Consultative Selling – What You Need To Know To Succeed

Written by: The Brooks Group
Consultative Selling Technique

It can be tricky to work with a potential client as a salesperson. There are a million tactics to try and many ways to get it wrong. One effective sales methodology is consultative selling. This technique allows a recommendation for products, rather than focusing on pushing a product. However, if you’re new to this method, it may be challenging to determine the correct approach.

In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about the consultative selling approach. We’ll discuss what it is, the principles you should understand, and the best sales methods for success. 

The more you know about sales, the better an experience you can have with the tactic. If you’re ready to be a better salesperson, get ready to have in-depth knowledge of the consultative approach.


What is a Consultative Sales Approach?

The consultative sales process is a form of needs-based selling. Rather than focusing on the product, this type of sale ensures that the needs of the customer come first. The sales rep listens to the hurt and stress points of the client, then turns to see how their service or product can benefit them.

The consultative selling approach involves creating a relationship for sales success. Sales reps speak to the client, getting to know more about them and their company. They then ask questions to determine where the faults lie and what solutions they need. Rather than diving in with a sales pitch, consultative selling skills involve researching the customer beforehand.


Consultative Selling Process


There are moments when the consultative selling process isn’t the ideal choice. If the client has no idea what service or product you have to offer, the consultative sales approach will not be effective for them. Your sales strategy may need to hinge on a more classic version of selling.

If the client already has completed in-depth research, they are the best target for consultative selling techniques. The ideal consumer will understand what you have to offer but isn’t sure which of your items they need. The consultative selling strategy works here.

If you are interested in consultative selling, it’s critical to have a full understanding of the strategy. Let’s talk about the principles of this technique next.

Selling the product strategically

Consultative selling might sound like solution selling, but the two are different. Solution selling is more product-focused, with the transaction at the core. 

Consultative selling is all about customer interactions and prospects for the future. The core of consultative selling works lies in the principles surrounding it. These psychology-based customer-centric strategies provide success.

Here are four principles of a consultative seller:

  • Asking Questions
  • Active Listening
  • Educating
  • Authentic & Custom Solution

These are the foundation for success with potential customers and this sales process.

Let’s talk more about each of these principles of consultative selling. If you have a genuine interest in consultative sales, this should be in the back of your mind with every sales approach. 

A quality consultative selling process means a potential customer can get a tailored solution for their business prospect’s pain point. Let’s dive in.


Asking Questions


The first item to consider with consultative selling is the question. A proper consultative sales approach means asking quality questions to carefully determine the hurt points of the client. These should not be random – there should be an active strategy at play in these sales conversations.

Here are two items to consider to ensure your questions are on the right track with your questions:


Lead the conversation

It’s your job to keep the conversation going. Don’t ask shallow questions – pose thoughts that lead to more information. You should be directing the talk, not the client for the best competitive advantage.

Remain curious

Don’t stick to the basics. Remain curious and learn as much as possible about the client. Start with basic and general questions, then use that point to work down to niche items.

These will keep you on track.

Questions will help you in conducting in-depth research on the client. They can reveal personal information, all while creating a closer connection to the potential customer. To diagnose a client, you need the most knowledge possible. Good questions are the root of a sales professional using consultative selling techniques. 

If you feel the conversation dies, it’s your job to steer it back in a direction to further reveal information and create a connection with the client. Your sales skills benefit the sales process, so ensure you practice them as much as possible. 


Active Listening


Active listening is another critical principle involved with consultative selling. If you don’t know what they say to you, there is no way to suggest options and work with a customer to find the best choice for their needs. 

You need to provide your clients with your attention by reading verbal and nonverbal cues. It will help you have a comprehensive understanding of what they need and allow them to feel special as they speak to you.

Here are two items to think about to be an active listener toward your potential customers:


Customize your diagnosis

Ensure you take in everything they say and customize your consultation to fit their specific needs. By actively listening, you can determine the customizations to fit their needs.

Let their answers push you

Their answers should guide you to the next question. Don’t stick with a script – change your words as you uncover more information about the prospect.

These will make the experience much better for both of you.

It can be challenging to listen actively. There are a million distractions to push you away in the outside world and inside your head. However, it’s something you need to master for a successful time with consultative selling. This technique is not a one-size-fits-all and it helps transform consultations.

You can always start small and work your way up. Practice active listening skills in basic conversation before moving to your first consultative selling session. The closer attention paid to a consult, the more likely they are to feel welcome and eager to invest in what you have to offer. Practice active listening whenever possible in consultative sales.




You are the expert in the selling scenario. Your current customers may know a little or nothing about your product. Therefore, it’s up to you to educate them and provide the information they need to determine the correct service or product for their wants and needs. You should know everything about what you have to offer.

Here are a few ways to leverage what you know with potential customers:

Be authoritative

You can provide confident words, but you need proof of what you’ve done. Show your authority by providing information on past successes and instances where the product or service helped someone.

Perform research

Research everything. You should know about your company and target audience, but you should also understand the prospect’s industry. The more you know about them, the more help you can provide.

Provide insights

As you move forward, provide insights into the product. Give examples of what it can do in their life and allow them to see it in action.

These will help them feel comfortable with you and what you know.

Many customers come with a basic feel of your company and the product or service you provide. However, they are far from sales experts. The more you know about them and what you have to offer, the more a client will respect your opinion. The higher regard they hold for you, the more sales will occur.

It may feel strange educating a client. However, it’s necessary to help them get a full understanding of the solution you have on the table. It’s also critical to help them feel comfortable with your words.


Authentic & Custom Solution


The solution is what the customer is there for. To be a better salesperson, you need to actively hunt for a way to fix their troubles. If you fall off course, there is little point in the discussions. It’s vital to bond with your client, but it needs to happen while searching for an authentic and custom solution.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you consider this process to keep your conversation authentic while on the hunt:


Avoid defensiveness

There may be instances where a client asks a question about the sales and opposes something you have to offer. Don’t be defensive. If you don’t know the answer, assure them you will perform research and get back to them later. 

Hold a true conversation

As you guide the client toward sales, it’s critical not to switch into sales mode. Continue authentically speaking to them as you answer critical questions about discounts and prices available for future sales.

These will keep you on track as you speak about your consultative sales process. 

Be customer-focused. It’s critical for a customer to feel as though they receive a tailored solution to their needs, rather than a cookie-cutter answer you hand out to everyone. Ensure you cover all their needs and that they are satisfied with what you have to offer before moving forward with the final portions of the sales.

Consultative selling requires you to be authentic whenever possible. You aren’t here to sell – you’re here to solve. Ensure you keep this in mind as you locate an authentic and tailored solution for their troubles through understanding.


Finding Success in Consultative Selling


If you want to try consultative selling for yourself, there are a few ways you can achieve success. Several tried and true tricks have laid the way for salespeople to assist their clients, sell products, and form deeper relationships when all is said and done. We have a few items you should consider if you want to find success in the consultative sales process.

Here are a few items that will lead to success in consultative selling:

  • Knowledge-Based Trust
  • Questions & Insights
  • Strong Interpersonal Skills
  • Conversational Selling
  • Interest in Prospects & Their Problems
  • Strong Listening Skills
  • In-depth Knowledge of the Product or Service


Let’s talk more about each of these tactics to lead to success in the sales world. Each of these is simple to master and will benefit your consultative sales process tremendously. The more you know about what goes into the craft, the more successful your sales can be with potential clients on the market.


Knowledge-Based Trust


Trust is critical in a consultative sales approach. You need to become friendly enough with the client to help them feel comfortable with what you have to offer, but you need to stay at the top of your game as a salesperson. 

One of the best ways to build trust is by utilizing the knowledge you have about your product or service and their industry.

Here are a few of the best ways to build knowledge-based trust in your sale:

  • Deliver a follow-up after the initial conversation to see how the client feels after the meeting
  • Reference topics and items they told you such as pain points and specifics about their industry
  • Ensure you follow through on any actions you discuss in the first meeting such as repeating sales calls or answering questions they had at the first call.

A second phone call after the initial conversation is critical. It shows you care about them and are willing to go the extra mile for additional contact. Ensure you inform them that they can ask you any questions they need as you move forward. This statement will help them feel comfortable with you as a sales rep. 

Even remembering one tiny detail about the buyer personas and their company’s needs can go a long way. Show you are thoughtful and reliable, and the client will trust you more and more. It takes work to create knowledge-based trust – but it’s worth it. It’s also critical to think carefully about balancing questions and insights in the conversation.


Questions & Insights


One of the best ways to succeed in consultative selling is to keep a balance between questions and insights. You want to get information out of your client, but you don’t want to bombard them with too much at once. Ensure you balance the quizzing with information about what you can offer for their business.

There will be natural breaking points in the middle of questions where you can offer information to the customer. This moment is where your sales pitch can sneak in – show them what you know about the product or service and switch to another critical question from there.

If you feel it’s time for insight, you may talk about the following subjects:

  • The genre of services or products you have to offer.
  • A particular solution you are considering for them and their pain points
  • Moments when your service or product proved successful in the field

These inform the customer of what you have to offer and remove the pressure from them for a moment.

If you ask too many questions, your client may feel as though they are being interrogated. It will be clear when they get overwhelmed – most people fidget or look away when they feel uncomfortable. 

Actively listen and look out for these warning signs to determine if it’s time to switch the focus from them to you and what you can do for them.

Questions are the most critical component of consultative sales reps. However, you also need to have strong intrapersonal skills for excellent communication with a prospect.


Strong Interpersonal Skills


Interpersonal skills, also known as social skills, are abilities and behaviors we use to communicate with other individuals. 

As a salesperson, it’s vital to understand how to interact with people on a higher level than the average person. These abilities will put you at a significant advantage in your sales.

Most people get better at interpersonal skills as they get older. Communication, empathy, and negotiation come with experience in the world. There are many interpersonal skills you enact daily without a second thought.

Here are a few examples of interpersonal skills we use daily:

  • Communication 
  • Empathy
  • Teamwork
  • Negotiation
  • Leadership
  • Conflict resolution
  • Problem-solving 

It’s one thing to use interpersonal skills without understanding what you are doing. Consultative selling makes it necessary to tap into these skills and practice them to not have an unhappy customer. The better your interpersonal skills are, the better you can communicate your sales to a client.

If you aren’t great at interpersonal skills, it’s okay. There is room for improvement with practice, classes, and other forms of exposure. You can even go outside and practice speaking with people in public spaces, such as the line at a coffee shop or a local store. As sales reps, you need interpersonal skills to build quality relationships with your consultants.


Conversational Selling

Conversational sales strategy

Conversational selling is a must for a consultative seller. If a client feels like you are pitching them a service or product, they may feel less inclined to purchase what you have to offer. If you bring it up like a suggestion throughout a talk, they will trust you more and feel comfortable speaking with you about offerings and plans.

It takes practice to become an expert at conversational selling. It’s a combination of questions, insights, pitches, and a genuine understanding of what the client needs. The client needs to feel like they’re talking to a friend, yet at the same time speaking with a professional in their industry.

Here are a few items to consider for conversational selling:

  • Ask polite and simple questions
  • Build rapport
  • Guide the conversation
  • Prepare with plenty of information
  • Be comfortable talking about money and pricing options
  • Don’t push questions on the buyer, making them feel like they’re in an interrogation.

These will make it much easier to speak with a client like an old friend.

Consider how you speak to people you care about. Would you grill them with questions? Would you pressure them with additional information? If you see them getting uncomfortable, ensure you take action and switch the subject to make the tone more conversational and comfortable.

It may take a while to become an expert at conversational selling. The more you put into having a conversation with your client, the more they will trust and appreciate you. Part of that comes with having an interest in your prospect and their troubles.


Interest in Prospects & Their Problems


Everyone wants someone who will listen to their troubles. When a client comes to you, they want you to hear about their issues and provide them with a solution. It’s critical to have an interest in what they want for their business and the troubles they are having achieving that in their life.

The more interested you are in your client, the more they will open up to you. The more you listen, the better you can solve their problem and obtain successful sales. When it comes time to reveal a solution, you will have no trouble selling the product to the interested party.

It can take time to learn to show individuals that you have an interest in what they have to say. There is something very different about feeling interested and displaying interest. It helps to practice in the mirror before speaking with a client for the best results. You are there to provide them assistance and they need to know that.

You also display interest through your response and recommendations. Ensure you incorporate the items they talk about and create a plan that works to heal their pain points in their company. The closer you can get to a solution for their trouble, the better. 


Strong Listening Skills


Listening is one of the best ways to succeed in the consultative sales approach. You can’t do anything if you don’t know what the client needs from you. Practice active listening to learn as much as you can about the client without overwhelming them as you push forward with critical questions.

As you listen, it’s vital to show you are doing so with gentle actions such as eye contact and head nods. They need to understand you are there for them and your attention is not wandering as they provide you with their pain points and trouble spots in their company.

Listen for items such as:

  • Industry information to reveal the deeper needs of the company
  • Pain points causing trouble in their company and industry
  • Personal thoughts and desires about where they want their business to go 

These will help you determine what they need from you and how you can customize a service for them.

Do not talk about obnoxious items and things that don’t matter. Ensure you don’t interrupt them, even if they go on a long ramble about something that may not seem to matter. Give them room to speak and take note of uncomfortable positions, such as slouching or darting eyes for a trustworthy relationship.

The best thing to consider with listening is empathy. Let them know you care about what they have to say, and they may be more inclined to purchase a product or service from you. You are there for them – and you have a deep knowledge of the product or service offered.


Deep Knowledge of the Product or Service


If you are one of the sales professionals of a product, you must have a deep knowledge of the product or service. There is little point in listening and consulting with a client if you end the conversation and have no idea what you can offer them. Ensure you know everything there is to know about your offerings.

This knowledge might involve researching the client’s industry and business to determine how what you have can help them. You should know the ins and outs and all the potential offerings before they even open their mouth. 

A deep knowledge will help you seem professional. You should know about:

  • All possible products and services you can offer to them
  • Which selections you can narrow your offerings down to for the client’s industry
  • How you can best serve the client through your sales industry
  • Why they decided to come to you for assistance instead of another organization

These can guide you on the right path as you move toward sales.

A deep knowledge will help you feel confident and calm as you speak to a prospect. It will also help the interested party feel safe with you and trust the information you have for them more. The more you know, the more advanced you will seem, even if it’s your first time performing sales reps.

If you don’t know much about your product or service, ensure you perform research before performing sales techniques or ask your sales team for any business challenges. It will take your words to the next level and make answering questions a breeze.


The Brooks Group Can Help Develop Your Sales Skills


If you want to learn more about consultative selling, sales training, sales reps, and proper techniques, The Brooks Group is here to help you find your sales team. You will be provided with a real-world example of sales leaders and qualified leads in the sales conversation.

We have over forty years of experience in the sales industry and are equipped to educate every sales team, big and small, offering sales assessments, negotiation training, and seminars. We can locate the sales training you need to succeed in your industry.

Written By

The Brooks Group

The Brooks Group teaches straightforward, actionable sales training skills to sales managers and their teams. Our IMPACT Selling® Sales Training Program has been taught to over one million sales professionals nation-wide, and we've been recognized as one of the top sales training companies annually since 2010. We also provide various behavioral and selling assessments to aide sales managers making hiring or management decisions.
The Brooks Group teaches straightforward, actionable sales training skills to sales managers and their teams. Our IMPACT Selling® Sales Training Program has been taught to over one million sales professionals nation-wide, and we've been recognized as one of the top sales training companies annually since 2010. We also provide various behavioral and selling assessments to aide sales managers making hiring or management decisions.

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