What it is, how it works, and why do it online

What is consultative selling? It is a new approach to selling that focuses primarily on the customer’s shopping experience. In fact, the traditional sales method focused on product promotion and its characteristics is waning. Instead, consultative selling, or consultative sales approach, allows you to customize the sales process according to the consumer.

When you can give value to your leads, to make your customer feel at the center of everything, you give value to something deeper than the object / product itself.

consultative selling definitionThe advisory sales process focuses on the customer or potential customer and creating value for them. The seller is a consultant whose goal is to find a solution to the customer’s problem through his/her products or services instead of promoting them blindly (the so-called sale of solutions).

What characterizes a consultative seller is the focus he/she puts on the customers’ wants or needs, not on what he/she sells.

To attract potential customers and convert them into leads, Inbound Marketing strategies will be useful t segment and qualify them according to their needs.

Are you wondering what consultative selling is and how to apply it? Continue reading and discover what it means, and the skills and steps necessary to integrate it into your sales strategy.

If you want to apply it better through digital tools, follow the Digital Sales Course and make a change in your selling strategy.


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Consultative selling definition

Consultative selling is a sales method first defined by Mark Hanan in his book “Consultative Selling: The Hanan Formula for High-Margin Sales at High Levels” in 1970 and which has trained thousands of people in the sales consultant profession. It is a long process, made up of steps and skills necessary to be able to create a relationship of trust with the potential customer and bring him spontaneously to the purchase.

Consultative selling techniques allow you to propose your product / service accurately after understanding the requests of the customer. In fact, the method first focuses on the needs and critical issues that the prospect, or the potential buyer, is facing, and only then will the proposal of the product / service be sold. Therefore, consultative selling is studying the customer, getting to know them by eliminating all their worries, and establishing a long-term relationship with them before proceeding with the sale. But how can you approach the customer efficiently to make the most out of it?


Consultative Selling vs Traditional Selling

What is the approach of consultative selling? It is about asking questions, listening to answers, studying the customer’s background, lifestyle and preferences, in order to suggest solutions based on the customer’s needs, customized on his characteristics and not on the sale of the product. Therefore, the purpose of the sales consultant is to sell while meeting the needs of the customers.

In the consulting sales process, the value of the individual is being emphasized, allowing them to better see the benefits brought by the purchase. Thus, the value of the relationship proves to be more important than the cost of the product / service: the consultant becomes the expert to rely on in the future for questions or concerns regarding a anything specific. In the consultative selling model, value is not defined by the product, but by the buyer themself.

If you want to become a sales consultant, you will need to demonstrate genuine interest in people and their needs. You will have to be curious, so as to be able to ask the right questions and deepen your knowledge. All of these will enable you to propose satisfactory and targeted solutions.

Advantages of consultative selling

Sales professionals who embrace a consultative approach offer more than just a solution, thus achieving several advantages:

  • The company increases its turnover thanks to a new connection with the customer, a method also used for already advanced business paths.
  • A more competitive approach because it is not strictly linked to market needs.
  • Greater access to current accounts for the development of new opportunities not previously calculated.
  • The duration of the sales cycle is shorter from the moment of first contact until the building of trust with the prospect.

How to implement consultative selling in 5 steps

The consultative selling model is characterized by certain steps. It is a fluid and very interactive process where the customer leads the conversation with their answers and you, as a sales consultant, show your expertise in the sector and establish a lasting relationship with them.

There are typically 5 steps in consultative selling; Let’s see them together.

1) Preparation

Conduct an in-depth customer analysis. It is very important to know the information necessary to enter into a relationship with the prospect and to be able to prepare the right questions before contacting him. So, a buyer survey will allow you to be efficient and reduce the time of the sale. This is an essential first step; Don’t underestimate or ignore it.


2) Questions

consultative selling stepsAfter studying your client’s background, prepare some questions to get to know them better. But how to set them up? The questions to be asked must be open-ended, and never ask questions that call for a closed answer such as YES or NO.

Instead, use adverbs that leave room for the formulation of a more articulated answer. Also, try not to use “Why” to avoid putting your client on the defensive and be in trouble; instead, introduce the questions with a “How”.

You will achieve the same result while maintaining a friendlier atmosphere. For the formulation of the questions, use direct questions such as “What”, “Which”, “What”, “How”.

Here are some examples of consultative selling questions:

  • How did you start your business?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What are you currently doing to achieve your goals?
  • How did you deal with a similar situation?
  • What strategies work well for you?
  • What would you do if you had infinite resources?
  • What are your plans for the future that we should know so we don’t go wrong with our recommendations?

3) Listening and Understanding

A key ingredient of the consultative selling process is listening. Create an adequate space: remove distractions such as cell phone, food, or background noise. Also, take note and don’t interrupt the customer while they speak; Ask additional questions if something is not clear to you. Do not suggest conclusions to his sentences, but give him time to find the right words on his own. Show that you are interested: paraphrase his words and occasionally express confirmation words/sounds (for example: “Ok, clear”).

As a sales consultant, carefully consider how the prospect answers questions and what question to ask to continue the conversation. Don’t be tempted to sell quickly: the advisory approach is slow but effective. Building a lasting relationship with the customer requires attention and time. Listening to and understanding the buyer are very delicate phases that determine the continuation and success of the negotiation.


4) Proposal of solutions

Once you have known your customer in depth, and only after carefully evaluating what they told you about themself, you can proceed with the proposal of customized solution. In consultative selling, you must be authentic especially in the presentation of the right product / service for your customer. But what does it mean to be authentic? You must firmly believe in what you are proposing and be genuinely interested in the well-being of your customer.

Do you want to be considered as a resource, or as a reference point in that sector? Share your experience and thoughts. Be honest about the positive and negative aspects of the product/service, be friendly and not just a salesperson. A sales consultant is not afraid of competitors. On the contrary, a sales consultant may even suggest other sales consultants to the customer if they work better in certain aspects. Your authenticity will earn you the trust and respect of the customer even for future negotiations.


5) Follow-up and conclusion of the sale

Give your customer time to think about the personalized product/service you’ve suggested. Give them a chance to talk about your proposal with your family or with members of the company’s management. Make yourself feel present without being stressful. Be prepared to answer additional questions about the product and additional information. It is a delicate phase that will determine the sale and future relationship. If the process has been done carefully, by now, you will be an expert in the eyes of your customer who will return to you for further purchases.

Who deals with consultative selling

The sales consultant is the leading expert in consultative selling. The skills to be acquired to become a successful sales consultant are not that much. In fact, a specific academic or professional path is not necessary. What you need is experience in sales or customer service. In some areas, specific licenses are also required such as insurance or real estate, which, in addition to needing specific licenses, have specific digital mechanisms and strategies such as a website for real estate agencies.

It is useful to have excellent communication skills and be empathetic in interpersonal relationships. Among other characteristics, a sales consultant has authenticity and an attitude predisposed to listening. In addition, it is essential to be skilled organizers to manage the steps of consultative selling, especially follow-up.

If you think about it, we are all a bit of sellers; During the day, we are always in negotiations to sell something, ideas, objects and so on. And the same process applies to the company. To be a successful salesperson, you need to understand both the customer and the market you’re in. Sales techniques are real strategies that allow you to become more skilled in conversations, in knowing the customer or potential customer in depth, and building stable relationships with them. Here are some useful tips to develop your skills as a salesperson:

  1. The first rule is to understand your market: who am I selling to?
  2. Identify the right customers and understand those who will be difficult to reach;
  3. Build trust;
  4. Always offer a solution;
  5. Bring out hidden needs;
  6. Look for what differentiates you and propose it to give value to the customer;
  7. Interact with your lead while they are still interested in buying;
  8. Focus on people;
  9. Be positive;
  10. It establishes authentic human relationships.

consultative selling conversion funnelThe most famous sales techniques are enclosed in two models called A.I.D.A. and SPIN Selling.The AIDA Method stands for:

  • Attention: capture the attention of the potential customer;
  • Interest: maintain the interest of the prospect through stressing actions that lead to emphasizing a real or latent problem. Make it feel how you can solve it with your product or service;
  • Desire: accompany the possible customer in an imaginary path, which will serve them to understand how their life can improve when they use your product / service;
  • Action: close the sale.

It may happen that during the consultative sale process, some objections arise from people. In this situation, techniques based on “haste” (discount campaign that is about to end), “scarcity” (limited number of the product that the customer is looking for) or “fear” (if you do not buy the product or service, the problem may worsen) can help.

Instead, the S.P.I.N. method consists in submitting to the user a series of increasingly targeted questions, following these steps:

  • Situation questions: ask the interlocutor questions that allow you to outline their characteristics;
  • Problem questions: bring out the problems and any discomforts;
  • Implication questions: emphasize customer problems and its negative effects;
  • Need-payoff questions: explicitly ask the interlocutor what are their real needs that must be satisfied. After that, expose the solution/s.

Examples of consultative selling

Examples of consultative selling are present in everyday life. It is the sale made by that salesman who, before proposing clothing, asks you what your needs are then offers you style advice. Or, from the employee of the electronics store who asks you specific questions to understand which PC model to propose when you do not know how to orient yourself in the choice.

However, there are some sectors that require a strong consulting sales capacity; Just think of the IT, banking, or medical field. For example, medical companies, or sellers of medical-surgical devices in particular, have long adopted consultative selling techniques to sell their products.

The sales specialist is, in effect, a consultant. He actively listens to the doctor to understand his needs in the treatment of the pathologies of his competence. It therefore offers devices capable of satisfying these needs, explaining how they work, highlighting their advantages and offering itself available to try them together. During the test, he follows it step by step, providing him with all the necessary information to make the best use of the tool and solve any doubts and problems.

The evaluation phase of the device can last some time and require multiple tests and meetings. If the sale is successful, however, it is mainly due to the relationship of trust and respect created between sales specialist and doctor, a relationship that must be cultivated and strengthened over time to keep the competition away.

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Consultative selling: why do it online

Why choose to do assisted selling online?

The goal is always to get more customers, and digital tools allow us to go and “catch” potential customers that a seller would normally lose. The objectives for digital sales experts are different: generate more leads, not lose customers who would remain hidden, reposition and increase brand credibility, monitor customer perception and manage the company’s online identity, keep the market under control, and generate references and testimonials.

consultative selling online

Selling for online consultation does not bypass traditional methods. Instead, it adds new opportunities thanks to the new methods made available online.

Digital sales are new consultative selling techniques that can benefit both the entrepreneur and the freelancer. It is an authentic sales approach based on specific techniques and evolves according to market developments. Digital sales by definition are realized thanks to one-to-one actions, carried out by a specialist (the digital seller) through online tools and channels.

In the digital age, however, the human relationship remains a well-defined constant. In fact, starting from the first approach that usually takes place by telephone, the seller will immediately have to understand who is on the other side: he will try to steal the mood, the needs, the habits, the objectives, and the budget at the end of the meeting. The approach does not end with the call, but if one of our potential customers is undecided, the contact moves by forwarding an email to book the visit at his home.

To become a digital sales professional, it is important to learn how to use technology well and use it to your advantage (digital tools). This is what will set you apart from a traditional salesperson and help you “take home” your interviews.


Conclusion and strategic advice

Selling is such a vast and compelling topic that you could talk about it for days. For this reason, Digital Coach gives you the opportunity to explore which courses are useful to enter the world of consultative selling and offers you support to help you choose the training path that best suits your needs.

Finally, the famous proverb “no one is born knowledgeable” is very apt. Truly, you can have innate skills in selling, but you can also practice, gain experience, and train yourself. Ergo, you too can achieve extraordinary results for your business through direct consulting sales and/or online. You just have to desire it.