I received a phone call the other day from an inside sales person who sells website development services.  Here’s how the conversation went:

“Hi, do you have a website?”


“We offer the best and most cost effective website development services in the New York area.  How much do you pay for your website?  How many pages is it?  What company do you hire to work on your website?

“Um, I have no idea who you are and there is not a chance I’m going to share that information with you.  Didn’t your company train you how to engage potential customers via cold calls?”

Pitiful.  So, as a coach and trainer who helps people elevate their professional skill sets, I thought this would be a great topic:  The consultative sales professional.  Every sales professional is a consultant, and should be 1. Genuinely interested in building a strong reputation and strong relationships; 2. Particular about having facts and creative solutions that solve problems and 3. Savvy about the client as a professional connection and knowledgeable about the client’s business.

When is selling non-consultative?  When it’s order-taking.  There are times when customers don’t need assistance in making a right decision.  (Somehow earning commission on these deals is less sweet, though, right?) In my experience, this is the only time we are not required to be a counselor.

Great consultative sellers create a sense of urgency for building business together without creating ultimatums for their prospects.

Successful sales consultants….

1. Are patient.  They embrace the idea that win-win negotiations frequently end with delayed closes rather than pushing to get a deal done.  Clients can smell fear and desperation miles away.  Stay cool.

2. Are problem solvers. They propose multiple, objective solutions that show varied outcomes (that include scenarios of spending more and even less with you — don’t hesitate to put less money on the table than you want, if it supports the client’s goals!).

3. Are investigative.  They avoid claims such as “We’re the best,” and instead share quantifiable information, statistics, articles and research that help a client make informed decisions.

4. Are bigger picture thinkers.  They respond to ‘no’ by assessing the real objection vs. the put-off.  In the event that they do not get the business, they are ready to ask what they can do better or different in the future.  (Being open to honest feedback is the only way to meet the client’s needs in the future.)

5. Are focused on forging substantive connections.  They are willing to replace comp tickets and expensive dinners (to win clients) with actual data, predictable follow-through and beneficial services that solve their clients’ problems.

6. Are boundary-conscious.  They don’t endeavor to build personal relationships with clients, and can balance being friendly, warm and caring, with being strictly business.  Sometimes genuine friendships come out of these interactions, but the motive isn’t to become buddies as a ploy to close the deal.

7. Are trustworthy.  They are always honest.  Period.

8. Are assertive.  They dare to say ‘no’ when the counter-offer negatively impacts their business.  (It’s critical to show the buyer how not to undermine one’s services.)

9. Are friendly towards the competition. They speak about their competitors with respect, especially if the client chooses to buy from others. (Instead of trying to knock out the competition, take smaller bites and see how your services can add value to what the competition is already getting.)

10. Are on FIRE — strong, passionate, confident and skilled presenters and pitchers.  (If your product or service is hot and you’re not, you will sabotage your own efforts.)

11.  Are able to learn. There is so much that goes into being a formidable sales consultant and one thing is for sure:  bless your mistakes (for which there will be a handful, at least), seek guidance from your role-models, and prove first that you can build strong revenue streams.  Confidence and experience are critical to helping others grow their businesses.