Sales Skills for Non-Salespeople

Using "Consultative Selling" to Pitch Your Idea or Product

Sales skills are useful whatever the role you're in.

© iStockphoto/shironosov

Are you trying to convince your manager to develop a new product, but can't get him or her to take things further? Or, would you like to introduce a new system into your team but can't get people's support? Perhaps you come into contact with clients and have the opportunity to sell new products and services – if so, do you know how to be an effective salesperson without having to resort to pushy sales tricks?

It's good to know some sales techniques, even if you don't work in a formal sales role. Whether you're trying to convince a new person to join your organization, or describing a new product to a client over a catch-up call, knowing how to sell is a great ability to have, and it's one that's sure to be respected strongly within your company.

In this article, we'll look at the consultative sales model, and examine how you can apply it to sell an idea, product, or service. We'll look at how to prepare, what to say, and how to handle questions and objections so that your next "sale" will be a success.

Consultative Selling

In consultative selling you act as a consultant: you help identify the needs of your client (in this case, your team, boss, or external customers), and then suggest products and solutions that meet those needs.

Consultative selling demands a higher level of trust and credibility than some other sales models. So, it's a great model to use simply because that foundation of trust is probably already there – if you're selling an idea to the executive board, your boss, your team, or current clients and customers, you've hopefully got a good relationship already in place, and you can use this to your advantage.

Also, because consultative selling focuses on helping your audience (rather than helping yourself to make a "sale"), it's more natural and intuitive. So it's easier to use if you're not a natural salesperson.


Whether you're selling an idea, a project, a product, or even a job in your organization, you must enter that situation with an expert understanding of your audience, and of what they care about.

So effective selling means lots of preparation, meaning that much of your work will come before your speak to the people you're selling to.

Follow these tips to help in your preparation process:

  • Identify your target audience – With whom will you speak? Is it your boss, a key client, or your team? And is just one person involved in the purchase, or do you need to influence other stakeholders in his or her organization?
  • Identify key drivers – You must understand what's driving your audience. For instance, if your organization's goal is to increase profits by 10 percent this year, how will your product/idea/project help them accomplish that goal?
  • Identify the language that people use – If you're addressing a technical audience, be prepared to present using technical language and ideas. If you're selling to finance people, use numbers and data to craft your message.
  • Determine exactly what you're "selling" – Is it a new feature that you want added to the company's payroll process? A new product idea? A new reporting process for your department's most important client? Identify what it is, and learn as much as you can about it.
  • Connect your audience and your product with benefits – Great marketers and salespeople understand that there's a distinct difference between features and benefits. This is because your audience cares about only one thing: "What's in it for me?" So, it's crucial to know the key differences:

    • Features are what your product or idea does. For instance, the new accounting software you want everyone to use is fast and easy, and it has real-time reporting. These are the features of the software.
    • Benefits are what those features mean to your audience. For instance, the accounting software's benefits are that people will have more time to do other tasks, they'll be less stressed when they're using the program, and they'll get up-to-date information from the system.

    Features are boring, and people have to think quite hard to see the possibilities within them. But when you translate those features into benefits, you make an emotional connection with your audience.

    When you're doing your pre-meeting preparation, focus on identifying the benefits of your idea or product, so that you can communicate that information to your audience.

  • Understand the needs of your target audience – Identify problems that your product or idea will help solve, and needs that it will address. This will directly impact the way you pitch, or sell, your idea. If you're speaking with people who are not in your industry, make sure you use words and terms they can understand.
  • Highlight your Unique Selling Proposition   (USP) – People buy the best possible solution that meets their needs and their budget. Make sure that you highlight what makes your product, idea, or project uniquely relevant to them.


The more you practice your presentation   or pitch, the more comfortable you'll feel when you actually deliver it. Practice what you're going to say as much as possible.

During the "Pitch"

Here are a few guidelines to follow during your pitch:

  • Have a conversation – You want to connect with your audience, so your presentation or pitch should feel more like a conversation. It may be unappealing to your audience – and to you – to get up in front of people and "sell" them something. But you can talk enthusiastically about an idea or product that you really believe in, and you can then discuss how it will help your audience.
  • Ask questions – Involving your audience is key to keeping them engaged. If you meet with someone individually, like a client or your boss, then be sure to listen as much as you talk. If you're presenting to a group, invite questions at key stages during the presentation.
  • Focus on "helping" instead of "selling" – Consultative selling means that you identify what your audience needs. Focus on these, and keep your own goals and agenda out of the conversation.
  • Watch body language – Pay attention to everyone's body language   during your pitch. If people start to look bored or move their hands and feet a lot, then you need to finish, or move onto the next part of your pitch.

Dealing with Objections

No matter what you're pitching, your audience will probably have some objections or reservations. If you haven't prepared for this, then it may cause you to become frustrated and lose some control. That's why knowing how to think on your feet   to overcome these objections is so important.

It's helpful to realize that objections aren't a definite "no." They show that your audience is willing to ask questions and state their concerns. So, objections are your opportunity to address their fears, reassure them, and move forward positively.

Whenever your audience presents an objection, you should ask questions. For instance, if your boss says the new process you've created will be too expensive to implement right now, you may choose one of these responses:

  1. "It is expensive, but how much does it cost us each week to deal with this issue? And if we do nothing, how much will it cost us over the next year?"
  2. "You're right, this will be an expensive process to implement company-wide. What if we start with just one department to see how much it improves productivity?"

When you approach objections with questions, it helps you find the real root of the issue. It also shows your client or audience that you are aware of their concerns, and that you want to work with them to find a solution.

Closing the Sale

If you don't get a decision on the day, give your audience time to think about things. But don't leave this open-ended. Your chances of a successful sale drop dramatically if you don't get some kind of commitment from them.

So, as you're finishing your pitch, set a specific date or time to speak with them again. This will also give you the opportunity to tailor your pitch if required, based on any issues or objections they may have.

If you discover that your product or idea truly isn't a good fit with your audience, then withdraw gracefully. People rarely do this, so it may be a pleasant surprise to your audience, and they'll likely be more receptive the next time you speak to them.


No matter what you're selling, there are going to be key stakeholders you need on your side for your idea or project to succeed. This is why stakeholder management is so important. These key players can make or break your sale!

Our article, Stakeholder Management  , will help you learn how to manage your communication and relationship with these key players.

Key Points

Many of us need to use sales techniques sometimes. So, learning how to prepare and pitch your idea or product effectively is a great skill to have. As a non-salesperson, the consultative selling model is an effective model to use, because it uses trust and respect as its foundation.

A good rule for successful selling is to ensure that you put in plenty of preparation time. Practice your pitch, and make sure you fully understand the benefits, not just the features, of your product or idea.

Keep your pitch like a conversation, pay attention to body language for clues that your audience may be getting bored, and view objections as opportunities to put people's minds at rest.

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Comments (7)
  • Dennise wrote Over a month ago
    Great post! Yes I agree. Don’t just sell your product using the usual way to sell it. You will just sound boring to the customers. If they got bored, it will just end up to rejection. We have to develop more strategies and not to sell in a pushy way. It won’t help us. I will apply consultative selling starting tomorrow on my selling. I know this one will work. That’s why also joined last week a platform that helps me connect with more of the salespeople and big companies. I want to practice my selling more that’s why I keep on reading blogs like this and joining those platforms that can help me to get more updated of the jobs that I want without the fear of losing my current job. Invisume gave the assurance that I can have the privacy that my current company cannot track that I’m applying for extra job. Thanks once again for this great insight, Ill wait for your next post.
  • sam_dubai wrote Over a month ago
    Hi James,

    Thanks for your reply. I will probably need to dig deeper into this area and learn more. I will go through the article and apply it on my organization.

  • James wrote Over a month ago
    Hi Sam

    You're absolutely right about the value of relationship building, and yes, I fully understand that many companies trade with weak or non-existent USPs...

    However, it's so much easier to sell with an honest, robust USP - you go from "fighting over the scraps" to being the natural choice, and that makes such a difference to your sales conversion percentage, and to the potential profitability of your company.

    The good news is that many companies can find USPs if they put their mind to it, and if they accept that USPs may be complex and may require some hard, sustained work. Take a look at our USP Analysis article at ... TMC_11.php , as well as the whole "Understanding Competitive Advantage" submenu of the strategy menu to see more about this. Honestly, if you can get this right, life will be so much easier.

    Hope this helps!

  • Yolande wrote Over a month ago
    Hi Sam

    Oh yes - you are right - some clients enjoy doing that! Handling it in a professional manner like you do, is the only thing to do then. As you said, handling such situations correctly also earns you the trust (and probably the business) of your clients.

    Kind regards
  • sam_dubai wrote Over a month ago
    Hi Yolande,

    I totally agree with you. It sounds cheap to do so. Sales professionals do not do that. Strategically speaking though, sometimes at complicated situations you will find yourself in a position where you must point out weaknesses in your competitor's offer. If I have to do that I always make sure that my client understands that I respect this particular competitor and in pointing out the weaknesses of their offer I'm only showing him/her how their product does not meet his or her requirements not really trying to ruin their reputation. And I always earn my clients trust for that.

    The fact of the matter is, sometimes potential clients enjoy playing sales people off against each other! And... you have to live with that:)

  • Yolande wrote Over a month ago
    Hi Sam

    I really enjoyed your posting - many thanks for sharing some of your experience with us. It is precisely this type of sharing that makes the forums such a wonderful place to chat to other like-minded individuals.

    I especially enjoyed your third point about showing your face often. There is no substitute for building relationships with your clients - whether you are in sales or not. The other thing you mentioned that I find very important (which is also an ethical issue) is not to bad mouth your competitors. I've always found that the moment a salesperson bad mouth their competitors, I start doubting either the company or product of the salesperson.

    Kind regards
  • sam_dubai wrote Over a month ago
    I find the article informative and straight forward. My comment here will only be relevant to people involved in selling themselves. I thought the skills mentioned in the article there also apply for sales poeple and when I read about the USP thing I thought I would share the following with you:

    A big challenge might emerge is how to create a USP when the product you are selling is actually not really different than the competitor's. You see, not all products originate from new ideas and your company might be copying or adopting an idea which has been successful with other companies. I'm sure all sales people want to sell unique products but a lot of them find themselves in a position where they are selling a "Me too" product. So when faced with a clever customer who asks you how your product is different than the competitor's you should bring their attention to other benefits that your competitors may lack. Actually, your strategy should be to sell yourself rather than your product. In other words, you should turn the customer attention to the benifits they will get in dealing with you/your company when they buy your product. How?

    1- Talk about the stability, reputation and experience of your company and show them list of happy clients. This may make the customer more comfortable in buying from you than the competitors.
    2- Demonstrate high level of experience in your field. This will keep a good impression on the customer and they will feel more confident if they buy from an experienced sales person.
    3- Show your face often and keep contact with your client and follow up on the sale. This shows that you are really interested to win your client satisfaction.
    4- Be presentable yourself, talk clearly and profissionally and be extra polite. Poeple like to buy from polite and profissional sales poeple.
    5- Prove to your customer that you will provide excellent after-sale service. Provide evidence of previous projects where you personally were invloved in the after-sale service for your clients.
    6- Build a personal relationship with your customer. Show him that you are interested in him/her as a person. and that your are interested in their needs as a company. This will do wonders!
    7- If you should point out weaknesses in your competitors offer. Do not undermine the product( no point in undermining a product similar to yours), rather focus their attention on the experience of the sale people, on their sales strategies and on previous failures if they really had ones. But you have to be profissional in doing so, after all we all makes mistakes and you should not exagurate this or you will risk being too pushy to get the sale.

    Hope this helps other fellow sales professionals!


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