Consultative Sales Approach Strategies

Aug 22, 2022
Collin Stewart

Discover seven consultative selling strategies. 

In today’s B2B market, it’s not enough to be the best salesperson in the room. Most buyers prefer to do their own research, comparing competitor options before they make a final decision. That’s where consultative selling can help you stand out.

B2B buyers have an endless array of options to choose from, with new products and services launching every day. Taking a consultative selling approach positions you as the go-to expert in your industry–someone with an opinion your prospects can rely on. 

In this article, we’ll cover seven different ways you can use a consultative sales approach to position yourself as a strategic advisor rather than “just another salesperson.”

What is a consultative approach? What is consultative selling?

A consultative sales process is one that focuses on advising the buyer. In this view,  the buyer’s needs take precedence over the sale–yet ironically, a consultative sales approach can improve your win rates a substantial amount.

Prospects appreciate it when you put in the time to understand their needs, and they feel more like you’re on the same side, rather than just trying to make a quick buck.

Consultative selling definition

A successful consultative sales approach starts with research to understand the prospect’s pain points, goals, and potential objections. Instead of using that information to craft a sales pitch, however, the next step is to build a relationship with the prospect.

Consultative sales conversations are less about closing the deal and more about building trust. The salesperson focuses on active listening and makes a real effort to come up with the best solution to meet the prospect’s needs. 

The goal is to provide the prospect with the information and guidance they need to make an informed buying decision–whether or not that results in a sale with your company. 

According to a recent article in Forbes, the best B2B salespeople are those who make it easy for their clients to navigate the sales process. Done well, this consultative sales approach can book more meetings, improve conversion rates, and increase deal size. 

Ready to get started? Here are seven strategies to incorporate into your consultative sales process: 

1. Thoroughly Research Prospects Before Engaging With Them

Consultative sales starts by understanding the prospect. While all salespeople perform research to some extent, consultative selling requires a deeper level of knowledge. 

Before reaching out to a prospect, make sure you have a clear understanding of their role, industry, and organization. Search their website and social media profiles to see what they’ve been posting about recently. Industry news can provide a good starting point.

The more information you can gather in this stage, the better. All of this provides valuable context into the prospect’s potential pain points and goals. It will also allow you to ask deeper questions on the call, rather than wasting the prospect’s time with surface-level inquiries. 

It can be tempting to skip this step and jump right into the call, but that would be a mistake. This initial research is the foundation for building a long-term relationship with your prospect.

2. Prepare For Your Call With Pre-Call Planning

Research alone isn’t enough to prepare you for a consultative sales call; you’ll also need to establish a pre-call planning process for yourself and/or your team, to ensure every call is approached strategically.

Use the research you’ve conducted to map out the buyer’s journey and identify where each prospect is on that journey. Make a list of questions to ask, as well as a general call flow your sales team can refer to. A sales playbook is a great way to document these processes.

Try to structure your calls in a way that allows the prospect to draw their own conclusions. Rather than telling them about their problem and your solution, ask questions that guide the conversation where you want it to go.

If you need help researching customers to nail your ICP or creating your own playbook, click here to book a free discovery call and learn how we can help.

3. During the Call, Work To Build Trust And A Connection

Consultative sales rely on the connection between a salesperson and their prospect. Without trust, the relationship and entire sales process can falter.

The best way to build trust is to listen to the prospect. Repeat what they’ve said back to them, then ask them to confirm your understanding. Remind the prospect that your goal is to find the best solution for their needs, regardless of what that looks like. 

Encourage your salespeople to express genuine empathy and understanding. Train your team to focus on the prospect’s success, rather than booking a meeting or closing the deal, and the prospect will feel the difference.


4. Listen Closely To What The Prospect Has To Say

Listening is one of the most critical consultative sales skills–and it’s one salespeople seem to struggle with the most. Oftentimes, when a salesperson is “listening” to a prospect, what they’re really doing is waiting for their next opening to speak. 

Instead of following a script word by word, encourage your salespeople to follow the natural flow of conversation. This will allow for more organic follow-up questions. 

Coach your salespeople to show engagement through gestures, body language, and verbal affirmations. Asking good questions also shows that they’ve been paying attention.

If you’re looking to improve your team’s active listening skills, try adding consultive sales coaching into your training regimen. Try role-playing exercises with your team until they learn to slow down and master this process.

 5. Engage With The Prospect By Asking Questions

As mentioned above, asking questions is a critical part of the consultative sales process. Not do questions demonstrate active listening, but they’re also critical for understanding the prospect’s needs and therefore helping them find a solution.

Train your salespeople to go deep instead of wide with their line of questioning. If they ask a discovery question and the prospect gives a surface-level response, don’t just move on to the next question. Take a second to dig deeper and keep probing. This approach will help your salespeople uncover critical information that might otherwise have been missed.

The best place to dig deeper is surrounding your prospect’s problem. What is the greater impact of this issue on the prospect and their organization? What’s the real reason they haven’t taken action to solve it?

6. Use Active Problem Solving

Once you’ve worked to understand the prospect’s problem, the next step in your consultative sales approach is to help solve the problem. This is where the salesperson positions themself as an advisor, leaning on the trust they built in the previous stages.

It’s also where you can finally introduce your product or service. Be careful, however, not to push for the sale. Instead, take an objective approach of outlining how your solution meets the prospect’s needs. 

Remember that active listening and questioning still have a role in this part of the process. In a consultative sales approach, the prospect and salesperson work together to reach the best solution. The salesperson can offer advice, but ultimately their job is to empower the prospect to make the best decision for their business.

7. Tailor Your  Communication Style To Each Prospect

Lastly, an important part of consultative selling is to adapt your approach to meet each prospect. Everyone likes to be sold to in different ways. Stay attuned to the verbal and non-verbal signals your prospect is giving during a meeting or phone call so you can adjust as needed. 

A prospect’s body language and tone of voice can help you understand where they are in the decision-making process, and also give you cues for how best to approach the conversation. The best consultative salespeople adapt their communication style to suit each prospect.

Conclusion

Taking a consultative sales approach can help your team win more business, close more deals, and generate more lifetime value from each customer. Buyers are more likely to become repeat customers and give referrals when they feel genuinely supported through the sales process, and they’re also more likely to maintain a long-term relationship with your company. 

These seven consultative sales strategies will help you stand out from the competition and impress prospects through every step of the sales process.

In this guide, we’re sharing everything you need to know about not only hiring great SDRs but also how to train them for success and retain your best talent long-term. Steal our exact interview process, use our proven job description template, and learn how to motivate your reps beyond monetary compensation. 

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