Consultative sellers are like good doctors: they ask questions to get to the root of the problem and solve it.
When was the last time you went to the doctor and they simply prescribed a generic solution without really listening to you?
If it’s happened to you, you understand how frustrating it can be.
To be a consultant for your customers and prospects, you need to ask questions and listen to what they have to say.
That’s why consultative selling questions are such an important part of this methodology.
Let’s find out:
- How to ask consultative sales questions
- 27 consultative selling questions to ask in your sales calls
How to ask consultative sales questions
Remember that you’re not just reading through a list of questions and checking off the boxes.
Consultative selling is about showing genuine interest in your prospect and conversing with them.
If your questions sound more like an interrogation than a conversation, you need to rethink how you’re asking questions.
The key to this is something we’ve mentioned before in this guide (and doggonit, I’m going to say it again): you have to actually care about the people you’re talking to.
Real, genuine curiosity will stop you from asking a list of random questions and motivate you to really converse with a prospect.
Ask follow-up questions when they answer. Dig into what’s really going on beneath the surface. Weave your questions throughout the conversation (this was actually proven to work by our friends at Gong):
This is how consultative sellers ask questions.
So, what questions should you be asking?
27 consultative selling questions to ask in your sales calls
This list is by no means comprehensive, and shouldn’t be taken as a consultative selling script to follow exactly.
That said, these consultative sales questions can help guide you towards the right kind of questions in conversations with prospects.
1. What prompted you to look for a solution now?
This is an excellent question to ask your new inbound leads. Looking for the catalyst event that made them reach out now can tell you how urgently they need a solution, as well as the major pain point they’re looking to solve.
2. What motivated you to take this call with me?
For outbound, this is the alternative to the above question. When you book that meeting after sending a cold email or making cold calls, it’s great to know why they accepted your call. This can tell you both about current issues they want to solve, as well as the piece of your sales pitch that truly resonated with them.
3. How is [problem] causing issues for your team/your business?
There are four main areas where your customers could be experiencing pain:
- Financial pain
- Productivity pain
- Process pain
- Support pain
It’s important for consultative sellers to determine which of these four main customer pain points their prospect is experiencing. This will help them find the solution that best solves their pain.
Example: “You mentioned you’re having trouble smoothing out your hiring process. How is this causing issues for your business? What kind of issues does this cause for you personally?”
4. What’s your biggest obstacle to reaching your goals for this quarter?
While pain is one motivator for purchase, another key motivator is reaching important goals.
Rather than ask generic questions about what’s going on in the team and what they’re doing over the next quarter, dig deeper into what’s stopping them right now.
This question can help you determine a solution that will get them one step closer to reaching their goals.
5. Walk me through how you currently handle [problem].
Consultative selling questions normally avoid yes or no answers and are meant to draw the prospect out and get them talking. In fact, it’s been found that there’s a direct link between the length of time a customer talks during the conversation and the success rate:
This question serves as a signal to your prospects that you’re looking for a long explanation.
Understanding how the prospect currently handles the issues or pain points they’re facing can help you get a better picture of their situation, and possibly help them find a solution they hadn’t thought of before.
6. What’s working with your current solution/process? What’s not working?
Just because your prospect is interested in a new solution, doesn’t mean they’re ready to throw everything they have out the window.
This consultative sales question helps you understand the pieces of their process, workflow, or tool stack that they’re seeing success with. Then, you’ll have a better understanding of where they need help and how your solution will fit with what’s currently working for them.
7. How did you end up with your current solution? What were the deciding factors? Who made that decision?
Knowing the decision-making process of your prospect’s company is important for consultative sellers since you’ll need to include the right people at the right time to close the sale.
8. In an ideal world, what should this process look like? What would you need to accomplish that?
Give your prospect the liberty to use their imagination and build the scenario of their dreams. When you allow them to express their real wants and needs, you can help guide them toward the solution that fits what they actually want, not simply what fits into the constraints of what they (or their managers) think is possible.
9. What’s something you would never want to see changed?
Good consultative sales questions will tell you which hill your deal will die on. What will this prospect fight to keep? Is this something that’s congruent with the solution you’re offering?
10. What concerns do you have about making a change?
Preempt objections with this question. You don’t have to wait for your prospects to voice their concerns when you thought the deal was as good as done. Manage objections early to smooth out the sales process later on.
11. On your list of priorities for this year/quarter, how does solving this problem rank?
Urgency is key to buying, and a consultative seller should know how urgently their prospect needs a solution.
Honesty is key here. If you see that the prospect doesn’t view the purchase as a priority, you can either help them see why it should be by directing their attention to the value, or you can end the process here and agree to follow up down the road when this is a priority.
12. How much of a priority is this to your manager/CEO?
While your main POC might see this as a big priority, you should know early on if there are other people with buying power that still need to be convinced. Then, you can work alongside your prospect to develop a solid business case for the purchase, or help them pull the right data to show why this should matter to the company as a whole. You want to equip your internal champion not just with what they need, but also recruit more internal champions, especially if a large deal is at stake.
13. Where do you see yourself in 6 months if this issue isn’t solved now?
Again, imagination is important. Questions like this can help create urgency in a prospect who doesn’t see the long-term effects of putting off this solution.
14. How do you see your business growing over the next 1 or 2 years? How would that change your needs in this area?
Consultative sellers are focused on the future of their customers, not just closing the sale today.
That’s why it’s important to ask consultative selling questions about the future of the business and its growth.
For example, let’s say you sell a product that’s best for SMBs and small teams. You’re talking with a new startup business that’s a perfect fit for your ideal customer profile. But then, asking these questions, you realize they’ve just landed a round of funding and are planning on hiring aggressively over the next few months.
Sure, they’re a good fit now—but they won’t be tomorrow.
Consultative selling is about asking the right questions and then being open and honest when you see something that might be an issue.
15. What do you find most interesting about our solution?
What’s attracted this prospect to your solution? Which pieces of your product do they really understand, and have they gotten a clear understanding of the key functions of your product?
16. When you’re evaluating a new solution, what are the top 3 things you look for?
This is another great discovery question to help you understand the buying process of the company. Ask follow-up questions to see if this is criteria for the whole team, and who set these criteria.
17. Which other tools are part of your stack? What kind of integrations would you need?
A consultative sales script should include questions about the rest of the tool stack and how it’s currently being used. After all, you can’t effectively advise your prospect on the best way to move forward without knowing the full story of their current tools and how they’re being used.
18. Are you considering other solutions? Why those?
This is not the time to go on the defensive. Listen carefully to truly understand what makes these strong contenders for this prospect’s attention.
19. Tell me something that really stood out to you with [competitor].
Understanding what attracts your prospect to a competing product or service can give you necessary insights into their needs and wants.
Is there a feature that your competitor offers that you don’t? Is their platform a better fit for this customer? Don’t be afraid to lose bad-fit customers to your competitors. It’ll work out best for both parties.
20. What’s your plan B to solve this problem?
There may be a silent plan B in the wings, just waiting to crush your deal at the last minute. Are they thinking of building their own solution in-house? Are they going to mickey-mouse a solution out of Excel and duct tape if they don’t get budget approval from higher-ups?
Knowing the plan B can help a consultative seller to show prospects which is the better solution, and the possible side effects of throwing together a last-minute solution that doesn’t fit their needs.
21. What’s the main metric your team uses to track success? If you found the right solution, what would be the effect on that metric?
Point to real value and actual numbers, and your prospects will have a clearer picture of the results they expect from purchasing your solution.
22. When is your boss/CEO expecting to see improvement in this area?
Knowing what management expects can help you set priorities and schedule your sales cycle correctly.
23. When do you realistically see yourself achieving these goals?
Of course, sometimes management doesn’t really get the timeframe of the end users. That’s why it’s important to compare these two timelines and help bring them into alignment if possible.
24. How would solving this problem affect you/your team?
This question is actually not meant to think about metrics and KPIs, and instead focus on the people. How would the quality of the work improve? What about productivity, job satisfaction, or retention?
25. What obstacles could stop this deal from happening?
What’s standing in the way of you and a closed deal? Learn more about what might put this deal in danger, and how you can work preemptively to solve those issues before they come up.
26. What kind of support/service/help do you need to become insanely successful?
Support is a major customer pain point, and making sure your prospects will have the support they need throughout the buying process and into their lives as customers is essential. Make sure you know what they need and that your solution can provide it.
27. What will it take for you to become a customer?
This is my go-to question to close the deal. I call it going through the virtual close, talking through each step of the process until we arrive at the moment of closing the deal. This helps consultative sellers understand the buying process of their prospects, and work in tandem to complete necessary tasks (such as legal or technical items) to get the deal closed faster.
For consultative selling to work, never stop asking questions
This list is just the start. Remember, you’re having a conversation with your prospects. So, don’t just ask one question and move on to the next: really try to understand what they’re telling you.
One way to do this is to keep asking follow-up questions:
- How does that work? Help me understand this a little better.
- That’s interesting. Can you tell me exactly what you mean by…?
- Do you have an example of that for me?
This shows prospects you really care about getting them the solution they need, not just closing another deal.
So, what does the consultative sales process look like in the real world? Head to Chapter 4 to see real examples of consultative selling.