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Customers hate feeling pressured into buying a product or service. Yet, they'll cherish the happiness of buying a great solution. The saying goes, "People don't like to be sold, but they love to buy."
This contradiction leaves sales teams with a difficult challenge. They know that potential purchasers will like their service or product and want to educate them about it as much as possible. However, if the sales representative is too pushy, the customer will feel that person is not concerned about helping another human being but wants to make a quick buck.
Enter consultative selling
Needs-based, or consultative selling is a sales technique and approach where the salesperson acts as an advisor rather than a sales representative. Consultative selling helps the sales team manage the small gap between pushing for more sales and missing out on opportunities.
The customer is the center of this solution-based strategy, meaning sales teams work with clients to resolve all their problems.
Consultative selling may sound simple, but it can be challenging to implement without proper guidance. This article explains what consultative selling is and how to incorporate it into a sales strategy to build credibility among your customer base.
What Is Consultative Selling?
Instead of pushing to sell a specific service or product, sales representatives utilize consultative selling to find or recommend solutions to prospects based on their pain points and requirements. Consultative selling's needs-based approach helps make the client feel that they are being listened to and not just treated like the rep's next commission check.
It's good to note that the consultative sales approach is only sometimes suitable for some situations. Consultative selling is good when the prospect has already done rudimentary research on a service or product but is still determining which to choose.
In scenarios like this, the middle of a traditional sales pipeline is where the first contact with the customer occurs. Even though you may not think this is true, more and more prospects are searching the internet and doing their own research.
Consultative selling allows sales representatives to meet prospective customers where they are in the buyer's journey, ensuring the interactions are both profitable and valuable. However, for consultative selling to work, sales employees must comprehensively understand the clients' complications by doing these five things:
- Providing the potential client with helpful resources and information
- Actively listening to customers
- Being objective
- Asking questions
- Focusing on solutions rather than features, products, or services
If sales teams concentrate on these five activities, they can attract more customers into an organization's sales pipeline. One of the best ways to do this is with CRM, meaning customer relationship management.
4 Principles of Consultative Selling
Building relationships and trust with clients takes time, patience, and perseverance. If sales staff want to build more credibility through consultative selling, there are four primary principles to focus on.
Implement these activities into your strategy to get the ball rolling in the consultative sales process.
Ask the Correct Questions
When prospects find a solution to their problem is when the primary goal of consultative selling is achieved. Sales teams need to ask potential customers questions to guide them through this stage of the buying process.
Knowing which questions to ask and when is essential to locate the leading cause of the client's concerns. Start by getting to understand the prospect of a macro level by learning about the company they work for through a quick search on LinkedIn. Then, to gain more knowledge about the candidate, including the following in your search is recommended:
- Time spent on specific pages on your site
- Personal blog
- Social media accounts
- Work history
This information can give you the power to keep the sales conversation going. When sales reps use consultative selling, they need to gather as much information as possible. This means utilizing targeted open-ended questions to keep the conversation in motion.
Ensure that new information is shared with the prospect in each question asked. If the client is too subtle in their response, utilize additional tactics that may prompt them to share more details with you.
Apply Active Listening
You need to know the customer's pain points to implement consultative selling. During every interaction with a prospect, listening to what they are saying and giving them your undivided attention is vital. This gives you better cognizance of the potential client’s requirements and shows them they mean something to your organization, building trust in the interim.
You can use your prospect’s answers to practice consultative selling techniques or tactics. Personal selling sales scripts can be created to align with the client's problems, making the interaction between the company and the customer more individualized. Here are three other ways to improve active listening when chatting with a prospect:
- Don’t start planning what to say next
- Remain focused
- Clarify and paraphrase information
Clever sales representatives utilize the 80/20 rule to help spend more time actively listening. During a customer interaction, 80% of your time should be spent listening while the remaining 20% you spend talking.
Educate the Prospect
When a sales team has experience with a particular product or service, the best way to use it is by educating the customer. This gives reps a chance to teach prospects how to make informed purchasing decisions. Assume the customer knows about the product and concentrate on providing knowledge of how to utilize what they already know.
Perform research so you don't go into the conversation blindfolded. This can also help you understand the prospect's company and how your business can provide value to it.
Salespeople interact with multiple customers throughout their careers, and rightfully so. Therefore, these individuals build a foundation of expertise that can serve various customer types or buyer personas. While every client is different, finding prospects with similar pain points and industries can help sales representatives navigate conversations better.
Of course, this is only possible with being an authority on the topic you are speaking about. Show the potential customer examples of how previous clients have been helped, such as social proof, case studies, testimonials, or success stories.
Consultative selling only works when sales teams concentrate on assisting the client while actively seeking a solution. If the conversation suddenly becomes too salesly, the potential client may react as surprised and be more reluctant to keep chatting.
Start by having an authentic conversation with the prospect, and don’t be too pushy in your sales pitch. Instead, suggest specific features to the customers and highlight how they would solve their problem.
When dealing with a client during a consultative selling strategic sales interaction, here are three questions to ask:
- Can you offer a particular promotion or discount?
- How can you tweak the offer to fit the prospect's distinctive requirements?
- Can additional service or product packages be added?
Showcase the answer to these queries when talking to the customer and give them real-world examples of how your products or services have helped others previously. Ensure that the client understands what they will lose if they don't act (but remember, don't pressure them.)
Consultative Selling Process
Consultative selling varies in steps and stages compared to a more traditional sales process. The general pattern of a B2B sales process includes:
- Gaining a new lead
- Introducing them to your solution
- Closing the sale
The steps below show business owners how to begin building their consultative selling process following the conventional sales process archetype.
Learn About New Leads Before Communicating with Them
Irrespective of outbound or inbound sales, research is vital for consultative selling. Once you have an ideal customer profile (ICP), match new leads to it so that you can determine their eligibility as successful clients.
Understanding the prospects' motivations, perspectives, and businesses are great ways to get into their head. One of the critical characteristics of consultative selling is a well-developed and systematically updated sales enablement program.
Listen to the Customer
Take time to refocus and relax before going on a sales call with a prospect. Set clearly defined goals for the call and consider the value you can provide the potential client.
Once the call's initiated, let the customer speak. Give them your full attention and ensure that you don't perform other tasks while on the phone. When the prospect is done speaking, reiterate what they said to show them you were listening attentively to their needs.
Prepare some questions in advance so you don't have to fumble for words during the conversation. Wait for the right moment to ask the prospect these queries without interrupting them.
Another excellent method of listening better is incorporating software into the process. This could be advanced AI note-taking applications or something more rudimentary like call recording in Skype or Zoom.
Locate the Root Cause of Key Pain Points
Taking what someone says at face value makes it challenging to dive deeper into their pain points. Consultative sellers need to ask questions constantly to locate the root cause of the prospect's problem and not just what is seen on the surface.
Asking open-ended and follow-up questions is a great way to dig deeper into the potential customer's mind. Here are examples of a few queries you could ask:
- Why is that, in particular, so important for you?
- Do you have an example for me?
- Can you guide me through the process for…
- How is your team affected by this issue?
- Tell me about…
Ensure you're asking the right sales questions rather than focusing on closing the deal. The sale will occur naturally once you have built enough rapport with the customer.
Use Insights to Personalize the Sale Pitch
Using a sales CRM system like Ringy, you can store and analyze customer data with only a few clicks. This gives you enough information to edit your sales pitch template to align with customer expectations.
Once the sales pitch is customized, sales representatives can provide precise solutions with a solution, guidance, or workflow.
Teach Your Potential Customers
Consultative selling allows reps to guide prospects and educate them where they need it most. The table below shows three areas consultative sellers educate their prospective customers.
Consultative Selling Areas
Teach prospects about the real impact of their challenges
Help the potential customer think about the financial implications of their problem. For instance, if there are productivity problems, highlight how much the company could lose.
Educate prospects on the root cause of their challenges
See past surface issues and locate the primary cause of the problem. For example, a sales manager may assume his team's performance is based on using a terrible CRM. However, while this may be true, consultative selling digs deeper to discover that CRM is littered with insufficient data.
Teach prospects about the value of the possible solutions
The correct solutions don't necessarily mean the services or products reps are selling Workflows and processes are included in these solutions, and the tools required to use them.
Solve Problems Alongside Your Potential Customers
In the old days, it was all about "making the sale." However, consultative selling focuses on setting your customers up for long-term success. There is no point selling sawdust to a lumber mill if it doesn’t need any.
Consultative selling means reps work as an addition to their prospect's team, helping them develop the correct processes and workflows to flourish.
Negotiate and Close Deals That Both Parties Benefit From
When a business closes a transaction, it's a clear win for them. A win for the client is getting a solution that will significantly increase business metrics, such as revenue, productivity, and customer satisfaction levels.
The key to success in this area is to prove that your product or service will do everything promised. Offering a potential customer a free trial or social proof is an excellent way of building their confidence in your solution.
Remain with The Customer Until They See the Solution Work for Them
Consultative selling processes continue after a deal has closed. It only concludes when the client finds real value in the product or service you've sold them.
Eventually, new clients are handed over to customer success representatives or account managers. However, salespeople are still expected to ensure the client is satisfied with what they bought before the person is assigned to another division or customer in the business.
Consultative selling requires that reps develop a relationship with the client while discussing their organization's requirements. Finish off this process by helping the buyer implement solutions into their daily workflow or company procedures.
How to Utilize the Strategic Consultative Selling Model
Maintaining a strong customer focus throughout the entire consultative selling process is the key to successful implementation and building trust with prospects. Paying close attention to the client creates a win-win situation for both parties, where the seller gains a loyal, long-term patron, and the purchaser feels supported in resolving their challenge.
While companies may differ in their strategic approach to consultative selling, focusing on the customer first is a must. It is highly recommended to host consultative sales training programs for staff to help them get on the same page or build a team that concentrates solely on your business's consultative selling efforts.
Learning how to create tailored solutions for the customer is the final step to becoming a successful consultative seller. A customized product or service that meets the specific client's requirements is an excellent way to show that an organization cares and doesn't just sell one size fits all cookie-cutter solutions.
Once the prospect's problems have been identified, immerse yourself in resolving their pain point, then demonstrate the service or product. This should be the focal point of any strategic consultative selling process while including nuances specific to the client’s business.
Solution Selling vs. Transactional Selling vs. Consultative Selling
Understanding what type of sales approach to utilize in an enterprise is critical to finding success. Irrespective of the sales techniques, including consultative, transactional, and solution-based selling, these processes have their gradations.
The comparison table below shows the difference between solution selling vs. transactional selling vs. consultative selling.
Sells solutions that may require research and customization
Focuses on closing the next sale
Concentrates on listening and asking questions
Salesperson and product-focused
Marketing material describes components. Still, sales reps create custom presentations after learning about the clients' requirements
Sells the primary benefits of a service or product
Offers customer solutions
Long-term selling relationship with a focus on continual improvement.
Short-term selling relationship that concentrates on the sales employee achieving their target.
Long-term selling relationship
Consultative Selling Training Tips
Consultative selling is ideal for any sales model because it allows sellers to uncover prospects' requirements faster and offer them more compelling solutions. Utilize the following consultative selling training tips to boost the chances of increasing sales.
Establish Knowledge-Based Trust
The digital landscape has changed buyers' willingness to engage with sellers remotely. However, it becomes challenging to convince clients that a solution may work for them without in-person interactions.
Sales employees can overcome this hurdle by building knowledge-based trust: being consistent with words while building trust during educational customer interactions.
A general rule of thumb is to deliver at least one follow-up after the initial sales call. During the exchanges, mention particular topics in the conversation, let them know it was great to chat with them, and remind them to send you a message if they have any other queries.
Showing the client how thoughtful and reliable you are will boost their confidence in the business and legitimize the solution's value.
Find the Equilibrium Between Questions and Insights
Utilizing careful questioning, teams can attract more people into the business's sales funnel while learning about what's most important to them. Sellers develop a detailed picture of what is advantageous to the prospect and what they would benefit from most.
This helps sellers position solutions better suited to the client's requirements. However, asking the customer too many questions may make them feel uneasy. The answer? Provide them with insightful information along their journey.
For example, you could use a CRM solution to record prospect details and preferences and use this information to build content the customer would love.
Keep the Conversation Genuine
Building trust with a client requires more than establishing credibility through a display of knowledge. Focus on being approachable and persuasive while showing the person you genuinely care about what you're selling and to whom it's being sold.
Honesty and authenticity can go a long way in boosting the integrity of a salesperson.
For instance, a dodgy used motorcycle salesman trying to sell an old, run-down vehicle that has been struggling to sell for months and has numerous underlying issues. This is not the sleazy, underhand approach sales representatives should utilize in their consultative selling efforts.
Understanding a service or product's value and reiterating it casually to the customer while identifying something meaningful to them is excellent for building rapport. Make sure you're authentic in your pitch, be open with your intentions, and compel the client with helpful information to succeed with the consultative selling process.
Consultative Selling Examples
Consultative selling is simple but takes some getting used to. Multiple outcomes don't always make the path to closing a sale a linear one. However, the consultative selling approach does always leave businesses with happier customers.
Here are consultative selling examples that show how the practice is utilized in different business situations.
The Motorcycle Shop Owner
An individual enters a motorcycle shop looking for a new bike but is still determining what to purchase. The shop owner asks the person questions about their riding habits, objectives, and bikes they have ridden in the past. With this information, the business owner decides that it may be better to repair the current bike instead of buying a new one while including a few inexpensive enhancements.
In this way, the shop wins long-term loyalty and short-term business; when the motorcycles require future services or the owner wants to upgrade, this is the first store they'll think of.
The Marketing Agency
A business proprietor is considering creating an SEO campaign for his organization. He locates a marketing agency online that offers downloadable content with detailed information on the topic.
After familiarizing himself with SEO, the company owner decided to utilize the agency's assistance to do things correctly. He contacted the marketing agency's sales representatives to learn more about their services.
The Family Lawyer
A pensioner is reaching old age and is concerned about what will happen to her estate after passing. The old will that your previous lawyer created needs to be updated and include some of the most recent additions to the family. Accordingly, she contacts multiple lawyers to find out more.
Some will only chat with the lady if they send her an invoice for their time, while others are happy to offer a free consultation. Who do you think you'll choose?
This is a prime example of consultative selling in action.
Consultative selling has many advantages, but the primary two are improving long-term relationships with customers and boosting short-term business income. By monitoring client interactions and sales, teams can be more prepared for prospect conversations.
Utilize a CRM to record all the customer’s data in real-time while keeping track of their movement through the sales pipeline. Ringy was developed to simplify this job and allows you to streamline specific tasks by automating them. The software is designed to help you along your consultative selling journey.
Request a demo and find out how this CRM platform can boost sales and team productivity.