative approach, you measure the impact you have on customers, the outcomes they’re achieving, and their success,” writes Conner Burt for SalesHacker. “You focus your messaging around this data, rather than your features and benefits.” Using a consultative sales approach will ultimately guide the buyer to the right decision: Purchasing from you.

What does the consultative sales approach mean? Burt shares the number one trait of effective consultative selling, which is curiosity. He believes that today’s salespeople, thanks to technology, have lost sight of the foundation of this technique: asking important questions and forming solid relationships. This can be tough for sales teams, who just want to make their number and make the sale. But, with some practice, you can change your habits to a more consultative sales approach. Below are a couple of Burt’s suggested best practices:

Consultative Selling Tip #1: Practice Asking Questions.

Consultative selling is based on asking questions to root out the needs, wants, challenges, and goals of a customer. Sure, you know that they want to buy a new sofa, but what is their lifestyle? Do they live in an apartment? A house? Do they have children or pets? There are so many questions to ask in a consultative selling approach that will dig deeper and give you the knowledge needed to be a trusted advisor. Asking good consultative questions, as Burt explains, “lays a strong foundation of trust and credibility, which is very likely to end in a closed-​won deal.” If you're engaging in a consultative sales experience, you are asking questions.

Tip #2: Practice Active Listening.

This may seem easy but not everyone truly engages in active listening, but listening is essential to consultative selling. “All too often, we ask the appropriate ‘next question,’ but instead of listening to the answer, we prepare for the next thing we want to say,” Burt points out. “We don’t actually register what the prospect is saying.” Try your hand at active listening by doing the following:

  • Listen to the words the buyer is saying. Slow down and actually listen.
  • Make sure you understand their meaning. Probe further if you aren’t sure. This is a key aspect of the consultative selling approach
  • Validate and clarify. Repeat back a summary of what the buyer said, so they can confirm or correct your understanding.
  • Then, and only then, decide on your response or your next question.

Consultative Sales Meaning

It can be hard to stay in the consultative selling mindset, especially when you don't understand the consultative sales meaning. In your sales training, you may have heard about different selling styles. Trainers talk about how the lone wolf sales rep finds success in certain situations, while the challenger sales rep takes hold of a situation and show the prospect how they can build business. Consultative sales meaning never goes out of style. When you take the time to build a relationship with the prospect, they'll remember your consultative selling approach. As Burt writes, “…adding these best practices to your sales process will ensure the healthy growth of your team, and company, by making sure you are solving the right problem for the right people.” Practice the consultative sales approach until you get it right.

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