Many people tend to think about consultative selling in terms of questioning skills. There is no doubt that questioning is a key part of consultative selling but there is a bit more to consultative selling than that.
In this article I am going to take a step back, get back to basics, and answer the fundamental question – What is consultative selling?
To truely understand consultative selling we need to contrast it with another style of selling which often gets confused with it.
There are actually many different selling styles but when it comes to selling business-to-business “solutions” they generally fall into one of two main categories which I call 'push selling' and 'pull selling'.
Push selling is product centric. Your focus is on what you want to sell and then you go and sell it.
Pull selling is customer centric. Your focus is on the customer and recommending solutions to their problems.
Both styles work. For accidental sales people, however, pull selling is much easier and does not feel like selling to the client or the person doing the selling. In my experience you tend to sell more in the long term using pull selling because you gain a deeper level of trust with the client and so they share more problems with you.
The way I like to explain it is in terms of seeing a medical doctor – a medical consultant if you will.
Your leg is hurting so you go and see your doctor. The doctor asks you some questions and then writes you a prescription.
A consultative doctor would really want to be sure what the underlying problem is. They ask you a number of questions to better understand and even do some tests in order to correctly diagnose the problem and then go on to prescribe the solution. You would then need to pay for the solution – or if you are in the UK the Government will probably end up paying for most of it through our national health system.
This is how consultative selling should work. There are many people who I see on my Consultative Selling Master Class, however, who have had be trained to use questions to steer the conversation to the “solution” they want to sell ie push selling dressed up as being consultative.
So if you want to get consultative selling right and reap the benefits then see yourself as a doctor and you won’t go far wrong.