What Is Consultative Selling? 7 Steps To Close Deals


You may have noticed that potential buyers have become savvier than ever in recent years. No longer enticed by flashy advertising or high-pressure sales tactics, they prefer a personalized shopping experience. This seismic shift in consumer behavior has ushered in a new approach to selling — one that prioritizes authentic relationships over quick sales. That strategy today is called consultative selling.

Consultative selling delves deep into the customer's needs, challenges, and desires, crafting a buying experience tailored just for them. Long gone are the days of one-size-fits-all sales pitches. Instead, sales professionals have adopted the role of trusted consultants, guiding clients through a curated journey, and supporting them in a way to best meet their buying objective.

If you've been seeking a strategy that resonates with today's discerning audience, consider Smith.ai’s sales outreach campaigns. We ensure every campaign aligns perfectly with your brand voice and objective, effectively engaging your target audience in an era where personalization is key.

What is consultative selling?

Consultative selling is a sales method where the salesperson acts as a consultant, offering solutions tailored to the prospective customer’s specific needs. Instead of pushing a product, it focuses on understanding the client's challenges or pain points and providing solutions that address them

Think of a travel agency that curates vacation packages for each individual client, complete with a personalized itinerary and restaurant recommendations based on their taste and dietary restrictions. Or a realtor who takes the time to sit down with prospective buyers to understand their specific lifestyle, future plans, schooling needs, and budgetary constraints. These are examples of consultative selling. 

By fostering genuine relationships built on trust, empathy, and expert knowledge, consultative selling transforms the traditional sales process into a collaborative experience. This method not only results in better customer satisfaction, but also strengthens brand loyalty, ensuring long-term relationships, consistent customer engagement, and more closed deals

Consultative selling best practices

One core tenet of consultative selling is a sincere understanding of the client. In traditional sales methods, the emphasis was placed on product features, benefits, and pricing. In consultative selling, however, the focus pivots to the client’s needs, challenges, and goals.

To truly master a consultative sales approach, consider the following best practices that ensure efficacy, authenticity, and customer satisfaction.

Actively listen

Active listening is more than merely hearing words spoken by a lead or prospect. It’s about understanding the message behind those words, capturing the emotions and underlying sentiments, and blending that information to provide genuine reactions and meaningful solutions. In the area of consultative selling, this skill becomes the linchpin that can determine the success or failure of a sales interaction.

To master active listening:

  • Stay fully engaged: Avoid distractions, maintain eye contact, and focus intently on the client.
  • Refrain from interrupting: Allow the client to complete their thoughts before responding.
  • Clarify and confirm: If something is ambiguous, seek clarification. For example, “When you mentioned scalability, did you mean in terms of production volume or sales margins?”
  • Provide feedback: Paraphrase the client's words to ensure you’ve grasped their point accurately.
  • Leave no room for assumptions: Make sure all questions are fully answered or clarified before moving on to the next topic or agenda point.

Personalize solutions

While product features are essential, consultative selling emphasizes crafting holistic solutions tailored to individual customer needs. It’s not about pushing a single product, but aligning total solutions with the customer’s objectives.

To craft such bespoke solutions:

  • Engage in collaborative discussions: Engage the client in brainstorming sessions, encouraging them to share their ideas, and asking for their input on what type of solution they believe would best suit their needs.
  • Leverage analytics: Use data-driven insights to guide decision-making and shape solutions.
  • Continuously learn and adapt: Stay updated on industry advancements to provide the most relevant and innovative solutions available.

Build trust

At its heart, consultative selling fosters genuine relationships. And no relationship can thrive without trust. Trust is built when sales professionals consistently demonstrate reliability, authenticity, and expertise.

Building trust requires:

  • Transparency: Be honest about what your product can and cannot achieve. Overpromising and underdelivering erodes trust.
  • Integrity: Stand by your commitments and uphold ethical standards in all dealings.
  • Empathy: Show genuine concern for the customer's (and their company’s)  well-being. This means sometimes recommending solutions that might not be the most profitable in the short term but are in the customer’s best interest.
  • Consistency: Deliver consistent quality in products, services, and interactions.

By ensuring trust remains a cornerstone of the sales process, consultative sales professionals enhance the likelihood of a sale and pave the way for long-term partnerships.

Educate your customer

In consultative selling, the salesperson isn’t just a consultant, but also an educator. This shift in perspective allows prospective buyers to see the salesperson as a resource, a trusted adviser equipped with valuable knowledge. You can position yourself this way by:

  • Offering workshops or webinars: Organize sessions to educate potential clients about industry trends, challenges, and how your solutions can address them.
  • Creating informative content: Produce articles, white papers, and case studies to showcase your expertise and the value of your products.
  • Providing personalized training: Tailor training sessions to each client, ensuring they understand the solutions they’re investing in and how they can solve problems

Adapt to feedback

Capturing and understanding feedback is critical. It’s more than just a customer’s opinion — it’s direct insight into their experience, expectations, and potential needs that can support you in the sales process. Feedback offers a lens so you can see your service or product from their perspective, making it a gold mine of information.

Effective ways to harness feedback include:

  • Feedback channels: Regular check-ins, feedback surveys after meetings, or even casual ad-hoc conversations can offer invaluable insights.
  • Open communication: Engage in open dialogue with customers. Address concerns, acknowledge praises, and ensure they know their feedback is welcomed and valued.
  • Feedback loop: Once changes are implemented based on feedback, circle back to the customers. Inform them about the alterations made in response to their insights, which reinforces trust.

7 pivotal steps of consultative selling

7 Steps of Consultative Selling

The consultative selling method has gained significant traction in recent years, shifting the sales focus from pushing products to understanding and solving customer problems. Rooted in customer engagement, this method prioritizes relationships over mere vendor/buyer transactions. For those embarking on this journey, here are the seven steps to mastering consultative selling:

1. Research and prepare

Before you can provide a solution, you must understand the problem. Research the potential client’s industry, challenges, competitors, and history. This knowledge will inform your approach and demonstrate genuine interest and professionalism.

2. Build rapport

People buy from those they trust, and forging a real connection with potential customers is vital to a consultative sales approach. Building rapport goes beyond simple introductions — it involves actively listening, showing empathy, and understanding a client's motivations and concerns. Investing time in this step can positively affect the entire sales process, leading to more meaningful interactions and ultimately, stronger customer relationships. By ensuring you’re speaking with the right decision maker, and establishing budget, timing, and need, you can demonstrate professionalism and make sure both parties are using their time effectively. 

3. Ask open-ended questions

Your objective is to unearth the client’s core needs. The best way to achieve this is through open-ended questions that encourage comprehensive responses. Such inquiries provide invaluable insights, revealing the underlying issues your product or service can address. For instance, you might ask, "Can you describe the challenges you're currently facing in your business?" or "What goals are you aiming to achieve in the next year?" or “If you don’t move forward with this purchase, what type of repercussions will there be?” You can truly understand and cater to customers’ requirements by delving deeper with open-ended questions.

4. Identify customer pain points and objectives

By actively engaging and listening, you can pinpoint the customer’s exact challenges and goals. This allows you to customize your solution effectively, ensuring it resonates with the customer's needs and what the company is looking to accomplish.

5. Present tailored solutions

With a clear understanding of their needs, present your product or service as a solution to the customer’s specific challenges. Highlight features that align with their pain points, showcase past successes, and use storytelling to make your sales pitch compelling and relatable.

6. Handle objections with grace

Objections are natural and often indicate interest. Instead of getting defensive, view them as opportunities to provide more clarity. Address concerns patiently, offer testimonials or case studies as evidence, and always revert to how your solution aligns with their needs. Strategically address objectives ahead of time — before the prospect does — to establish more control in the sales process and demonstrate transparency. 

7. Close the deal and follow up

If you’ve effectively navigated the preceding steps, closing becomes a natural conclusion rather than a high-pressure moment. Summarize your value, revisit their primary pain points, and emphasize how your solution addresses them. Ask for the sale confidently, but ensure it feels like a mutual decision.

Consultative selling doesn’t end with closing the deal. It’s a continuous relationship-building process. Regularly check in with your clients, seek feedback, and offer assistance when needed. This ongoing commitment boosts customer loyalty and encourages referrals and repeat business.

Pros and cons of consultative selling

Consultative selling has emerged as a prominent strategy, lauded for emphasizing deep-rooted client relationships over transactional exchanges. But, like all strategies, consultative selling has potential drawbacks. To adopt this approach successfully, it’s best to be cognizant of both its pros and cons. 

Pros of consultative selling:

  • Builds stronger client relationships: A consultative sales approach prioritizes understanding customers' unique needs and concerns. This engagement promotes trust, forging lasting relationships that can result in repeat business.
  • Enhances customer loyalty: Clients appreciate being heard and understood. When businesses adopt a consultative approach, customers often feel valued, leading to increased loyalty and reduced chances of straying to competitors.
  • Tailors solutions to yield better results: The method encourages bespoke solutions catering to specific client requirements, ensuring higher satisfaction levels and a more significant likelihood of successful sales closures.
  • Reduces buyer’s remorse: With a clear understanding of their needs being addressed, clients are less likely to experience buyer’s remorse, ensuring longer product retention and fewer churn or returns.
  • Positions salespeople as trusted advisers: Instead of being perceived as mere sellers, salespeople are seen as valuable consultants, which can be a competitive differentiator in crowded markets.

Cons of consultative selling:

  • Time-intensive: The consultative sales methodology requires time and patience to understand customer needs thoroughly. This can elongate sales cycles, potentially delaying revenue.
  • Requires skilled personnel: Not every salesperson can effectively adopt the consultative approach. It demands advanced interpersonal skills, empathy, and a keen analytical mindset to determine client needs and react to them.
  • Not always feasible: While ideal for complex sales or B2B environments, there may be more efficient approaches than consultative selling for fast-moving consumer goods or straightforward B2C transactions.
  • High initial costs: Investing in training sales teams and reshaping strategies to align with consultative selling can come at a cost.
  • Potential for misalignment: Consultative selling can lead to misaligned solutions if incorrectly executed. A seller’s misunderstanding can result in recommendations that don’t truly serve the customer’s needs.

Solution selling vs. consultative selling

When it comes to sales strategies, solution selling and consultative selling are often used interchangeably, even by sales leaders. But what differentiates the two?

As the name suggests, solution selling promotes services or products as solutions to customer issues. This approach emphasizes diagnosing problems first and ensuring the proposed solutions align perfectly with each customer’s needs.

A solution seller is like a doctor diagnosing a patient. Once the problem is understood, they present their product or service as the remedy. While the primary objective of solution selling is to provide a solution that aligns with the customer’s problem, it’s typically more transactional in nature, focusing on addressing the immediate need at hand.

On the other hand, a consultive seller is like a counselor trying to understand a patient’s challenges, intricacies, and aspirations. It’s focused more on making sure the client feels valued, heard, and understood. Consultative selling centers around long-term relationship building and holistically solving customer problems.

Solution Selling vs. Consultative Selling

Enhance your consultative selling with Smith.ai

Consultative selling offers a refreshing touch of genuine connection in today’s often impersonal digital world. Fusing this sales method with sales outreach at Smith.ai ensures every interaction echoes strategy, authenticity, and care. Curious about integrating consultative selling techniques with innovative services? Book a free consultation today.

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Written by Maddy Martin

Maddy Martin is Smith.ai's SVP of Growth. Over the last 15 years, Maddy has built her expertise and reputation in small-business communications, lead conversion, email marketing, partnerships, and SEO.

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