The Hardest Consultative Selling Skill

Asking the Tough Questions


From Safe to Real

Consultative selling means acting like a doctor in your area of specialty. Consultative selling requires us to move from that which is known, intellectual and safe, to that which is unexamined, emotional and vulnerable

At the amateur level, we move along the surface and get more facts.

Many salespeople do not progress beyond the amateur level, because most of us are comfortable collecting more facts but are unwilling to go deeper and strip away enough layers to get to the personal, emotional level.

I was personally the poster child for this lack of consultative skill.

The Happy Valley Trailer Park

When I first hung out my shingle as a sales trainer, I landed an appointment with an insurance salesman. I met with him at his home in The Happy Valley Trailer Park.

For two hours I sat there while he told me that every financially successful insurance salesperson he knew had:

  • Had a heart attack
  • Got divorced
  • Got promoted and now works too much and his family hates him
  • Was in some way worse off than he was at The Happy Valley Trailer Park

I left without his even once suggesting that anything was wrong with his life.

Do Over

The next week, I had a similar meeting with a retired senior federal employee who owned a tax consulting franchise. He told me for ten minutes how great he was at selling in his thirty years of government service.

I was determined to break through the defensive barrier this time, so I stood up and went to the white board.

I drew two circles and said, “Let’s simplify your business to a two-link chain. One link is your ability to sell and one link is the service you offer. Only one of those links is the weak link.

Based on what you’ve told me, the sales link is a 10. So, I don’t think I can help in any way. The weak link is the service. Fair?”

There was a long and very uncomfortable silence. He finally said, “That can’t be true.”

I said, “Why not?”

He said, “Because I bought my business at the same time several other people did and they are all making over $300K per year now. The problem must be my sales skill.”

Asking Tough Questions

I did business with the second man, and to this day he gives us more credit than we deserve for the eventual success of his business.

The first guy is probably still in the trailer park. And whose fault is that?

I was the weak link.

It may be hard to ask the tough questions, but it is irresponsible not to.

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