What Are Consultative Sales? (With Steps for Success)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 22, 2022

Published September 29, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Consultative sales provide customers and clients with targeted products and solutions to their needs. Roles in this field require significant sales and interpersonal skills to be effective. Learning more about these types of sales can help you determine if you suit the position and also help you become more effective if you decide to pursue it. In this article, we discuss the definition of sales consultations, explore the difference between it and traditional sales, review its benefits, inform you how to improve your strategy, provide an example of customer feedback, and discuss several skills required to work in this profession.

What are consultative sales?

Consultative sales form relationships between clients and sales professionals. In this form of sales, professionals allow clients to express their goals and needs so they can provide targeted products. Professionals also communicate with clients to learn about their backgrounds, experiences, priorities, and lifestyles. Sales professionals then offer clients solutions to their challenges. Sales consultations aim to improve customer and client lives rather than sell products.

Consultative sales vs. traditional sales

Sales consultations require you to provide consumers and clients with advice to improve their lives, helping to develop long-term relationships. Traditional sales focus on selling products to clients and rely less on providing guidance than on the assumption that particular products are necessary. A key difference between consultative sales and traditional sales is that the latter oversees product sales. Sales consultations focus more on prospects than products. Traditional sales also persuade clients to buy their products, while sales consultations find products that suit client needs.

What are the benefits of sales consultations?

There are several benefits of sales consultations, including:

  • Grows your customer base: Your consumer base increases when customers feel cared for and when you demonstrate attentiveness. You also have a higher likelihood of retaining your customers when you provide consistent advice.

  • Increases revenue: As your consumer base grows, you experience an increase in revenue because of more sales.

  • Makes you more competitive: Using this sales model makes you a more competitive professional because you prioritize clients and increase traffic and sales.

  • Develops soft skills and active listening skills: This profession requires you to listen to your clients and improve your active listening. As you work directly with these clients, your soft skills also improve.

  • Focuses on consumers: Sales consultations are beneficial because they focus on the customer or client. By developing a relationship with clients, you discover additional solutions for them. By using sales consultations, consumers also have a better understanding of their needs because you discuss these needs with them.

How to improve your sales consultation strategy

Here are several steps to help improve your consultative selling strategy:

1. Conduct research

The first thing to do to improve your consultative selling strategy is to conduct research and develop a better understanding of the company goals, needs, and potential methods for which to pitch presentations. By researching clients and their companies, you are better prepared to do the following:

  • Answer client questions: Conducting research provides you with knowledge of client perspectives and allows you to prepare answers to potential questions before meeting with them.

  • Gauge client needs: Conducting research provides you with information about your client's needs before they arise. You can determine their buying timeline and potential quantity needs.

  • Facilitate conversations with clients: Having background knowledge about the client's industry provides you with vital conversation points and starts an active conversation with clients.

Related: Research Skills: Definition and Examples

2. Ask the right questions

Traditional sales models involve listening to clients rather than having active conversations with them. In sales consultations, you ask clients questions to get an idea of their needs. When you practice this type of sales, you listen actively to determine areas that need clarification and ask follow-up questions. Asking these questions both engages you in communication with your clients and provides you with the necessary information. Ask basic and general questions that lead your client in a specific direction. From here, you can ask more targeted questions.

For example, if you sell accounting software, you can ask questions like, "How many employees do you have, and how many do you hire per year?" This allows you to plan which products to sell depending on how many employees they serve.

Related: Clarifying Questions to Ask for Better Communication

3. Practice active listening

Demonstrating your listening skills helps ensure you sell more products. When you use active listening skills, you hear what the client is saying and become invested in it. Active listeners pay attention to the client's body language to detect changes in the client's mood to detect discomfort. Active listening requires responding to verbal and nonverbal cues. For example, if you notice a client appears distracted, consider changing the interview time and date.

Remember that to be an active listener, you need to avoid interrupting your client. By letting your client speak, you make them feel appreciated and provide yourself with more time to process information. If you find you need more time to think about what the client is saying, consider asking, "Can you expand on what you're saying?" Consider taking notes to ensure you have a full idea of the client's situation before answering them.

4. Be authentic

To excel at being a salesperson, you need to be authentic to help ensure you foster healthy relationships and that your clients trust your opinion. For example, some clients may ask about services that don't suit their needs. If this occurs, express your concerns to them. This shows your clients that you prioritize their business and their needs before your sales. This builds their overall trust and loyalty. By doing this, you increase customer retention and future sales. Being authentic with your clients also requires you to develop an understanding of your product's advantages and disadvantages.

5. Follow up with the client

When you complete your meeting or sales transaction with the client, be sure to follow up with them after you have given them time to think about their decision, receive approval for budgeting, or try the product. If the client has yet to reach out to you to provide feedback after a reasonable amount of time, consider contacting them by email to inquire about their timeline. You may also as about whether they enjoy the product or have reached a decision.

Example: Importance of Utilizing After-Sales Service (With Tips)

Skills required to work in sales consultations

Here are the skills required for sales that use a consultative approach:

Empathy

You need empathy to recognize the client's emotions and how your actions affect them. When you demonstrate empathy, you make your customers and clients feel considered and understood. This helps build trust and increases customer retention.

Customer personas

Understanding customer personas provides information on how your customers and clients think. These personas also inform you of how you can help them. If you're unsure of which buyer personas attend your store or company, consider releasing a survey for them to review and fill out. These surveys provide you with information about your clients and their overall needs.

Time-management skills

You need to have good time-management skills to work as a salesperson. You typically need to conduct research, release surveys and communicate with clients and customers. Time-management skills are also necessary to ensure you complete tasks efficiently. The better your overall time-management skills, the more efficient and productive you can be as a salesperson.

Demo skills

You need demo or demonstration skills to show your products to clients and customers and provide opportunities for customers to experience your products and solutions before they buy them. Familiarize yourself with your products before trying to sell them. You need to be confident in your ability to use the products so you can teach others to do the same.

Strategic prospecting

Salespeople need to have good strategic prospecting. This involves referrals from existing connections that direct you to your ideal customer profile. These referrals ensure you consistently develop your customer and consumer base. When necessary, discuss options with investors to discover prospecting techniques and options.

Sales consultation feedback example

Here is an example of client feedback following a sales consultation transaction to help show how customers may respond to the sales technique:

Last month, my laptop broke down and was no longer a reliable option for me to complete my work. This unreliability caused me to search for a new laptop. I went to the computer store down my street and asked the store manager for a laptop that matched my budget. There were too many laptops to think about, and I wasn't familiar with their various technical terms. The salesperson asked me about my needs and my daily usage habits.

In the end, the sales manager convinced me to buy the laptop I have now. I love it. They also provided me with free software to help me in my career, and I've experienced an increase in productivity since then.

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