Consultative Selling: 5 Steps to Winning Long-Term Clients

In consultative selling, your goal is to establish trust and understand a lead’s pain points. It can take longer and can focus more on high-ticket sales.

Sales professionals can no longer afford to only start thinking about client retention after the first sale. Well before that initial close, your sales cycle plays a key role in how long clients stay (or how fast they leave), making it your chance to set the stage for a valuable, long-term relationship. A consultative selling approach can help you successfully build rapport with and maximize value for every lead you gain.

In this article, we'll explain what consultative selling is, what it entails, and how you can benefit from this sales approach in this article.

What Is Consultative Selling?

Consultative selling is a sales methodology that emphasizes the need to understand a customer's needs before pushing for a sale. When sales teams use this approach, they're not using memorized sales pitches. They're tailoring each sales call or touchpoint to the needs of each lead. It's all about building trust, which can ultimately help you influence clients' final buying decisions.

The consultative sales approach isn't fast-paced. Rather, it lets clients steer the way. Salespeople guide their leads by asking questions and scheduling follow-ups, but ultimately, they're listening to their prospects' needs, including their ideal purchase timeline and what they're seeking before they commit to your brand.

Because of the relatively slow nature of consultative selling, it's frequently used for high-ticket or B2B sales, which typically take at least four months to close (and often takes over seven).

Consultative Selling vs. Transactional Selling

Consultative selling is starkly different from transactional selling, which focuses on moving potential customers through the sales process quickly. Sales teams that use the transactional sales approach focus on selling a product's features, often at an attractive price, and can lead to a purchase in less than a day.

Transactional selling works when clients already know exactly what they want — for example, when you're buying a cup of coffee or a bag of dog food. On the other hand, consultative selling works well when clients need help understanding your solution and even their own needs. For example, when you're shopping for a customer onboarding software, you may need help assessing what integrations you need and what each pricing plan offers. You’re quite literally acting as a consultant.

5-Step Consultative Sales Process

The consultative sales approach aims for more meaningful interactions with leads in every stage. Here's an example of what a consultative selling process can look like.

1. Research

consultative selling: man using a laptop

Consultative selling calls for more in-depth research than the average sales approach. Since you ultimately want to identify the best possible solution for your lead, you want to get to know them as closely as possible before your first meeting. This research can help you make an ideal first impression, too.

Spend time learning about your potential clients, who the decision-makers are, and what pain points they may be facing. Google can be a helpful resource, and so can your lead's social media profiles and website.

2. Build Trust

​Leads will typically start entering your sales funnel as they seek solutions for a problem they're facing. During this stage, you can build trust by showing up with valuable information with tactics like content marketing. True to consultative selling, content marketing takes a client-driven approach by answering general questions from new leads instead of showing up with intrusive ads.

To build trust, you can create regular blog posts, videos, and infographics. Be sure to capture shoppers' attention, and try to inspire them to request a sales call or otherwise leave their contact information. Further establish your authority by backing up your content with facts.

3. Ask the Right Questions

Instead of making a one-way sales pitch, consultative sellers turn the sales process into a two-way conversation. They focus on asking questions that help leads open up about their needs, wants, and pain points. Use open-ended questions like:

  • Are you happy with your current vendor? Why or why not?
  • What challenges are you currently facing?
  • What are your biggest concerns when it comes to choosing a solution?

Focus on getting answers that you can't find through prior research. And don't forget to ask follow-up questions if more details will help you find a better solution later on.

Mastering this step can take some time. Sales reps shouldn't sound like they're reciting questions from a book. Instead, tailor your questions to your leads based on what you learn during the conversation.

4. Practice Active Listening

consultative selling: woman having a video call using her laptop

​As your potential client starts opening up to you, it's critical to practice active listening. Sales leaders go beyond taking notes about what their leads say in their sales CRM. They also:

  • Paraphrase client statements to show they're listening
  • Read between the lines to determine how your lead is really feeling
  • Offer expertise when relevant to the conversation

If you're chatting with leads in-person or through a live video chat tool, use non-verbal cues like eye contact and head nodding to demonstrate your attentiveness, which is key to building a strong relationship.

5. Collaborate on a Solution

Once you and your potential client have gotten to know each other, it's your chance to fully step into your consultant role. Speaking as an expert on your product or service, start explaining potential solutions, and work with your lead to figure out how you can help them. Leave room for clients to ask questions, too.

Throughout this step, make sure you're framing your talking points around what you've discussed with your lead — for example, explaining how a specific feature eases their pain point while fitting into their budget.

Turning this step into a collaborative process allows you to more easily drive clients toward a successful close. Not only are you helping them find a solution that feels like a perfect fit, but they'll feel like the process is guided by their choices.

3 Benefits of Consultative Selling

Building your consultative selling skills allows you to reap these three key perks of using the sales approach:

1. Build More Long-Term Relationships

Consultative selling is the ideal sales approach for businesses that focus on long-term clients. Instead of diving right into an obvious sales pitch, which many consumers will naturally avoid, you're focusing on building rapport. You're driving sales through connection, and that connection can last well beyond your first close.

2. Boost Client Satisfaction

When you take the time (often months) to get to know your lead, meeting their needs becomes significantly easier. Consultative selling turns client research and open-ended questions into part of the sales process, which allows you to find the perfect solution for your new client. You'll address all their needs, pain points, and even their concerns before the sales process is over.

3. Increase High-Ticket Sales

High-ticket closing can be difficult to master, but consultative selling makes it easier to achieve big wins. When you're selling expensive goods or services, clients expect a more personalized experience with highly attentive sales reps. Consultative selling provides just that.

Win High-Value Sales With Consultative Selling

A sales process that puts selling second and takes months to complete can sound counterintuitive. But when you focus on relationships and spend time building rapport with your leads, you can keep clients coming back time and time again after their first purchase. 

Following the consultative selling process — which calls for in-depth research, open-ended questions, and active listening — can even help you achieve greater client satisfaction and boost the value of your sales.

With a live video chat widget like ServiceBell, you can give your leads more power in the sales process and further personalize the client experience. As soon as leads tap on your bell from any page of your site, you can jump on video to give them a face-to-face, online sales experience. Sign up for a free plan to stand out with stellar consultative selling techniques.

Astound your customers

Be there for your customers like no one else has ever been.