The term consultative selling can get thrown around a lot. But what exactly does that mean? To bring clarity to that question, we will take a step back and compare consultative sales with a more traditional type of selling, and in this exercise, we will call that product selling.

One big difference between consultative selling and product selling is that consultative sales is more focused on the prospect, and product selling is more focused on the product.

When we say focused on the prospect, we are referring to a sales approach where one tries to learn and understand the prospect’s needs first and then tries to provide a solution that aligns with those needs.

Product selling is more of an approach that just focuses on explaining the product and features available and tries to persuade the buyer into wanting or needing the product that the salesperson sells.

When we break it down like that, it is pretty easy to see why consultative selling can be a more effective, more professional, and more ethical way to try to sell to prospects.

To help you see how you might transition from product selling to more of a consultative sales approach, here are some more specific examples of what a salesperson might do when trying to sell to a prospect using a product selling approach.

Product Selling

  • Focuses on talking about the product
  • “All about me” approach
  • Assumes that every prospect needs the product
  • Tries to sell the product to every prospect
  • Focuses on selling products to prospects
  • Tries to sell the product at every sales process step
  • The salesperson does most of the talking
  • Pitch centers around explanations and descriptions
  • Talks about the product to try to make the prospect interested
  • Focuses on the salesperson’s interests
  • Tries to overcome objections

Here are characteristics of what a salesperson might do when using a consultative sales approach.


Consultative Selling

  • Focuses on talking about the prospect
  • “All about the prospect” approach
  • Questions if the prospect needs the product
  • Tries to find prospects that are a good fit
  • Focused on providing solutions to prospect’s needs
  • Trying to sell the next step in the sales process
  • The prospect does most or an equal amount of talking
  • Pitch centers around probing sales questions
  • Talks about benefits, problems, ROI, and client examples to make prospects interested
  • Focuses on the prospect’s interests
  • Tries to redirect objections

Each of those characteristics is basically the opposite of the same point on the other side. You may prefer one side over the other, but if you can see how consultative selling might be a more effective way to go, stop to think about what you do or how you interact with prospects in these areas and make small changes that shift you to being more about the prospect than the product, and this will take you in more of a consultative direction.