Research & Insights


Rumors of the death of consultative selling are premature.

(November 12, 2012)

If you have been following sales training articles and blogs recently, you would think that the role of salesperson as consultant and trusted advisor is dead. These articles suggest that the ideal salesperson acts as if customers are wrong about their "real" problems and challenges customers about their knowledge and assumptions.

Now, it is true that a sales consultant should challenge a customer’s assumptions or facts when they may be wrong. But the effective consultant understands the difference between customers who need their assumptions challenged and those who are knowledgeable about their needs. While understanding strategy and challenging customers’ assumptions is critical, this is not a “style” of selling that has replaced the role of salesperson as consultant.

Having effective consulting skills is essential for selling today. Sales consultants provide added value by understanding the customer's business, industry, and competitive landscape. They discover how the selling organization can play a strategic role in the customer’s business, are able to communicate credibly with the customer’s senior executives, and push back when the customer makes incorrect assumptions or reaches inaccurate conclusions. Effective sales consultants discern what influences the customer’s buying behaviors, anticipate those needs, and respond strategically. Consultants understand how the customer uses their product or service over time and establish profitable associations between and within the buying and selling organizations. In this context, the salesperson becomes a business consultant, promoting the business objectives of the customer, providing innovative ideas and solutions, and challenging the customer to think differently when needed.

How do you add consultant skills to your sales force? Read how in 3 Strategies for Peak Sales Performance.

About the Author
Michael Leimbach

Michael Leimbach

Michael Leimbach, Ph.D., is Vice President of Global Research and Development for Wilson Learning Worldwide. Dr. Leimbach provides leadership for researching and designing Wilson Learning’s diagnostic, learning, and performance improvement capabilities. He has managed major research studies in sales, leadership, and organizational effectiveness, and developed Wilson Learning’s learning transfer, impact evaluation, and return on investment models. Dr. Leimbach has consulted for a wide variety of global client organizations, serves on the ISO Technical committee for development of ISO 29999 Standard for Learning Service Providers, and is Editor-in-Chief for Advances in Developing Human Resources. Dr. Leimbach has authored six books, published over 100 professional articles, and is a frequent speaker at national and global conferences.

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