Selling v Consultative Selling

Recently in one or our commercial meetings, I was asked by a new starter in our business what the difference was between ‘selling’ and ‘consultative selling’. As I began to explain I could hear myself starting to make this sound all very windswept and interesting but ultimately I realised it was actually getting to be a little confusing for the inductee as I found myself talking about it being a much more deeper and complicated process than merely selling something to someone.


Annoyed with myself I decided to take a more direct approach and said, “Forget all that” and I then attempted to put it into one succinct sentence. So I told him that consultative selling was, in truth, pretty much what it said on the tin – rather than merely trying to ‘sell’ to your prospect some product or other, it is more a process of ‘consulting’ (as conversationally as possible) with your client to gather detailed information that will help you to establish a more thorough understanding of exactly what it is that they want and need from you.


Well that all sounded pretty straightforward and although I thought I may have over-simplified it somewhat, as far as explanations go, I was pleased to see the metaphoric lights come on as my protégé immediately grasped what I meant and then started to paraphrase my words back to me in order to demonstrate his understanding of exactly what all that meant.


He explained how, that if he really wanted to know what his client’s needs are, then he would have to gain a deeper understanding of, not only, his client’s business but the market in which they operate as well as the industry itself and of course a thorough assessment of their competition. He added that he must also know what his client’s unique selling points were and be able to explain what it is that makes up the very essence of their proposition. Voila!


Needless to say, I agreed. I then went on to explain further that it is essential we understand the sales process completely in order to navigate our way through each part of it successfully. This demands that we are able to demonstrate our understanding of the psychology of sales and how we manoeuvre through each element ensuring that in our journey with the client from, initial resistance to countering evasion and indecision, we are able to arrive at the point of ‘approval’ successfully.


This clearly means that we have to ask a lot of questions in order to extract the right information from our client whilst of course adhering to the 70/30 rule of skilful questioning technique which means listening carefully to the answers. Being able to probe your client thoroughly in order to gather information through masterful questioning (without simply interrogating our prospect) is a skill that is developed with practice.


This should enable us to get to a place where we have been able to gather enough quality data about our client and their wants, needs and expectations that will allow us to then set about the task of matching what we have to offer with their requirements.


Being a competent exponent of consultative selling clearly demands it is imperative that we have a detailed knowledge of how to open the sale, handle objections and of course close the sale with confidence. However, we also have to show exactly how we establish our credentials, be skilled at professional presentation techniques and display a deep and thorough understanding of the nuances of non-verbal communication and use of language.


Once mastered, all of which will allow us to feel satisfied that we are upping our game as salespeople and can truly wear the badge that says ‘consultative salesperson’ with some degree of confidence, clear in the knowledge that we have progressed from simply ‘selling’ a product to a client to something altogether more credible and professional in its nature.


If you would like to find out more about consultative selling, Maguire Training delivers programmes and courses that can help to improve your skills. Have a look here and call us on 01623 810505 for more information:

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