Consultative Sales Techniques 101: The Power of Questions

By Hugo Sanchez

“If you want to be in control of a conversation, ask questions.” This is one of the biggest persuasive lessons I learned from my dad. For over eight years, I worked as a consultant with him and trained multiple salesforce teams in consultative sales.

Consultative Sales vs. Transactional Sales

This table highlights the fundamental differences between the two sales processes. The main differences between consultative and transactional sales processes lie in their focus, approach, and relationship with the customer.

Asking Questions That Sell

The best way to think about consultative sales is similar to going to the doctor. You won’t trust your doctor’s prescription unless you know they have all the information they need about your case. Similarly, if you rush to deliver a solution to your prospects, they simply won’t trust that you are the right adviser.

Asking good questions and listening go a long way when you start cultivating a relationship. First of all, your clients feel seen and understood; most importantly, they feel like YOU understand their specific situation. Furthermore, asking good probing questions positions you as an expert and gets your client thinking differently about their problem, providing value as you are selling. And most importantly, when you are the one asking questions, you are guiding the conversation with full authority and control.

What Questions To Ask

When you are having an opportunity conversation with a prospect, it’s essential to follow a structured pattern for asking questions. This approach ensures that you gather all the necessary information while demonstrating your expertise and genuine interest in your client's needs. I always follow a mental pattern for asking questions, starting with Problem Context Questions, followed by Solution Questions, Resources Questions, and finally, Decision Questions.

Problem Context Questions

These questions are meant to gain clarity on the context in which your client operates. They also help your client get clarity over the problem and even evaluate if the problem at hand is the real problem that needs to be solved. For example:

  • How many people work at your organization?
  • When did this problem first emerge?
  • What have you tried to do in the past that didn’t work?
  • What is the size of your mailing list?
  • Why do you think a website will help you get more sales?

Solution Questions

Solution questions help you get on the same page with your client on what needs to happen next.

  • How will you define success?
  • What does success look like?
  • What metrics are you using to measure success?
  • Once we solve this, what new problems might emerge?

Resource Questions

Resource questions are designed to help you qualify your prospect and determine the scope of your work. Usually, there are three key resources you want to inquire about:

  1. People: Who are the key agents working on this project? How will work be divided?
  2. Time: When would you like to get started? When would you like to have the deliverables? How frequently can you meet with our team?
  3. Money: Do you have a budget? If not, you can provide them with a range and see if this is within reach for them.

Decision Questions

Decision questions help us identify how and when decisions are being made. This is especially important when we have multiple steps in larger organizations. We want to understand who is making the decision when the decision is being made, and what criteria they are using to make the decision.

Consultative Sales are a Requirement for Relationship-Based Marketing

When you are in the professional services world, you can’t afford to transactionalize your relationships. Adopting a consultative sales process is not just an option but a necessity for anyone looking to implement a successful Relationship-Based Marketing strategy. It transforms the way you interact with clients, builds trust, and ultimately drives better business outcomes. I urge you to embrace this approach and witness the positive impact it can have on your client relationships and overall business success.

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