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Profiling the consultive salesperson

In the second of my series on types of salespeople, the focus is the quadrant 2 (QII) consultive salesperson. Consultive salespeople are amongst the most difficult to find because it is a conceptual sale, focusing more on business outcomes or results, than product features and benefits. Unlike closers, consultive salespeople often move comfortably into management roles.
The consultive salesperson is required if a product is an advanced, high-tech “system” or business solution that must be integrated into the customer's present operation. These systems often replace older, established systems. They provide more cost effectiveness or expanded capacity.

Customers are typically inexperienced in the new technology. The purchase decision is complex, since it represents a change from current operations and involves multiple decision-makers who must decide on different feature and option alternatives. Customer needs include design assistance, basic use and benefit education, installation, employee user training, and service support throughout implementation.

Fulfilment approach (high-tech & high-touch):


Requirements QII consultive solutions
Seller's company imageExpertise and competence; high-tech/state-of-the-art; serving leading companies
Lead generating methods Offer free educational information; place bylined articles in professional journals; offer booklets, seminars, and how-to-manuals
Qualifying criteriaA lukewarm market; prospects value benefit but question supplier's method of accomplishing the benefit
New business presentationsDemonstrate initial concept to high level decision makers; educate customer in the basic concepts; offer case history support; provide a team to design a tailored solution; focus on growth opportunity or profit improvement
Solid answers to natural objectionsobjection: customers worry about interruption of operations; response: convince customer that improvement will be more than worth the trouble of interruptions
Closing techniquesAgree on a concept or pilot test; sign letters of agreement; develop project schedule agreeable to customer
Customer relationsContinue patient, one-on-one education; information mailings
Customer serviceDesign and install the system; train the customer's users; provide follow-up and system maintenance; track benefits to demonstrate; wisdom of the customer's decision; find areas for further improvement
ResaleTend to be project-oriented; little chance to sell same product or service to same customer; sell expanded system or new products or additional services to other divisions; eventually change to relationship; Selling as internal customer; expertise develops


Sales force approach (high-tech & high-touch):


Requirements QII consultive solutions
Type of salespersonConsultive
Traits & characteristicsBusiness oriented; career advancement driven; team “quarterback”; academic and conceptual overview; patient and tolerant of the inexperienced
Sales styleTechnically expert; competent as a business or project manager; confident of the benefits
Sales focusEducate and train customer; listen, uncover and resolve objections; supervise project; manage customer satisfaction
RoleAccount team manager
Technical abilityBe technical expert
Training Technical; application potential in the market; group presentations; consultive selling skills; project management
Length of time to closeSix months plus
Length of contact after closeUntil product/system is working and customer sees benefits
Corporate support and structure“extensive”; engineering; service; marketing: literature/presentations

About Peter Gilbert

A sales veteran with over 30 years of experience, Peter Gilbert is MD of HR Chally SA (www.challysa.co.za), an international sales consulting company specialising in talent management and recruitment. He is passionate about sales as a profession and the identification of real sales talent who can really sell! Email him at
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