One of the most important consultative selling techniques is what I call ‘holding back’. People are so used to sales people selling as soon as they get a hint on an interest that the mere act of holding back from selling can be enough to set the sales interaction up to be more consultative. As a result, your prospect will be more likely to feel comfortable volunteering information and trusting your advice.
Hold back when a client expresses an interest

In consultative selling, the selling should start once we are ready to recommend a solution. When the prospect first expresses an interest it is far too early to be able to know what we are selling or, more importantly, how best to sell our solution. We should hold back, discover, and then sell.

Compare these two scenarios where a customer has entered a computer superstore in search of a laptop:
Scenario 1

Customer: “I need a laptop – which one do you recommend?”

Sales person: “Well the best one on the market is the xxxxxxxxx. It can do the most amazing things. It has an aaaaaaa and a bbbbbbb which means you can cccccccc”

Can you see that this the sales person is not being consultative at all? The focus is on the laptop and the sales person is trying to sell the features and benefits. How does the sales person know how the customer will benefit without understanding what they want to do with the laptop?
Scenario 2

Customer: “I need a laptop – which one do you recommend?”

Sales person: “We have lots of great laptops but the one I recommend will depend on what you want to do with it. Do you mind me asking why you need a laptop?”

Customer: “Well, I have just started a business and need to be able to dddddddd and eeeeeeee”

Sales person: “What about ffffffff? Is that something you are going to need to do?”

You can see here, in this rather abbreviated example, the sales person is seeking to understand not only what the customer wants but why they want it, so as to give to give the best recommendation whilst emphasising the features and benefits relevant to the customer’s needs and wants.
A more sophisticated example

If we go from a simple thing like selling a laptop to something more sophisticated like selling consulting services, the same rules apply. For example:

Customer: “Can you tell me how much you charge for your services?”

Sales person: “Certainly but first I will need to ask you a couple of questions because our work is very much project based. Do you mind me asking what you are looking to achieve?”

By holding back from talking about price and instead focusing on why the prospect has expressed an interest, the consultative selling process can begin. The sales person, in this interaction, has avoided a common trap and has steered the conversation away from money and towards a conversation where they can discover the information required to propose a suitable solution.
Practicing this consultative selling technique

Next time you hear a buying signal, pause, take a step back and get curious as to why they have expressed an interest.