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Discover how embracing consultative sales techniques can transform your interactions and drive better results.

It is incredibly easy to recognize when a salesperson isn’t consultative. The non-consultative sales rep often believes they need something from their client, and to get that, they tend to defer to their client. They can’t look beyond their self-interest to see what the client needs. Most importantly, the non-consultative rep typically provides little counsel and advice. They are also unable to offer the beneficial recommendations that their client truly needs.

Identifying a consultative sales professional is equally straightforward. The consultative sales rep firmly believes they have something that the client needs. This directs their interaction so they can actively assess what the client knows and identify the gaps in knowledge or experience that they can help the client fill.

Identifying Client Needs: The Key to Consultative Selling

The art of being consultative begins with a keen understanding of what the client knows, then identifying the insights or information they need as they consider change. Being consultative means having the skill to fill in these gaps, achieved by asking the client probing questions. As the client seeks to acquire an education, they ask the salesperson questions, enabling the consultative sales rep to provide precisely what the client needs.

In contrast, a non-consultative salesperson often lacks this ability to identify gaps in the client’s knowledge base. Instead, they adhere to an approach focused on problems and pain points, suggesting their solution is what the client needs, often leaving the clients no better off after the meeting.

Expertise and Authority: Hallmarks of Consultative Sales

When a client encounters a consultative salesperson, they immediately recognize the salesperson as both an expert and an authority. This recognition is crucial for buyers, as they often don’t know what they don’t know. Decision makers, needing to make the right decision on the first try, seek someone who can guide them to the desired results with minimal risk in any change initiative.

The non-consultative salesperson, however, fails to present as either an expert or an authority. They may believe that they should not dictate what their client needs to know and do. As a result, they shy away from making decisions on behalf of their client. For some, this approach stems from a need for more time to grow into their role, while for others, being consultative is a daunting prospect.

Understanding Client Problems: The Essence of Consultative Sales

Thanks to their experience, the consultative salesperson quickly identifies the true nature of the client’s problem. They possess a pattern recognition skill that clarifies the root cause of the challenge preventing the client from achieving their desired results. This process often occurs rapidly, as the pattern itself tells the story.

In contrast, the non-consultative salesperson tends to accept the client’s view of their problem at face value. This acceptance inhibits their ability to see the actual blockers. When a blocker is the decision maker, a consultative sales professional would be concerned about addressing it directly.

Exploring Possibilities with a Consultative Approach

A consultative salesperson possesses the ability to discern what is possible and what might not be feasible. When a client suggests they need something more, the consultative salesperson explains what changes are necessary to achieve the desired results, including the required investments, time, resources, and energy to produce a superior outcome.

Conversely, the non-consultative salesperson often finds themselves restricted to their predetermined solutions, struggling to align with the client's real goals. This limitation is a disservice to both the sales rep and their client. 

The Essence of Consultative Sales: Providing Valuable Counsel

A salesperson’s consultative nature—or lack thereof—is based on their ability and willingness to offer sound counsel to their clients. By providing this counsel, clients benefit from the consultative salesperson’s experience and knowledge, effectively receiving valuable consultation without incurring additional costs.

Being consultative goes beyond this. It involves providing targeted advice, assisting the client in pursuing the results they need. Since the buyer may lack relevant experience, the consultative salesperson guides the client, ensuring they are on the correct path.

Ultimately, it comes down to making recommendations. The consultative salesperson advises on the best ways to pursue goals and suggests the next steps to take.

Achieving the One-Up Position in Consultative Sales

The concept of being One-Up is essential for B2B sellers. It operates on the premise that salespeople, through their extensive experiences in aiding clients' decision-making, accumulate insights that their buyers lack due to their infrequent engagement with such decisions.

Your buyer, deciding every few years, often in response to significant problems, lacks the continuity needed to understand the evolving dynamics of their needs. This infrequency deprives them of the knowledge of what has changed and its implications.

By being One-Up, you position yourself as a truly consultative salesperson. However, it's vital to acknowledge that reaching this level often begins with being One-Down. Thus, even if you're not One-Up now, through dedicated effort and experience, you can evolve into this role, offering your clients invaluable counsel, advice, and recommendations.

For further guidance on becoming One-Up and being truly consultative, consider exploring resources such as Elite Sales Strategies. In highly competitive environments, supplement this with Eat Their Lunch. Together, these resources provide a comprehensive framework to enhance your consultative selling skills.


Sales 2024 One-Up
Post by Anthony Iannarino on January 10, 2024

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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