The death of consultative selling are premature

By Michael Leimbach, PhD

If you have been following sales training articles and blogs recently, you would think that the role of salesperson as consultant and trusted advisor is dead. These articles suggest that the ideal salesperson acts as if customers are wrong about their “real” problems and challenges customers about their knowledge and assumptions.

Now, it is true that a sales consultant should challenge a customer’s assumptions or facts when they may be wrong. But the effective consultant understands the difference between customers who need their assumptions challenged and those who are knowledgeable about their needs. While understanding strategy and challenging customers’ assumptions is critical, this is not a “style” of selling that has replaced the role of salesperson as consultant.

Having effective consulting skills is essential for selling today. Sales consultants provide added value by understanding the customer’s business, industry, and competitive landscape. They discover how the selling organization can play a strategic role in the customer’s business, are able to communicate credibly with the customer’s senior executives, and push back when the customer makes incorrect assumptions or reaches inaccurate conclusions. Effective sales consultants discern what influences the customer’s buying behaviors, anticipate those needs, and respond strategically. Consultants understand how the customer uses their product or service over time and establish profitable associations between and within the buying and selling organizations. In this context, the salesperson becomes a business consultant, promoting the business objectives of the customer, providing innovative ideas and solutions, and challenging the customer to think differently when needed.


Michael Leimbach, PhD

Michael Leimbach, PhD, is a globally recognized expert in instructional design and leadership development. As Vice President of Global Research and Development for Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc., he has worked with numerous Global 1000 organizations in Australia, England, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and throughout the United States. Over more than 30 years, Dr. Leimbach had developed Wilson Learning’s diagnostic, learning, and performance improvement capabilities, published over 100 professional articles, coauthored four books, been Editor-in-Chief for the highly acclaimed ADHR research journal, and is a frequent speaker at national and global conferences. He also serves on the ISO Technical Committee (TC232) on Quality Standards for Learning Service Providers and on the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development Dean’s Advisory Board.