Consultative selling techniques work best in an ecosystem that supports the sales team’s efforts. Rather than have sales reps organize around internal sales targets, it’s best to focus on the value to the prospect.

If you choose to treat your customers like a number, they’ll pay you back in your own coin.

What is consultative selling?

Consultative selling is an investigative approach that focuses on engaging prospects. For this, you need to make use of thought-provoking questions that send clients on a road to discovery.

During the interactions, they’ll be able to identify their pain points and think of ways to remedy the situation.

As a facilitator, you need to be empathetic to their situation and provide the right intel. Loaded with information, they’ll be well-placed to make educated buying decisions.

The approach is quite different from transactional selling since there’s more emphasis on relationships. While the ultimate aim of a business is to hit revenue targets, you also need to be mindful of your clients’ needs.

Ideally, you need to put more weight on the impact you have on customers and their success.

Embracing this kind of thinking lets customers view you not as a salesperson, but as a trusted advisor. This can augur well with your operations since trust is an essential ingredient for sales success.

Curiosity is the foundation stone of consultative selling

The art of selling seems blurred out in today’s society. This is because a vast majority of salespersons are fixated on quoting product features and not asking questions.

While we’re all about advancing the future, sometimes, it’s necessary to draw inspiration from the past.

As a salesperson, you need to be open to the idea of learning instead of constantly flaunting your know-how.

With an inquisitive mind, you can open up a new business and bring to life stalled deals.

Here’s a host of other reasons why curiosity is a must-have to your strategy:

  • It enhances discovery calls
  • Curiosity can help you quickly come up with long-lasting solutions for customers
  • It makes it easier for you to build rapport
  • Curiosity can help you improve your memory and capacity to learn

7 Consultative Selling Techniques

1. Research

A thorough review of a prospect can prevent you from yapping away once you decide to meet. A background check of their industry can inform you plenty about their wants and needs. With a good understanding of this, it becomes easier to zero in on an angle of approach.

As always, knowledge is power.

You want to be perceived as a resource, not a product specialist whose sole intention is to sell wares.

Conducting due diligence puts you in the know about their marketplace and the competition.

Your pre-call planning process needs to incorporate drafting concise sales probing questions. It’s important that the questions are framed to treat prospects as people, not just decision-makers. Once you know what makes them tick, you’ll find ways of communicating the best ways you can add value.

In a nutshell, research can help you:

  • Qualify prospects – researching your prospects can help inform you whether the pursuit is worth it. It will also illuminate your path as you seek to find the buying authority.
  • Get a starting point for conversations – consultative selling requires you to do more than just pitch a product to prospects. If you’re unsure of how to strike a conversation, you need to research their interests and discover their drives.
  • Back up conversations with custom insights – you can share data and statistics, or experiences and case studies tailored to suit specific prospects.

Notably, you stand a better chance of closing high-priced deals by embracing the consultative sales process. This is because you’ll know who has genuine needs for your solutions after spending lots of time qualifying people as leads.

With an understanding of their ambitions,  you’ll understand who has genuine needs for your solutions before reaching out.

2. Ask questions as part of the consultative sales process

Improv comedy is beloved by the masses because of the spontaneity and natural flow of conversation.

As a salesperson, it can help open you up to an instant connection with other people.

During your conversations with prospects, you need to envision yourself caught in an endless improv session. Using this technique, you’ll discover that there’s a ton of information about them that you wouldn’t have known otherwise. Especially if you had decided to assume you already know all there is to know about them after conducting research.

During the exchange, you need to allow the lead to volunteer the information themselves. As such, it’s important that you build trust as a reliable party beforehand.

Questions like Who, What, Where, How, Why, and When, can inform you aplenty.

On the other hand, questions like Do, Are, You, and Can will inhibit your progress.

This is because they tend to inspire Yes or No answers. While somewhat informative, these succinct answers are responses that are best avoided.

During the exercise, you need to remember that the objective is to slowly find out the lead’s goals. Once you do, gradually take it up a notch and discover what plan they intend to follow to fulfill those goals.

After more imploration, you can find out the challenges and existing time constraints they face.

Importantly, you need to balance questions with insights. Continuously asking questions may make some prospects feel as though they are being interrogated. To avoid this scenario, it’s advisable that you offer insights along the way.  Other than providing a rationale for your questions, it also helps build credibility.

3. Practice active listening

Listening is a skillset.

If you want to boost your sales, you need to be an expert listener. This means knowing about the distinction between active and passive listening.

Most salespersons are quite adept at passive listening, even without their knowledge. To avoid doing this, you should desist from quickly proceeding to ask the appropriate “next question”. Instead, listen keenly to the answers shared by prospects and digest what’s really been said. So much so that you can rehash what they just said.

This art of internalizing conversations can help you not jump into conclusions. This is because you have time to validate and clarify some of the information shared.

Where certain things were unclear, you can always probe further.

Active listening encompasses more than just patience. The key thing is to ensure you understand what prospects want before formulating a response. Documenting can help you gain a better grasp of what they’re sharing.

The information shared can help you qualify and/or close the lead.

You need to also take note of certain intangibles that can help you decide what actions to take. Things like tone, pitch, and level of enthusiasm are crucial indicators of prospects’ needs.

4. Avoid seller-centric behaviors

A consultative sale typically involves suggesting bespoke solutions to customers’ problems after hearing them out.

In contrast, a transactional sale is purely focused on selling specific products that may not meet unique client needs. Traditional salespeople usually don’t empathize with clients because they are in the business of one-off sales. As such, selling quickly before proceeding to the next sale appeals to them.

Consultative sales is quite different because the number one objective is building a relationship. Once that is cemented, you can proceed to the actual selling. As you can already tell, more time, effort, and compassion is needed when it comes to consultative selling.

While this may seem like an arduous task, it pays off in the end.

From this analogy, it can be argued that transactional selling demonstrates seller-centric behavior.

Just be genuine…

Remarkably, a vast majority of sales professionals like to think of themselves as customer-focused. However, the findings show that most B2B companies score less than 50% on the customer experience index rating.

Even with the best intentions at heart, you may find yourself adapting seller-centric behaviors. This is especially true if you find yourself facing ta herculean task of meeting your quota.

While it’s totally understandable, it may do you more harm than good. In fact, it may reverse progress made with some prospects since they’ll begin to mistrust your true intentions.

To avoid this scenario, it’s best to put yourself in the shoes of prospects. This lets you accurately diagnose their issues and helps build credibility.

Building trust usually extends to more than just building rapport. You need to appear approachable and seem disarming. Having a sense of gusto when speaking about the products you offer can also showcase that you genuinely believe in them.

With a positive perception, you have the freeway to start a dialogue with plenty of promise.

5. Take ownership of the conversation

Dialogue is central to the premise of consultative sales. 

That said, the onus is on you to guide the conversation. This tends to have a positive effect on the exchange because they feel they’re working with a competent individual.

You shouldn’t shy away from sharing reference examples of relevant work in their area of expertise.

By taking ownership, you’re also demonstrating just how credible you are. While taking charge allows you to shape perceptions, it’s not equivalent to stamping dominance. You need to trek lightly and make use of the silence to stress key points.

A great way to apply this is by going silent shortly after making an offer. Doing this can apply pressure to prospects to act fast.

6. Encourage feedback

Feedback lets inform you about areas to improve.

You should encourage prospects to share their feelings towards your brand. Even negative feedback should be appreciated. This is because it can inform you of how to proceed going forward in order to make them happy. Without them expressing their dissatisfaction, it would be impossible for you to know their true pain points.

With this in mind, it’s essential that all feedback is considered. Dutifully jot down notes and don’t be afraid to discuss solutions with customers.

By asking their opinion on contentious issues, it demonstrates that you’re willing to collaborate. With feedback, you can get ways to expand the solutions.

7. Teach

This is not to be mistaken with educating prospects about products and services. When it comes to teaching, the aim is to share industry-related information with prospects.

As a salesperson, you have the expertise to teach prospects how to arrive at an educated decision. Given the informational world we live in, many prospects already know what they want. As such, you should strive to educate them on how to apply what they already know.

You can share insights like:

  • A plan on how to overcome milestones
  • Related examples from your experience
  • Proposals on how to tackle related issues

It’s worth noting that this exchange doesn’t necessarily have to be in-person. You can distribute this information using webinars, reports, and videos.

While at it, you need to remember that the goal is not to share all that you know. Instead, the goal is to take the reins of a consultant by being as helpful as you can.


The highlighted 7 consultative selling techniques can help you develop your own sales methodology. By implementing the strategies, you can perform at the highest level.

As a rejoinder, you need to remember to pull off consultative selling, customer focus should be your priority.

Having reviewed the pointers shared, what are your thoughts? Do you think we’ve exhausted all the techniques?

Let us know in the comments below!


Kevin Thomas Tully is a globally-recognized Social Selling and Big Data strategist who employed the principles of Social Selling long before the term entered the popular business vernacular. A Johns Hopkins-trained data scientist, Kevin has applied true buyer intent data, predictive analytics, and data mining to the sales and marketing process for more than a decade to gain a strategic marketplace advantage for leading brands worldwide.

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