Five Misperceptions about Consultative Selling

In a world of dramatically changed B2B buying behavior, Consultative Selling remains one of the best ways — if not the best way — to focus on the client’s business issues and needs (not products for sale) to ensure that the proposed solution drives the needed business outcomes for the client to achieve his/her goals.

But, because it’s not the shiniest, newest sales approach on the market, there are some misperceptions about its relevance today. Following are five common misperceptions.

  1. Consultative Selling is not assertive enough. Consultative Selling dialogue skills are used to create an environment of openness and mutual respect — ingredients that are necessary to stimulate thinking and gain a deep understanding of the client’s unique situation, diagnose root cause, and recommend the best solution. The seller may need to challenge the client’s thinking in the dialogue but certainly must do so without challenging the person. The only way to do this is to create an environment of openness and mutual respect, which is only created through the use of Consultative Selling skills.
  2. Consultative Selling leads sellers to go native. It’s unusual, but not impossible, for sellers to focus on their clients at the expense of their own company. However, the objective with Consultative Selling is to win profitable business. If an individual is not behaving as necessary, it becomes a coaching opportunity for sales leaders.
  3. Consultative Selling makes the seller subservient to the client. Not true. The approach and skills of Consultative Selling are designed to establish an environment of mutual respect and productive dialogue that can be used to reduce stress in the moment, resolve conflict, and hold the line on price and other terms. The Six Critical Skills are at the heart of a healthy, respectful business relationship where the needs of both buyer and seller are met.
  4. Consultative Selling focuses on asking questions, but sellers need to do more teaching. Sellers help to facilitate learning with clients, but teaching doesn’t mean the seller foregoes learning in the process. The idea is to facilitate learning on both sides to understand the client’s unique situation, generate ideas, and validate possible solutions. Insightful people bring a high level of curiosity to consultative conversations with a willingness to be both learner and teacher.
  5. Consultative Selling is not relevant in light of newer selling models. Sellers do not need a radically new way of selling that contradicts the principles of Consultative Selling. The goal of Consultative Selling is to focus on client needs, rather than positioning product, to make sure the solution is relevant. Sellers do need a higher-order level of skill in Consultative Selling to engage clients in insightful dialogue that builds credibility, creates value in the buying experience, guides the client in making the best buying decision, fosters trust, and assertively identifies and drives opportunities to closure.

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