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One way to improve your sales approach is to be consultative. The more consultative you are, the easier it is to win deals, which is not to suggest winning deals is ever easy. Too few salespeople rely on approaches that are anything but consultative, making it easy for decision-makers to disengage and look elsewhere for the help they need.

Let’s assume a consultant is being paid for their consultation, advice, and recommendations, as they have no product or service to sell. In some cases, consultants that advise on decisions and oversee their execution have junior consultants who execute. When we talk about being consultative, we are referring to the consultant that provides the advice, not the one who executes.

You are not likely going to hear a consultant try to position their company because they do not need to borrow authority from their firm. Sales reps, by contrast, have been taught and trained to open a first meeting by talking up their company as a way to gain credibility.

A consultant will not talk about their clients to prove they can improve a prospect’s results. The consultant doesn’t worry about offering proof that their advice will help the client sitting across for them. The same should be true in the sales conversation. Sales professionals who talk about other clients and their results are out of sync with what their contact needs.

Consultants cannot describe their solution to the client as a way to convince them to sign a contract. The conversation and advice itself is the consultant’s offering. Yet, saying a person is consultative without offering advice is to misunderstand what it means to be consultative. The average salesperson, however, has been led to believe the solution is everything and what wins them deals. You can tell how consultative you are by counting the times you offer an insight or advice that benefits your prospective client.

A consultant is likely to know what the client’s problem is, and they likely discussed the problem when they booked the first meeting. Remember, this is a consultant. They have the experience to know what kind of problems companies have and how they harm results. A consultant will ask effective questions that teach the client while also gaining a higher resolution lens through which to see the root cause of the client’s problems. A salesperson with a traditional approach will ask about the problem, causing the client to worry they lack the expertise to help them with a rare decision they are charged to make.

You will find that consultants don’t tend to prioritize rapport building in a first meeting. Their client is paying a consultant by the hour. The consultant, unlike many salespeople, knows they create rapport at the business level, instead of at the “please like me” level that can cause the client to feel their time is being wasted.

You can find more on this approach in two books, Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative and Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition.

The Nature of Winning and Losing Deals

You may have been led to believe that your company and your solution will determine who wins and who loses a sales contest. You may struggle with the following idea, but the truth will help you understand the nature of winning and losing deals.

Your company is not in the room when you are selling. Neither is your solution. Both are exceptional, but, unfortunately, your competitors also work for good companies with equally good solutions. Your contacts see parity, which is why salespeople routinely fail after spending time trying to convince the client that their company and solutions are the best.

Your client is not trying to buy what you sell. They are trying to produce the strategic outcomes they need to reach their goals. The client’s challenge is trying to acquire the information and insights to understand what they need to know to make an important decision. (This is why leaders hire consultants.).

As salespeople, most of us are not aware of what it means to create value in the sales conversation. Your client is trying to find someone who can provide them with what they need to make the right decision to improve their results. Your client is trying to determine who they trust to sit next to them and help them consider their options. This consultative salesperson has a greater chance of winning than someone who doesn’t understand how buyers make decisions.

If you wonder why this is important in the third decade of the 21st century, it is because of the complexity of making decisions in a time marked by accelerating, constant, disruptive change.

How Consultative Is Your Sales Approach?

The first part of this article describes the approach that no longer resonates with buyers and decision makers, despite remaining popular with salespeople. The information there will help you see the difference between the outdated approach many still use, and one that is consultative, but there is much more to being consultative, including business acumen, something buyers complain salespeople lack.

Being consultative means you provide counsel, advice, and recommendations. If your only advice is to buy your solution from your company, you are the opposite of consultative. What you share in the sales conversation must enable the client to make a decision that ends with them improving their results and improving their business.

If this seems difficult to you, keep working at it. Being truly consultative is what your clients need you and your team to be. Anything less will leave an opening for your competitors to sweep in and remove your chance of winning an opportunity.


Sales 2023
Post by Anthony Iannarino on October 9, 2023

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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