Consultative Selling 101

Ken Sundheim
September 23, 2010 — 1,363 views  
Become a Bronze Member for monthly eNewsletter, articles, and white papers.

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outdated involved the sales representative giving a presentation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.

About the Author: Ken Sundheim runs a sales and marketing
recruiting firm in NYC - website:


Ken Sundheim