Salesperson or Consultant – Part 2

This is one of a series of blogs written specifically for those people in small businesses who are responsible for winning sales. These people will often have other roles and responsibilities which requires them to be very time-efficient during their selling activities. Larger businesses are likely to employ one or more full-time salespeople and this blog series is also written to help these people.

Last time I highlighted signals that your prospects are looking for that will serve to reduce your chances of a successful sale or kill them off completely. These are all relatively easy to put right and eliminate.

It is interesting to note that in our own lives when we buy things, for example a car, lounge furniture, landscape gardening and, of course, double glazing, it’s encountering a salesperson who is just after another sale (and associated commission) that really puts us off.

What sort of salespeople do we like dealing with? And what sort of salesperson should we become? From the answer to these questions has evolved the concept of consultative selling, where salespeople emphasise their problem solving skills rather than their selling skills.

Given the list of “sales killers” from last time, it’s no wonder that salespeople want to portray themselves more as Consultants. To do this they need to forget about their short-term need to get another sale and some more commission.

In particular, the salesperson needs to

  1. Slow down and be much more patient.
  2. Focus all their attention on the buyer, the buyer’s situation and issues.
  3. Avoid using stock answers, standard letters and presentations. Tailor your interactions specifically for each individual buyer.
  4. Ask good, searching questions that make the buyer think. Try and get them to comment “that’s a good question”or “nobody has ever asked that before”.
  5. Listen intently to the replies. Listen out for “trigger”words and phrases that can be used as a foundation to build further discussions.
  6. Demonstrate the relevance and quality of their products/services by using client testimonials and having the buyer speak to satisfied clients.
  7. Follow a sales process, but progress at the buyer’s speed. Never try to rush things along otherwise one of the sale killers will be triggered in the buyer’s mind.
  8. Check that the buyer is happy with the speed of the sales discussion. Slow down if there is any mismatch between the buying cycle and the sales cycle. Confirm, at each stage, that the buyer understands what the salesperson has said, as it relates to their circumstances.
  9. Draw out as many questions as possible from the buyer, deal with each one and seek permission from the buyer to move on to the next step in the cycle.
  10. Be more interested in helping the buyer rather than winning a sale.

So, for salespeople to be more successful they need to adopt the habits that successful Consultants have used for years. Be attentive, be responsive and, above all, offer real value and benefit to potential buyers. They should focus on understanding what business challenges the buyer is looking to address and can confidently state whether their product/service can or cannot be considered a potential solution.

If you can adopt the consultative approach to sales and can solve a prospect’s problem, great. If you can’t, then you need to extract yourself from discussions as quickly as possible to avoid wasting time on someone who isn’t going to buy from you. You can use the time saved to talk in more detail to those prospects who could buy from you.

The best way I have found to withdraw from discussions is to inform the prospect that now you understand the business requirements fully, it is not something you can fully address. Do what you can to help the buyer to identify other possible suppliers, effectively to take your place.

It might be that you already have relationships with these suppliers (your competitors) whereby you receive a “finder’s fee” for passing them sales leads.

I like these arrangements because you get something tangible for all the sales effort you invested before coming to the conclusion the opportunity didn’t fit your product/service. If you are lucky, the “finder’s fee” will cover your sales costs.


  1. For the next 30 days, review every sales meeting you hold and analyse which (if any) of the sales killers you were guilty of signaling to the prospect. Address each one and avoid making the same mistake again.
  2. Concentrate on being a problem-solver. Look for ways to help your prospects to solve the problems they are facing. Remember that the solution isn’t always to buy something from you.
  3. Avoid wasting more time than is absolutely necessary with people who will not be buying your product/service. Extract yourself from ongoing discussions carefully and professionally, without causing those buyers any inconvenience.
Posted in Sales / Business Growth