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What is Consultative Selling?

The American Marketing Association dictionary defines "consultative selling" as:
A customized sales presentation approach in which the salesperson is viewed as an expert and serves as a consultant to the customer. The salesperson identifies the prospects' needs and recommends the best solution even if the best solution does not require the salesperson's products or services.
Google gives different definitions:
  • selling products or solutions that are complex by providing expertise.
  • working with customers to discover their needs and work out an acceptable business solution.
All of these definitions appear different. So... what is "Consultative Selling"?

- by kodah
Kodah,

Boy, once you got that AMA dictionary you got dangerous! :rolleyes:

I can speak from my own experience only, of course. It's been um, quite a few years let's say, since I took consultative sales training, but here goes.

I think the threads you'll find running through all those definitions are: expertise, customer needs and solutions. The AMA throws in a taste of integrity, too.

Probably examples would be the best way to describe how I understand the concept.

There are 2 salesmen in a used car lot. The owner is trying to move an SUV, and is giving a big bonus to the salesman who sells it. (Please interpret salesman as a gender-neutral term). A little old lady arrives to look at the cars. The first salesman walks her over to the SUV and talks to her about what a great deal the car is, how much safer she'd be in a big car, how much room she'd have for her grandchildren, etc. He puts a big rush to get her to make a buy that day - before the price goes up. This is not the consultative salesman. He doesn't really care about the customer's needs, he isn't worried about finding a transportation solution that fits her lifestyle.

The 2nd salesman sees the old woman after she has shooed the first guy away. (She probably would have left the lot, but for the sake of the example..) He starts a conversation with her about her transportation needs - he discovers that she's an old maid with no children, who lives alone, only goes to church on Sundays, has a bad hip, and a low budget. Looking over the inventory, he discovers that the only car on the lot that fits her budget is a stick shift. He also knows that Harry's Used Cars down the street just made a deal on a nice little car in her price range that is reliable, is an automatic shift, and gets great gas mileage. He suggests that she drop into Harry's and gives her the year, make and color of the car she should look at.

Yup, you got it. Salesman #2 is the consultative salesman. Did he lose a potential sale? Yes. Did he make salesman of the month for the next 3 months based on sales to people who were referred to him by the little old lady? You bet. Did salesman #1 quit 2 months later? Yes -- he hadn't been able to sell anything to anyone because the little old lady is the sister of the mayor of the small town, and she really black-balled him.

The only dispute I have with one of Google's definitions is that the sale must be complex. I think you can be a consultative sales person no matter what you're selling.

Hope that helps.

Kathleen - by KSA-Mktg
The term consultative selling was popularized several years ago by sales consultant and author Mack Hanan. It referred mostly to shifting the function of seller to a partnering role--specifically in the area of key account selling.

If my memory serves me, Hanan saw the future of selling consisting of two areas: teleselling and consultative selling. I always thought that was a narrow view. But there was a smidgen of prophesy in it. When he wrote the book, teleselling (inbound telephone selling) was in it's infancy. Today it is an entire industry in itself.

To a large extent, consultative selling as Hanan purely envisioned it, exists most often on an institutionalized basis. Picture the marketing reprentative for, say, the Buick Division of General Motors, serving the needs of the dealers in his area. In a lot of ways, he/she is working in-house with a dealer--offering solutions that also fulfill the requirements of the GM employer.

In my opinion, the term consultative selling has since taken on various connotations to the point where it no longer defines a specific concept. - by Gary Boye
In my opinion, the term consultative selling has since taken on various connotations to the point where it no longer defines a specific concept.
Maybe that explains why the definitions are so different. - by kodah
The American Marketing Association dictionary defines "consultative selling" as:
Google gives different definitions:
  • selling products or solutions that are complex by providing expertise.
  • working with customers to discover their needs and work out an acceptable business solution.
All of these definitions appear different. So... what is "Consultative Selling"?
In 1955, when I started selling after getting my first college degree in Industrial Sales, everyone was taught what eventually came to be called "Consultative Selling" In techie fields they call the same activity "Applications Engineering."

The problem is that most salespeople saw Consultative Selling as a way for them to disguise the fact that they were employed and paid for selling a product or service. That's the reason it became standard not to use the word "sales" on business cards.

The good news for the rest of us is that no one is fooled by the free expert consultant who is only aim in life is "help people," people who just happen to be prospects. - by JacquesWerth
To me consultive selling is presenting the prospect with many different options showing them the good and the bad of each. Naturally your product or service will be the one that bests fits their needs. When you sell consultively you are asking them questions about what they want. You are basically taking them shopping and acting as a buyers assistant. - by klozerking
To me consultive selling is presenting the prospect with many different options showing them the good and the bad of each. Naturally your product or service will be the one that bests fits their needs. When you sell consultively you are asking them questions about what they want. You are basically taking them shopping and acting as a buyers assistant.
That rings a bell. :) - by Agent Smith
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