Consultative Selling Explained

Consultative selling is, by nature, exactly as it sounds. Instead of selling to a client, a sales professional uncovers the needs of the prospect through asking various questions and then tailoring their product or service accordingly. There is no better way to go about it. The old way of selling which is quite outdated involved the sales representative giving a presentation to their target market and hoping it hits a sweet spot. This type of selling was perfectly shown in the media through the David Mamet play Glenngary Glen Ross. Throughout the story, we see desperate sales professionals pitching potential investors and attempting to convince them to sign off on a significant purchase. This type of selling does not work anymore. Companies such as Miller-Heiman have changed the sales ballgame and our sales headhunters and sales recruiters couldn’t be more thankful for it. There is also a medium between consultative and aggressive selling that our sales employment experts also frown upon (though not as much as pure, old-style, aggressive selling). Our sales headhunters call this middle ground “reading off the PowerPoint.” We agree that all sales professionals should come equipped with a presentation, however a bullet-pointed PowerPoint never got somebody really excited about the product or service they were being offered.

The best way to sell, in the opinion of our sales headhunters, is to have a basic conversation. You learn more by asking questions and decision makers enjoy the meeting more. Nobody likes to be talked at; it is boring and sometimes makes the target client feel as if you don’t value his opinion. Consultative selling also teaches us not to make assumptions as to what the client wants. In sales, assumptions get you into trouble. This goes back to the question and answer process that is central to consultative selling. Additionally, consultative selling involves doing a basic “needs and wants” analysis. Again, like consultative selling, “needs and wants” are quite simplistic and are exactly what they sound like. Essentially, needs are the basic requirements of the prospective client. Let’s say that you are a sales rep for Apple Computer in the business to business space (B2B).

As a consultative selling expert, you understand that the client with whom you are meeting needs a computer. But then the “wants” come into play. If someone needs a computer, they will probably buy a Dell or other inexpensive PC, if left to their own devices. But if someone wants a very sleek, functional computer which also serves as a lifestyle choice, they are probably going to want a Mac. Therefore, the consultative selling expert will determine – again, through a pleasant conversation with a back and forth question and answer session – how the client could use the Apple computers and how it may make their life easier. To give an example of aggressive selling using the same scenario, a sales person would immediately tell the client that Macs have much better design functions than many PCs without first waiting to hear if this was something the client was even concerned with. As you have probably already deduced, our sales headhunters strongly recommend using a consultative selling style.