Many B2B sales representatives believe they are consultative because they ask questions and avoid being pushy. Asking questions alone is not evidence of a consultative approach. Many salespeople ask questions without being consultative.
In fact, it’s possible that some of the questions you've been taught to ask will prove that your approach is not consultative. Your deskside manner and your B2B sales experience help you present as consultative, but this does not necessarily make your sales model consultative. Here is a set of questions to help you recognize how to be consultative.
What Is the Definition of Consultative Selling?
A consultative selling approach is one in which the salesperson provides their clients with good counsel, excellent advice, and recommendations on how to pursue the better results they need. This effective approach helps a consultative salesperson to perform well in an initial conversation.
Imagine someone recorded your last sales meeting with a prospective client. During an hour-long meeting, how many times would you be able to point to evidence that you were offering counsel? How many times would you provide your client with advice or a recommendation during that time? This is one of the ways you know you are consultative.
You can find help in becoming more consultative by studying Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition and Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative. Both books provide strategies for consultative selling and a more effective approach to sales.
What Are the Essential Skills Needed for Effective Consultative Selling?
One of the most important sales skills in executing a consultative selling approach is business acumen. Without business acumen, you cannot effectively use a consultative selling approach in sales calls. Additionally, you need the knowledge and experience to provide valuable perspectives to benefit your clients and potential clients. Without a solid foundation and a deep understanding of your clients’ common problems, you cannot help them with their buying decisions.
Without knowing what your clients do not know, or cannot know due to their lack of experience, you cannot be a business advisor. To become a consultative seller, it is important to continuously learn. If you do not stay informed through sources like CNBC, business books, magazines, and websites, you will struggle to provide valuable advice to your clients, who may find it difficult to trust your advice.
You must also increase your business acumen to gain a comprehensive understanding of your client's pressing issues and business challenges. Additionally, you also need to stay updated on current events that may impact your prospects and your customer base.
How Can I Identify the Unique Pain Points of My Clients and Provide Customized Solutions Using Consultative Selling?
Asking certain questions can prevent your client from perceiving you as an expert or authority. For instance, asking about their problems and pain points directly may imply that you are unaware of the common challenges in the industry, and the implications of these issues. This can cause your contacts to doubt your expertise and ability to be a true business partner.
Instead, ask a series of open-ended questions and consultative selling questions that help your contacts gain insights into their challenges and the results they need.
This is not to suggest that you should avoid asking questions, but you need to use consultative selling techniques that don't give your contact the impression that you need help understanding the problems your clients face. Your discovery call needs to provide you and your client with the ground truth, the root cause of their poor results, rather than identifying a problem solely to propose your solution.
When discussing tailoring solutions, we often refer to fit. In consultative selling, we customize the solution to address the root cause of the client's challenges. In a consultative selling approach, the client may have to change their processes to improve their results. You help them tailor the solution by helping them make changes.
How Can I Build Strong Relationships with My Clients Using a Consultative Sales Approach?
The essence of consultative selling lies in having a conversation using value-creation strategies to help buyers and decision-makers comprehend the reasons behind their subpar results and the contributing factors.
Buyers today are not interested in a transactional selling approach that is product focused. They do, however, engage with a consultative sales approach. This is one of the reasons prospects prefer consultative salespeople.
Building strong relationships with clients is easier when you provide valuable assistance. Using a consultative approach, you focus on winning clients, not just orders, which means you only compete once and not for each order.
How Does a Consultative Selling Approach Help in Overcoming Objections and Closing Deals?
A consultative process facilitates discussions with potential customers about their concerns during the customer interaction, particularly when practicing active listening. Those who encounter objections later in the conversation may not recognize the underlying concerns, which are often more serious. This could imply that the salesperson failed to address the client’s concerns earlier.
Because the consultative approach feels more like a collaboration than a sales conversation, it makes it easier for a client to move from one commitment to another, ultimately leading to their decision to buy from you. You can learn how to do this in the book The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales.
Avoid using pushy sales pitches to advance a deal. Adopting a consultative approach is likely to result in a faster sales cycle with you guiding the buyer’s journey.
How Do I Create a Consultative Selling Culture within My Sales Team and Organization?
As a sales leader, it is your responsibility to create a consultative selling culture within your sales team and organization. You need to choose a sales approach, a sales methodology, and sales strategies, tactics, and techniques that your team will use to create value for your clients and achieve your sales goals.
You can accelerate their development through sales training, sales development, and coaching. You can also foster a culture by conducting sales meetings that focus on business acumen and providing the counsel, advice, and recommendations that your clients need to make changes effectively.
Enhancing Your Sales Approach and Results
If you are not already practicing a consultative selling approach, you can start by removing obstacles. The first thing to go should be the legacy approaches that focus solely on discussing your company, products, and services in a first meeting. Consultative selling cannot take place with pitch decks and “Why us?” questions.
You can improve revenue growth by providing sales training, implementing effective sales tactics, and achieving success in sales. Adopting a consultative selling approach enables sales organizations to establish trust and forge stronger relationships with their clients. These stronger relationships position the consultative seller as a trusted advisor and result in greater customer satisfaction with modern buyers.