The New World of Prospecting
Growing Your Business through Social Referrals

Steps to Become a More Consultative Seller

DaveKurlan_75x100Today's post is by Dave Kurlan, founder and CEO of Objective Management Group Inc. and Kurlan & Associates, and author of Mindless Selling and Baseline Selling: How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know About the Game of Baseball.


I was driving my 12-year old son to school, and an old Smokey Robinson & the Miracles song, “Tears of a Clown,” began playing on the radio. These days, satellite radio stations also show album art, and he noticed that Robinson looked rather artificial in his most recent photo. I had to explain that when celebrities begin to age, they often choose to have facelifts, and then their eyebrows end up looking like they are glued in the wrong place.

I asked if he remembered Mr. Potato Head, and when he said he did, I joked that facelifts are like playing with Mr. Potato Head, except licensed doctors, not toddlers, rearrange people’s faces.

After he stopped laughing, our exchange got me thinking that much of what happens when salespeople are trained to sell consultatively can be compared with a facelift. The training is supposed to help them look and sound better (better than when they were selling transactionally) but instead, the results often look and sound wrong. Why is that?

I can teach salespeople to sell consultatively in about three hours. Salespeople can learn to sell consultatively from a book, blog, video, or their sales managers. That combination of sources is merely knowledge, but knowledge doesn’t change behavior.

In order to achieve a behavioral change, new skills must be developed, and in this case, the consultative approach requires exceptional listening and questioning skills. 

It can take months, not hours, to develop these skills, and until then, weak selling skills just look and sound wrong. A salesperson must have some serious incentive in order to begin that journey toward change. Unfortunately, a company’s desire to employ salespeople who sell consultatively is not incentive enough. This incentive must come from within the salesperson. That is why intrinsically motivated salespeople are more likely to embrace this change than extrinsically motivated salespeople.

Extrinsics are the salespeople who traditionally have been motivated by money.  Intrinsics are motivated more by a love of what they do, the desire to master their craft, satisfaction and fulfillment, recognition and praise, and even the desire to win.

To help salespeople begin the journey to become more consultative in their sales approach, consider the following pieces that must come together to form the complete consultative seller:

  • An outside sales trainer with great content and exceptional role-playing skills who can demonstrate the consultative conversation in the context of any industry, sales cycle, vertical, sales call, or scenario.
  • A sales manager who has been trained and coached to coach his/her salespeople on this more effective, very necessary approach to selling.
  • Patience: this process will take 8 to 12 months, not 8 to 12 hours!
  • Commitment: you must show your commitment to the desired outcome, journey, and training and coaching, and hold salespeople accountable every step of the way.
  • Homework: the training and coaching are important, but so is the work that your salespeople must do on their own, watching videos and repeatedly listening to the role plays on their own time.
  • The right salespeople: attempting to begin this journey with the wrong salespeople is a waste of time and money.
  • A well-defined sales process: a consultative approach within a sales process that has not been customized or optimized for selling in 2014 will create conflicts, tend to be uneven, and make this journey more difficult than it needs to be.

Selling today requires a consultative approach. There is no need for a consultative approach to look and sound like a bad facelift. Commit to making the full transition to consultative selling – and commit to doing it right – and everything will look and sound great.


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Cindy Goldsberry

Thank you for great reflection. Enjoyed this.

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