What Is Consultative Selling? (And How To Improve Your Need-Based Strategy)

By Indeed Editorial Team

July 27, 2021

Many salespeople are trading the traditional transactional way of selling for a new approach called “consultative selling.” This method involves focusing on the client’s needs as opposed to the product to be sold. In this article, we define consultative selling and provide five ways to improve your sales technique with this strategy.

Related: How To Develop Your Skill Set To Advance Your Career

What is consultative selling?

Consultative selling is a sales approach that involves forming trusting relationships with clients and allowing them to communicate their needs. Consultative salespeople actively engage in dialogue with clients to gauge their backgrounds, lifestyles and preferences. They offer solutions that address their clients’ specific needs, rather than trying to sell them specific products.

Sales professionals who ask questions and advise clients according to their unique requirements use the consultative selling strategy.

What are the benefits of consultative selling?

A client whose needs are met is likely to be more satisfied with your business and return for future sales, based upon the relationship you’ve built with them.,
Here are some additional benefits of consultative selling:

  • Helps to grow your customer base

  • Helps to retain current customers

  • Increased revenue due to growing client base

  • Gives you a competitive advantage in the marketplace

  • Allows you to develop active listening and other soft skills

How to improve your consultative selling strategy

Here are five steps you can take to improve your consultative selling strategy:

1. Do your research

It’s easier to address a client’s needs and design a unique sales solution if you know their perspective. Research their company, role and potential pain points to better position your pitch. Doing so will specifically allow you to accomplish the following:

  • Answer their questions: Knowledge of your client’s perspective will help you answer their questions more effectively. You may even anticipate a few questions, which you can prepare for ahead of time.

  • Gauge their needs: You will likely be able to determine your client’s buying timeline and needed quantity if you know their perspective, background and company status.

  • Facilitate conversation: Some background knowledge beforehand will provide you with conversation points to initiate and maintain an active and productive discussion.

Related: Research Skills: Definition and Examples

2. Ask questions

The traditional concept of sales is one in which a salesperson mostly speaks and a client listens. Consultative uses active listening and questions to pinpoint client needs.

Asking questions will not only, help you engage in dialogue with the client; but also, provide you with valuable information. You can start by posing basic and general questions that will allow the client to lead the conversation in a specific direction. You can then gradually introduce more specific questions.

For instance, if you are selling accounting software, you can start with a general question such as, “How many employees do you have at Ultimate Networks?

Learning about the company first will allow you to plan subsequent, more specific questions to determine the unique benefits of your solution. You could respond by saying, “Did you know that our product, DataList, allows up to 100 unique profiles for every client organization?

Related: Common Communication Barriers (With Examples)

3. Learn to listen

Consultative selling requires strong active listening skills. Active listening requires the listener to not just hear what the speaker is saying, but be invested in it. This kind of listening requires concentration and involves both verbal and nonverbal cues. For instance, if a client seems distracted by other responsibilities or a hectic schedule, it may be more convenient to meet at another time.

One aspect of being a great listener is to avoid interrupting them. . Allow yourself enough time to properly process the information your client has supplied before responding. If you need more time, ask for clarification with phrases like, “Can you expand on what you are saying?” You could also take notes if it is appropriate and provide phrases of acknowledgment like “I understand” from time to time to show that you are interested in what your client is saying.

4. Be authentic

If you want to excel as a salesperson, aim to nurture trusting relationships with your clients by being authentic. For example, if you think the product or service might not be the right thing for your client’s needs, be honest. By showing that you are motivated by the relationship first and the sales second, you will likely win their trust and loyalty, which may lead to future sales.

Being authentic also means believing in the products or services you are selling and having an honest concern for the well-being of your clients.

5. Follow up

A traditional sales transaction includes a follow-up, but try to remain patient and not rush your client. It’s possible they are still making a final decision, or they may need to consult with a supervisor and obtain budget approval.
If you do not receive feedback from a client within a reasonable amount of time, send a direct email inquiring about the client’s timeline and whether other stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process.

An example of consultative selling

The following is a theoretical example of a customer who benefitted from a salesperson who practiced consultative selling:

My laptop was outdated and becoming unreliable so I decided it was time to invest in a new one. I went to a local computer store and found a laptop that seemed to be what I needed but it was a little over my budget. There were so many laptops to consider and I wasn’t familiar with all the technical descriptions and I just didn’t have the time or patience to do a comparison, so I decided to just buy the expensive one. A salesperson approached me and asked me if I needed any help.

When I explained that I had reluctantly decided to buy the expensive laptop, he asked me what I needed to use the laptop for specifically. When I explained my job and the kind of software I needed to run, he directed me toward a much less expensive laptop and said it would provide all the functionality I needed. I ended up purchasing the less expensive laptop and I’ve been really happy with my choice.”

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