Looking to learn more about consultative selling?
At Closers.io, we use this methodology to generate millions of dollars in sales every month. We’ve also taught consultative selling skills to the sales teams of our 200+ clients, who make millions upon millions each month.
This actionable guide will share why we think consultative selling is a crucial selling technique. We also share our battle-tested strategy for using a consultative sales approach to supercharge your sales process.
Ready? Let’s jump in.
Consultative Selling: Why is it Important?
Here’s an important realization for sales reps: Selling is just like dating.
If you come on too strong or go for the kill too fast, you’ll repel your prospect. To the prospect, you’re like every other needy salesperson who has tried to get with them.
They assume you’re selfish, untrustworthy, and out only for their money. So, they’re likely to ghost you, even if your product is the perfect solution for their business needs.
As a wise man once said,“People don’t like to be sold to — but they love to buy.”
So, the big question for sales reps is, “how do you get prospects interested in your offer without making them feel sold to?” “How do you work towards a sale without triggering resistance or pushing away your customer?”
The answer? Don’t sell, consult.
What Is Consultative Selling?
Consultative selling (also known as needs-based selling) is a sales methodology where a sales rep portrays him or herself as a consultant, not a traditional salesperson.
The traditional salesperson assumes they have a perfect prior understanding of the prospect’s needs and pain points. So they tell their clients what they need and try to push for the sale. But a rep equipped with consultative selling skills takes an entirely different approach.
They ask probing questions to determine the client’s needs and pain points and provide information the customer needs to make an informed decision.
The consultative salesperson isn’t out to prove that their product is the best. Their goal is to find the perfect solution for the customer.
This approach works because it proves to your prospects that you’re more concerned about helping them achieve their goals. You establish trust and build positive, long-term relationships with your buyers.
An Example of Consultative Selling in Real Life
Imagine going to the hospital because you’re sick. When the doctor sees you, she doesn’t ask any questions about what was wrong or runs any tests. She just writes you a prescription and tells you that’s what you need.
You’d be skeptical, right?
That’s exactly what lots of salespeople do.
Instead, the goal is to ask skilled questions to get an accurate diagnosis and give you the right prescription. In a way, that’s consultative selling in action.
Here’s a lesson from that illustration: Consultative selling isn’t just “another strategy”. It’s, in many cases, the most natural approach to sales. And it’s arguably the ultimate soft sell.
A Proven Consultative Sales Process
Below is a high-level overview of the exact 6-step consultative sales process we use to generate millions in sales for ourselves at Closers.io. And we’ve taught this to 350+ of our clients who have also made millions with it.
Step #1: Build Rapport and Set a Clear Agenda
Introductions matter a lot. So start off with a friendly and positive tone. It’s also important to quickly establish yourself as an expert in a non-domineering way.
If you’re a beginner salesperson, you can say, “So, here’s how the call is going to go,” then lay out your plan for the call.
Finally, ensure your prospect is in a good buying situation. Sometimes your prospect is at a baseball game, driving, or doing something else. And you don’t want to be talking to them if they’re not paying full attention.
For this you could say, “Do you have a clean sheet of paper, something to take notes with, ready to dive in?” To which they’ll respond, “yeah, just a minute” or “I’m driving.” This question prompts them to pull out of the distracting environment and move into a focused environment.
Overall this first step should be pretty easy. So don’t overthink. Be yourself and act naturally.
Step #2: Information gathering
This is where you start asking probing questions. Your goal at this stage is threefold: You need to:
- Know if you can help the person
- Understand how you can help the person
- And, once you have that down, you want to eliminate all their objections before the close.
Now, we teach that there are seven beliefs that prospects need to have before they buy. So the questions we ask are carefully tailored to build those seven beliefs so that by the time you transition to the close, your prospects know how you can help them.
That way, you sidestep the high pressure close and land the sale almost effortlessly.
The following are the eight questions we teach in our programs to achieve the three stated goals:
- Background Questions: Questions like, What’s your offer? How are you selling? etc.
- Pain Questions: if there’s no pain, your clients aren’t going to buy. The purpose of the pain questions is to establish that there’s pain. In other words, you’re establishing why you’re on the call.
- Doubts Questions: The purpose of the doubt question is to eliminate the tendency for your clients to seek a Do-it-Yourself solution. You need your clients to realize that they can fix their problems faster and at a lesser cost if they get expert help than if they attempt to do it on their own.
- Financial and Resources Questions: The goal is to understand their financial situation and eliminate economic objections.
- Solution Questions: What options have they tried to fix said problems? Have they tried anything similar to your solution? Are they looking for other solutions now?
These questions eliminate the “I’ve been burned before” and the “I’ve tried this before and it didn’t work” objection. And it also helps you in your pitch. You can show them why everything they’ve tried before has failed and why your solution will be different.
- Cost Questions: You ask these questions to establish urgency. Your prospects should recognize that the cost of inaction is greater than the investment they’ll make to get your program.
You should lead them to see that the long-term consequences of staying in the present situation are greater than the initial time, energy, and money cost of investing in your program or product.
- Desire Questions: The point of these questions is to paint a clear picture of what their desired result is. Where are they going to be once you’ve fixed the desired process? Or as Cole likes to say, “What is the heaven island to their hell island?”
- Support Questions (Partner/Spouse): These are questions to eliminate the spouse or business partner’s objections. At this point, you should have a perfect understanding of how you’re going to help your prospect. And you should have eliminated most of their objections before they come up.
Step #3: Transition
The transition is the bridge between the information gathering/ question asking phase and the pitch phase.
We’ve noticed that sales reps sometimes build trust in the information gathering stage, but they struggle to shift from that phase to the selling phase.
So how do you go from asking questions to giving your pitch without triggering resistance? One option is to do a recap.
Here, you need the prospect to confirm that you 100% understand their situation. Once you’ve got that, then you can get their permission ready to move to the next phase.
Step #4: Pitch
Your pitch should explain what you do in a very compelling and unique way. But make sure it feels more like a dialogue than a sales presentation. The way to do that is to focus on your thesis—the one belief your customer must have to buy your product.
For example, when Russell Brunson does sales webinars or seminars about ClickFunnels, he doesn’t lead with ClickFunnels. Instead, he focuses on convincing his listeners about why they need funnels and how funnels are the bridge between their current and desired situation.
He understands that if customers buy this thesis, then they’re going to buy ClickFunnels. And it works every time! This is what masterful sales reps do. And it’s what you must do too. Here’s our three-step process to delivering a great pitch:
- Big Promise: Make a clear statement about what the end result is: What’s this all about: using sales funnels in your online business to go from $1 mil to 10 million? Scaling your coaching program from 100k/m to 1 million per month?
- Bridge: Break down your solution into the 3 to 5 clear steps that’ll take your client from the current situation to the desired situation. The bridge is your thesis and the most crucial part of the pitch.
Your thesis should clearly explain how clients will get the desired results—your big promise. It should also explain why everything they’ve tried before has failed. And why your solution will be different. If you do this right, you can eliminate every objection at this stage.
- Delivery: This is where you sell them how your solution works. Very simply explain how you’ll deliver your solution. What most amateur salespeople do is to make their pitch about the delivery.
They talk about the Facebook supports group, live calls, yadda yadda yadda. But delivery should only constitute a small part of your pitch. In fact, you could even skip it altogether.
What’s most important is to lay out a compelling and believable thesis, so that customers are itching to give you their billing info even before you asked for it.
Step #5: The Committing Phase
Here your goal is to make sure your prospect has bought in on your thesis. So how do you find out? Ask this question (obviously edited to suit your context):
Just curious but in terms of the process specifically… how do you feel? Do you feel like it’s what you need to get <the big promise/the results they’re looking for?>
If the customer responds with a resounding yes, then it’s time to ask for their address (more on this in a minute). But if they give responses such as “I think so” or, “I’m not sure now is the right time” it means there are still a few underlying objections that you need to handle.
You need to isolate those objections, handle them, and then reclose.
Step #6: Objections Handling
Here’s the script we use when we sense an objection(you can edit it to suit your context):
“I hear ya. And just to be totally clear, what’s really important to me is ALIGNMENT. When you come in and work with us, we’re rolling up the sleeves and getting in the trenches with you on this thing. I mean our team is ALL IN. So it’s really important to us that you feel GOOD about the process, know what I mean?”
“So just to be 100% clear, on a scale of 1-10, where do you feel like you fall exactly? 1 being <get the heck out of my face> and 10 being <I can’t wait to get started on this!>”
If you get a 9-10, plus a certain language/tonality, then you can move on. But if we get an 8 or below, we then ask:
“Gotcha, and I appreciate you being honest about that… just curious, what exactly do you think is keeping you from say being an 8, 9, or 10?”
The client hopefully shares their real objection at this point. Weed out this objection before discussing the price of your solution.
Ask clarifying questions; handle the objection, and then do a re-temperature check to see if they’ve reached a point of certainty.
Here’s something to note when handling objections. Broadly speaking, there are three types of objections: uncertainty, spouse/partner, or finances.
An uncertainty objection is anything that keeps your prospect from being 100% sure that your solution is the right thing for them and that now is the right time. And it’s the primary reason people don’t buy. So you must root out any uncertainty.
Even if your client brings up the “I need to talk to my partner” objection, you must re-check and make sure it’s not an issue of uncertainty. Make sure you have their buy-in on your thesis. Because, if you do, handling other objections becomes much easier.
For example, once we have done the re-temperature check and are confident they’ve bought into our offer, we ask the following question to transition to the sale:
If they say “no.”, we continue with:
Gotcha, so you feel good, no questions… so what’s next? Where do you feel like you wanna go from here?
They’ll probably say something like, “you tell me.” Then we go:
So you’ll process the investment with me… once we take care of that, what we do is set a baseline.
So I’ll give you some homework right away to see where we can get our quickest wins, have you send in your current sales script and pitch, and a call for me to review for feedback? Most people find that they end up closing at least an additional deal or two a week just from the first call review breakdown.
Then from there, we’re ready to rock and roll.
Does that sound good?
The investment to get you to 20k/m, 240k a year is just 6800.
Does that sound good?
Prospect: Yes, it does.
5 Consultative Selling Techniques That Simply Work
1. Do Thorough Pre-Call Research
Preparing for a sales call shouldn’t be about reviewing a sales script countless times or practicing objection handling maneuvers. It’s also learning as much as you can about the prospect. After all, the basis of consultative selling is laser-focused on the customer’s needs.
Create a list of the most critical details about the prospect and/or their company. Figure out the landscape of their industry, key competitors, recent market trends, etc., using social media, company website, and third-party news sites.
This means you can prepare tailored insights you’ll share on the call. That way, the prospect sees that you’re already adding value and considers you and your business a valuable resource.
It will also allow you to ask probing questions to uncover the prospect’s needs and get them invested in the conversation.
All these little things form the prospect’s perception of your business, build trust and kick off a relationship likely to progress into a deal.
2. Build Trust After the Call
Impressions matter as they determine the prospect’s perception of your business and shape their attitude towards you. For instance, giving a prospect the impression that they aren’t just another name on a long sheet you’re going through will go a long way to signal that they can trust you.
One way to send such a signal is by following up after the sales call. Tell the prospect how great it was speaking to them, and mention specific takeaways to show that you listened.
This will likely do two things:
- The prospect will pay more attention to you and your offer. You’ve just shown by your thoughtful action that you aren’t just after a sale.
- Plus, it will also get them to relive certain aspects of the call, hopefully, the parts that would convince them to make a purchase.
You should also make good on any other promises you made during the call, such as sending or recommending resources.
3. Listen Actively
Consultative selling seeks to offer valuable insights based on the prospect’s needs, but for any of that to be possible, you need to understand the said needs.
When you choose a consultative approach, you opt to come to the meeting with an open mind, to absorb what the prospect is saying, consider it critically and offer the best way forward. You must pay attention and understand what the prospect means in each instance above, delivering an articulate answer.
Don’t make the mistake of running with assumptions or rolling out preplanned nuggets without context. Instead, listen to what the prospect says and what’s not said. Ask probing questions to get clarity, repeat or summarize the lead’s explanation for them to confirm that you’re on track, and then make your move.
You’ll give better answers, connect with the prospect and make them feel seen and heard, which will likely cause them to trust you.
4. Be Authentic
No one likes to feel like they are being played. Not even a prospect that needs what you’re trying to sell. The easiest way to get your audience to switch off is to give them the impression that you’re merely putting on a show for them.
So ditch the phony smiles, exaggerations, and cheap storytelling tricks. Focus on getting the conversation to serve the prospect’s interests and the problem they are trying to solve.
Show genuine curiosity and a desire to understand their situation and preferences. Then speak confidently about your product’s value and how it can serve them should they opt for it by:
- Sticking to making your intentions plain
- Saying what you mean and meaning what you say
- And avoiding any tactics that may jeopardize the rapport you’ve built or the opportunity to establish any.
5. Practice Problem Solving
Consultative selling focuses on the prospect’s needs, but you aren’t trying to understand those problems so that you can sell your product or service.
Such an approach will have you shoehorning your offering into every bit of the conversation, including situations where it doesn’t fit. That could easily be off-putting and defeat the purpose of a consultative approach.
Instead, understand the prospect’s needs, as mentioned earlier, and brainstorm possible solutions. Involve your prospect every step of the way, offer your honest opinion on each outlined solution, and ask for theirs too. Don’t also shy away from giving valuable advice, even if it doesn’t directly promote your business.
If your product will be a good fit for their situation, tell them that and walk them through the expected outcome. And if not, let the prospect leave with a sense of direction anyway. A solid relationship with a prospect that didn’t end in a sale can open the door to referrals.
A Value First Approach Always Wins
You have projections to meet and a business bottom line to grow.
But your goal shouldn’t be pitching to as many people as possible; it should be increasing your conversion rate
Sales isn’t taking a “no” and turning it into a “yes.” It’s collecting all the “yes” and converting a few of the “maybes.”
A simple way to set yourself up for more conversions is to adopt a value-first approach that consultative selling offers.
It’s one of the surest ways to build trust and get buy-in from the prospect because it sends a clear message that you’re trying to act in their best interest. And if they believe you’re looking out for them and your product fits the bill, closing a deal becomes a no-brainer.