5 elements of an effective consultative sales process

Sales is problem solving. For sales teams in a B2B environment, sales isn’t about pitching. Sales people who pick up the phone, get through to a decision maker, and pitch, or who turn up to a meeting and fire off a pitch, don’t do well.

Consultative selling is a process.

It involves a conversation, or several conversations.

Consultative selling is asking questions, active listening, and giving a potential client a solution to the problems they have. Every consultative sales process should follow a repeatable model, a plan that you can use again and again.

In this article, we cover the five core elements of effective consultative sales engagements - which work whether you’re in the field or conducting web-based demos.

5 elements of sales consultations

#1: Qualify

Sales leads are either inbound or outbound.

Either you, or another member of the sales team - such as an SDR - generate warm leads through a range of activities, such as calls and emails. Or a potential client finds your website, which ideally should be supported by a number of activities, such as content and social media marketing.

Either way, you’ve now got a potential client in the pipeline. Ideally, a pipeline should be full of potential clients at various stages. And the first stage is always qualifying them as leads. Depending on your sales process, this could be in the form of a quick initial call or online sales demo.

At this stage, you aren’t so much trying to sell them something as discover whether they’re a suitable potential client. What problems are they trying to solve? Do you have a solution that fits what they need? It is always useful, at this stage, to have a simple series of questions to go through that gets the conversation - either on the same call, or in a follow-up demo/meeting - to the questioning stage.

#2: Question

At this stage, assuming a potential client meets the minimum criteria your company has to become a client, you need to know more.

  • How much of a priority is this?
  • Does a budget exist to solve this problem?
  • What would happen if it isn’t solved?
  • Is there owner/founder or relevant C-suite support (depending on the scale of the organization)?

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of potential questions that could be asked. Pick the right ones for your process, the prospects you speak with and the flow of the conversation. Every conversation is different and every prospect might come with their own set of questions and concerns.

#3: Proposal

Assuming the previous stage has went well, and a prospect wants a proposal, put one together that is tailored to the conversation(s) you’ve had. It could be a template one that everyone uses, but each proposal should at a minimum be tailored to demonstrate the value you bring to the table and how your solution is the one they need for the problems discussed in the qualification process.

#4: Follow-up

Without effective follow-up, deals don’t get done.

Sales professionals who stay committed to closing a deal - following up five or more times (if necessary) - are much more likely to win the business than those who give up after one or two attempts. Emails, calls, online messages, and gentle reminders whereby you are sending a potential sales prospect something useful, such as an article or video work great as follow-up tools.

To keep front-of-mind with your prospect, encouraging them to follow your company on social media, or connect on LinkedIn, is a light touch method that proves useful.

#5: Implement or Feedback

Depending on the size of the deal and time it takes to go from a proposal to a yes, now is the time to implement or ask for feedback. If a prospect doesn’t want to go ahead, always try and find out why. If you’ve got a successful yes, start to implement the on-boarding process.

Getting started with a new client - whether they’re buying a service or software - is always easier when the right questions have been asked throughout the qualifying process. This way, you already know what they want and are expecting and who you are going to be working with and what level of support/resources are in place to implement a new solution.