- Sales Enablement
- Feb 22
- 9 mins read
Consultative Selling 101: Building Trust to Win Customers for Life
More sales. Bigger sales. Customers for life. Sounds nice, right? This is what every company wants. But it’s going to take a lot more than talking about your product or service to get there. To get the sales results you want, you need to build trust with your customers.
Research from Salesforce shows that 78% of business buyers seek salespeople that act as trusted advisors. So how do you become a trusted advisor to your customers? Consultative selling.
What’s consultative selling?
Instead of focusing on getting B2B buyers to transact, consultative selling is about partnering with buyers to solve their business issues. Instead of pitching a specific product or service that your company provides, work with your prospect collaboratively to find solutions that fit their unique needs and provide the most value.
(This is the opposite of transactional selling, which focuses only on hitting revenue targets without taking a customer’s specific pain points into account.)
Why is consultative selling important?
Salespeople are no longer the keepers of knowledge. B2B buyers can find most of the information they need online. In fact, according to Gartner, customers are already 57% of the way down their purchase path before they engage with you.
That means they don’t need you to read from a script that mimics the content on your website. Chances are they already have some idea of what you provide based on your site, social media, emails, reviews, and whatever other research they’ve done prior to meeting you. It’s your job to understand their context and curate the best solutions for them based on what you learn.
What does good consultative selling look like?
If you’re selling consultatively, your sales process should have a lot in common with a journalist conducting an interview or someone on a (good) first date: you should ask a lot of questions.
Practice active listening. Show you’re engaged with what your prospect is saying, then reflect back what you hear to confirm you understand. According to data gathered by Gong, top-performing sales reps talk less than 50% of the time. Consultative selling is about listening to a prospect’s problems to fully understand the context before you start in on your pitch.
How should I prepare for a consultative sales call?
Since you don’t know exactly where the sales conversation will go, you need to be prepared for any situation. This means having a foundational knowledge of the buyer’s industry, how their company presents themselves externally (website, social media, etc.), and your company’s offerings.
It’s impossible to know exactly what you’ll discuss so having a well-organized knowledge bank at the ready is key. While it’s good to do research on your prospect, StorySlab Founder & CEO, Hans Fuller, suggests that you keep an open mind when meeting with a prospect for the first time. “Avoid going into the conversation with preconceived notions about what your customer’s problem is,” Fuller warns. “This will help you find the right solution rather than trying to force a fit.”
What type of presentation is best suited for consultative selling?
One that’s flexible enough to go where the conversation takes you. We recommend a few slides that you always show followed by more variable content that changes depending on who you’re speaking with. Give background on your business, but do it quickly. This isn’t about you. Just give enough to establish credibility (a reason why they should listen to you), then focus on their needs.
Daniel Pink has the right idea in his book, To Sell Is Human. He says, “The purpose of a pitch isn’t necessarily to move others immediately to adopt your idea. The purpose is to offer something so compelling that it begins a conversation, brings the other person in as a participant, and eventually arrives at an outcome that appeals to both of you.”
Is consultative selling always the best approach?
It depends on what you’re selling. Transactional selling has its place. If there’s only one decision maker and you’re looking for a quick yes or no, then transactional selling may be the way to go. But if you’re selling something complex to multiple decision makers (as is usually the case in B2B sales with 6-10 decision makers on average according to Gartner), then consultative selling is the way to go.
What if I don’t have a solution that fits the buyer’s needs?
Don’t be afraid to disqualify and move on. It will save you and your buyer time and it will make the buyer trust and respect you so they’re more likely to buy from you later.
Guide them to their best business decision whether or not it’s something you can offer. It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s the best way to make sure that person trusts you later when you’re offering something that is a good fit.
How can StorySlab help with consultative selling?
StorySlab puts all your sales collateral at your fingertips when it matters most: during the sales conversation. That way you can have dynamic discussions with prospects and pivot quickly as you discover their exact needs. To see how StorySlab can help you become more consultative, schedule a demo with our team.
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