Transactional Selling vs. Consultative Selling

How to choose the best sales approach for your business.

For anybody in sales or in business, your world in 2020 just got a lot harder in comparison to previous years.

You’re now trying to survive the effects of this pandemic whilst actually working on your proposition and adapting to the new normal. 

You’re learning to get to grips with zoom calls and working remotely on your dining room table with the kids running around in the background in and out of school. 

A lot of things are unclear and uncertain but one thing that does remain constant is change. 

We either adapt to survive or become extinct. 

In this article I will discuss how you can become better at lead generation AND how to ace closing deals with a sophisticated modern customer.  These techniques will help you not only to survive, but to thrive in a post-pandemic environment.

I will go back to basics, and talk about two fundamental components of a thriving business. People and relationships. 

Whether we go back to meeting our customers face to face or we communicate with them online, the principle still applies. People and relationships before sales and numbers. 

From this article you will learn how to become more consultative and build lasting relationships with your customers.  We will cover:

→ What’s the difference between consultative selling and transactional selling

→ what modern technology can teach us about selling more effectively 

→ an example of a consultative sale done really well 

→ the 5  differentiators of transactional selling vs consultative selling 

→ 5 top tips for being more consultative 

→ when transactional selling is appropriate 

Bonus: Don’t forget to read till the very end to take part in the challenge I have set you. It works best if you have read the article and taken in the information before  attempting the task.

What’s the difference between consultative selling and transactional selling?

The short version is, transactional selling is all about this one short term sale. Get the deal done and move on. Consultative selling is about the longevity of the customer relationship and the greater opportunities on the horizon beyond this sale here and now. It’s about serving the customer and solving their problems. 

Businesses solve problems.

In a world today where it feels like we’re always being sold to, it’s hard to know what to buy, how to buy it and where to buy it from. Even phones have become professional sales people, they are always listening and watching our every move and never fail to present us with that excellent Groupon or Amazon deal that you feel compelled to buy. 

In fact there is a lot we can learn from our phones actually. Stay with me here, I promise I didn’t spend 12 years in sales learning the skill of selling from my phone.

What modern technology can teach us about how to sell more effectively

Smartphones are getting smarter. As I mentioned, they have turned into freelance sales advisers for every company out there trying to grab your attention. 

I am sure you know the drill by now of how it works on social media… the platforms, apps and websites are learning about you every single day. They know your likes and dislikes, where you shop, where you are, what you buy and they even know what you might like to buy next!

social media

The point is that your phone is listening to you and communicating with you.  Whereas some human salespeople lose out because they are not paying enough attention to the customers they have right in front of them. 

Do you feel like you understand your customers’ needs?

Now, let’s apply this to your conversations with customers or potential customers. Do you feel like you’ve hit the nail on the head every time?  Are you making it super smooth and easy for your customer to hand over their credit card details? 

The chances are, you probably don’t feel like that every time. 

To see how this works in action, let’s look at the example of when we buy a mattress once every 8 years. Oh, you didn’t know you had to change your mattress that often? If you take nothing else away from this article, you can have that top tip for free 😉 

Make a note “change 20 year old mattress this weekend”. 

I digress.  Let’s get back on track…

A consultative sale done really well...


Mattress sales are often one-off purchases that happen very infrequently. You walk into a shop, toss and turn on a few mattresses, find the right one for you and off you go home for a snooze. You may return 10 years later (now that you know you need to change your mattress more often) and you will likely see a completely different sales adviser. 

That’s a transactional sale. You walk in and you walk out. Deal done. 

Typically this type of selling is often seen where you’re making one-off purchases and it is usually related to a product you need right away. The only variables are deciding which shop to buy it from, choosing the best product for you and also finding the best deal.

Enter the consultative salesperson. 

Here is what makes all the difference. Many mattress stores or even mobile phone stores look the same. The products are displayed all over the store for you to play with. Someone then comes along saying “Would you like any help?” and you typically shy away and say “no thanks we’re just looking” am I right? 

However, for those curious to really discover the best product, best price and get the most information, will sit down with the nice salesperson. 

You’re now entering consultative selling territory. Are you still with me? 

So to recap…. the transactional sale is to walk in, pick a mattress, pay, walk out, snooze. 

Now we’re entering consultative selling… 

The nice adviser starts to ask questions whilst having made a mental note of the mattresses you have been pretending to sleep on. 

Take my example when I recently changed my mattress. The sales adviser greeted me and said “Madam, is there anything I can help with? I noticed you going back and forth between these two specific beds and you seem confused. Can I help you decide?” 

This. Is. Gold-dust. 

I crown him, winner of the best opening pitch! 

Of course I was in the market to buy. He greeted me with an assumptive close because why else would I have been testing all the mattresses? It’s not how I would usually spend my Saturdays, so the only assumption he could have accurately made is… she is ready to buy something but doesn’t know which one yet. 

What sets him apart? His intentions were clear from the start. He was in the business of helping people. He asked many open questions to explore what my likes and dislikes were, what my problems were, what my budget was etc. 

For example he asked: 

  • How would you describe your mattress at the moment? 
  • How long have you had it? 
  • What are you looking for in a mattress? 
  • Which side do you sleep on? 
  • one of my favourite questions: when you wake up in the morning how do you feel? What hurts if anything when you wake up in the morning? 


This helped him uncover all the features and objectives of my ideal bed which then helped him present the ideal mattress for me. This was magical because, he was able to gain my trust and rapport very quickly. Secondly, he was better informed so that he could show me exactly what I have been looking for. 

Did I buy it? Yes, plus I also walked away with two top-of-the-range pillows. That’s right… his magic question “when you wake up in the morning how do you feel? What hurts if anything when you wake up in the morning?” taught me that my old pillow was not optimal for my sleeping position.  So I had to buy a new pillow too.

This is the power of consultative selling. It’s about what you can do for the customer. 

What would this type of selling do for your business? How do you feel you can benefit from pleasing the customers 100% of the time?

5 key differentiators between transactional sales and consultative sales.

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We’ve seen examples of both styles of selling. But where do you start? Here is a summary of the top 5 key differentiators of transactional selling vs consultative selling: 

  1. Short term versus long term relationship
  2. Your agenda versus the customer’s agenda 
  3. Selling what you need to sell versus what the customers wants 
  4. Winning the sale versus solving the problem for the customer 
  5. Focus on the results versus focusing on the relationship 


So what can you do about this? 

The good news is you can start to be a better salesperson at every single opportunity you get to speak to a potential new customer. If your last call was not as you’d hoped, learn from it and apply your new skills and knowledge to the next one.

5 top tips to be more consultative in your sales approach

The next time you’re faced with a telephone call or a meeting with a customer, try this instead: 

  1. Ask many questions BEFORE delivering your super snazzy jazzy pitch. Find out what the customers want. 
  2. Focus on solving the customer’s problems. Get creative with trying to find solutions 
  3. Give the customer what they want. If they say they want a basic standard phone for £20p.m then don’t start pitching the latest shiny smartphone with ultra HD camera and stylus pen for £70 p.m . That’s not what they want! 
  4. Explain the results and benefits they will get not just the features! If they want the latest, coolest camera on their smart phone don’t talk about pixels and all the technical jargon… get them to take a picture! Get them to take a selfie and judge the results for themselves to see how good the quality really is. 
  5. And finally, find common ground with your customer. Get to know them and let them know something about you too. They are looking to do business with someone they like. People buy from people. 


If you’re a service based business i.e. an accountant, mortgage broker, solicitor etc, then what would make that customer work with you instead of the competitor next door? What makes you different? I bet it won’t be your fee, your stylish office or your super cool suit, I bet it will be based on your personality, likability and your expertise.

When is transactional selling appropriate?

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Let’s not completely disregard transactional sales though. There is time and place for this. This method is centred around :

info graphic for transactional selling

Challenge time. Try this exercise


A useful exercise would be to discuss this with your partners and colleagues. Have a brainstorming session about what your colleagues think the differences are and what method they think they are applying. 

As a business, the sales process needs to feel seamless across the company. If you have different people using different methods, this creates confusion for your brand and therefore your customer. You want consistency. A good sales force is a united force.

The question is, are you all going to unite in transactional selling or consultative selling? 

Consultative selling is a little more complex than transactional selling. Consultative selling requires training, learning and practice. You can’t just switch from years of transactional selling to now mastering consultative selling. 

Some tips have been shared with you in this article which is a good starting point. These top tips will help you reshape your mindset and your attitude towards selling. 

Next you need to invest in training. This could either be in the form of a workshop or working with a mentor/coach. If you or someone in your team is constantly faced with objections (in particular about the price point) then it is a sign that you haven’t held a conversation around value. 

These objections are often indicators that the customer doesn’t truly understand the value of what you are selling therefore they are unwilling to part with their money. This is your queue to upskill and invest in some training. 

If you want to take your learning and development to the next level then we are here to elevate you at

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