Consultative selling is a term that we hear a lot, and I want to share with you, well, what exactly is consultative selling, and how can you start doing it? Here’s your ultimate guide to understanding and implementing the Consultative Selling methodology into your sales process.
What is Consultative Selling? | Consultative Selling Definition
Consultative Selling refers to a selling approach where strong relationships with the customer are at the core, emphasising the sales rep to thoroughly diagnose the needs of the prospect to be able to suggest the solution that best meets their needs.
This methodology is ideal when leaders find their teams fall into the ‘order taker’ trap – only writing up what the customer tells them they want. Instead, by using a Consultative Selling approach, reps are taught to ask questions to uncover problems they can solve.
Ultimately, consultative sales professionals are selling solutions. You’re not selling a package, promotion, product, service, feature, or benefit. You’re selling a solution to their problem.
The 8 Golden Rules to Consultative Selling
Now you know exactly what consultative selling is, you can start to apply the 8 golden rules to your sales process – check them out below.
1. Know Everything About Your Products
Where can you get this knowledge? You can:
- go on a plant tour
- do a site inspection
- talk to people in other departments
- read your brochures and other marketing materials
- talk to customers
- talk to other vendors and suppliers
Thus it helps you of being solution-focused and remember your customers are looking to you for answers and solutions and I know that you can be the one to offer it to them.
2. Establish a Clear Sales Roadmap
Have a clear sales roadmap of your consultative selling process. Without a clear sales roadmap, you risk losing your prospects due to skipping vital steps in the sales process. Do you know what actions you or your prospect must take to close a sale? Do you know where along your sales roadmap your current prospects are?
By recognising what it took to close that sale, you’ll be crystal clear about what to do next to move the sale along. Maybe someone contacted you about your product or service and you sent them your brochure but nothing has happened since. Should you now be scheduling a call or inviting them to visit your showroom?
3. Ask Questions
Ask probing questions to uncover problems. Prospect will not naturally tell you their problem, you are one that has to ask about what problem are they facing. Customers purchase products or services based on their problems so it’s important to know the problem and only then you can sell on the solution.
Listen more, talk less – 80/20 Rule of Selling
Too many sales professionals think they need to do all of the talking when meeting with prospects. They tell them everything about their product or service. They dominate the conversation, leaving little time for the prospect to share anything about themselves or what they’re looking for.
The end result is usually the salesperson talking themselves out of the sale.
Instead, sales professionals need to ask more questions. Ask the prospect what they’re looking for, what they’ve tried before? What worked, what didn’t work? What is the outcome you’re trying to achieve?
Ask probing questions. Then listen. Listen intently. Active listening, not just waiting for your chance to jump in and sell.
Once you have all of the information, you can then make an informed recommendation on what product or service is the best for them.
4. Don’t Underestimate Your Customer’s Knowledge
Sales reps often underestimate your customer’s knowledge and try to smoke through them in order to close the sales. With the world of internet of things, it’s easier for them to gain the required knowledge to go about choosing the right products for them so they know their stuff. However, you know more about how your product able to better help them, leap on that.
5. Don’t Make Assumptions
Don’t wing it. It is easy to make assumptions, it is just how the brains work. We found out patterns and fill in the blanks however those blank, may not be the solution your customer want. Everyone filled the blanks differently so ask them how they going to fill that blank.
6. Don’t Make Things Up
The no.1 sin that most sales reps are guilty about. We tend to portray ourselves as a product expert who knows a lot of things so that our customer is impressed by our knowledge. There’s knowledge and wisdom, both are two different things. Knowledge is about telling what you need to know while wisdom is about telling how you should apply those knowledge and customer can see that when you make things up.
7. Share Solutions
Share solution even the solution is not your product offering because this helps build rapport. Also, don’t just list features as a solution but also list benefits as they a saying goes:
“People want to hang the photo frame on the walls, they don’t want drills, holes, they just want the frame on the walls”-Anonymous
8. Demonstrate Value
In Consultative Selling, you want to demonstrate value by focusing on the benefits. You aren’t selling a product or a service, you’re selling an outcome, a solution to their problem. Nowadays every good sales rep is selling solutions so how is your solution is better than the others? Value. Demonstrate them. Show them that you providing more than just a solution but a companion, someone that will show them the way. Instead of viewing prospects as transactional customers, you sell to once, you view them as partners in a long-term selling relationship.
Consultative Selling Example
A consultative salesperson is one that asks questions to uncover the needs of their prospect so they can suggest the best solution.
When I went shopping for a new video camera recently, I came across your typical ‘order taker’ as well as a sales professional that practices consultative selling. Here’s my example of consultative selling in action:
I went into an electronics to store to buy a new video camera. The one I was using gave me poor quality footage, so I was looking to replace it with another camcorder that I pointed out to the salesperson. The one I chose costed a lot more than my current video camera, so I figured the quality must be superior!
The salesperson took it down from the shelf and was ready to ring it up for me when another salesperson at the shop started talking to me. He asked me what kind of videos I do and what I planned to use the camera for. He wasn’t trying to take the other person’s sale, instead, he was genuinely curious.
After talking for a bit, he found out I was only taking short videos for social media and that I wasn’t getting the results I wanted out of my current video camera. He explained that the one I was about to buy wasn’t much better than what I was using with this information. He suggested instead a new mirrorless camera that can record for hours with the far superior video quality
Consultative Selling Approach In Action
After listening to him some more I realised how right he was and switched to the camera he suggested which was the same price as the one I was about to purchase.
The first salesperson is an example of your typical ‘order taker’ -only does what the customer says. The second salesperson practices consultative selling. They ask questions to uncover pain points and to understand what the customer’s needs are.
If I had bought the original camcorder, there’s a very good chance I would have been frustrated and unhappy with the results and returned it the next day.
Because the other salesperson was able to diagnose my needs which allowed him to ‘prescribe’ the right solution for me, I went home with a camera that exceeded my expectations. I ended up loving my new camera so much. I bought a second one from the consultative salesperson 3 months later. True story.
The Problem with Consultative Selling
While consultative selling is a valuable methodology that many sales professionals should adopt, there’s also a need to take it one step further.
The problem with consultative selling is that it is perceived as too passive. It gives too much control to the prospect and not enough to the salesperson. With this in mind, many organisations are choosing to adopt more of a ‘challenger sales’ methodology. A methodology that asks lots of questions and positions the sales professional as a valuable asset, one that the prospect can’t ‘live’ without and one that can push for the sale without being aggressive.
This is a more advanced approach so should only be applied by seasoned sales professionals.
Get a Quote for a Consultative Selling Training
SOCO/ is an expert-led, award-winning sales training company. We’ve spent decades working with some of the most innovative and forward-thinking companies across Asia and the world.
Have SOCO train your team in the top sales skills needed to take on 2021 through either Virtual Instructor-Led Training through video conferencing software or let your team learn new skills in their spare time using our popular e-learning platform – SOCO Academy.
Not sure which of the top sales training programs is right for you? Book an appointment with one of our program advisors who will be happy to build the right training plan for you.