Why the Consultative Approach in Selling

For this first KEYnote article, I’m outlining the value of the consultative approach to selling and how I came to adopt that approach vs. a feature and benefits model.


I observed a parallel in the communication skills that were essential in my early career in education and psychology and later in my sales career. Integrating insights from psychology, ‘hunter’ sales roles in startup companies, coaching programs, and formal sales training, I developed the 5-step OpenDoor consultative sales process.


My aim was to differentiate my sales model from the conventional features and benefits approach I’d observed. During a discussion with a former colleague, Lydia Brien, now Deal Desk Analyst at PatientPoint, I referenced the importance to make sales training more accessible. Lydia concurred, saying, ‘yes – simplify and demystify”. That’s exactly what I did for myself – and for those I now train and coach.


What does it mean to sell consultatively? 


Consultative selling focuses on fostering comfortable, trusted relationships. This doesn’t imply overlooking urgency to close business.  It means not jeopardizing the relationship with a priority on closing a deal on your preferred timeframe rather than one that addresses your prospects’ needs and budgetary challenges.


Sales consultants take time upfront to identify the needs, budget, and decision-making process of a potential new client. Those who follow a feature and benefits model may focus too early on sharing detailed information about their product or service – some of which may be irrelevant. Sales consultants share tailored responses to challenges and preferences they’ve taken the time to learn.


It’s a delicate dance at times.


Building rapport and comfort with your prospect early on  will help you to facilitate candid conversations about budget and decision-making with greater ease and fewer surprises.  When you delve into implementation, you may find that the deal you hope to close in a certain quarter isn’t likely to happen. Maintain focus on what best serves the needs, challenges, and preferences of your potential client.


Believe me, I get the sacrifice here – especially when you have the pressure of a quota as well as your own earnings goal. Maintaining attention on what works best for your potential new client positions you as a sales consultant and reinforces the trust you’ve built for a lasting partnership – and referrals.


And isn’t that you want?  Hopefully, it’s what your company wants too.