Quick and Dirty Guide to Conceptual Selling

June 3, 2023
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What is Conceptual Selling?

Conceptual selling takes on a unique approach to selling, one that might feel unnatural to a new eager sales team professional. The Conceptual Selling methodology focuses on, “how does this product or service relate to the prospects issue or problem at hand?” Conceptual Selling was created to improve the selling process, by creating meaningful conversations between a sales team professional and a prospect.

What Does Conceptual Selling Look Like? 

Do people buy things just because sales reps tells them too? Heck No. In today’s world, people buy services or products for their own reasons and motives. The sales process is about finding out why, diving deeper and identify a root cause or motivator to buy something.  Conceptual Selling is known for having three phases that a sales professional guides a prospect through. 


The three phases of Conceptual Selling include:

Getting Information - Who are they, why are they looking to buy, what are their pain points

Giving Information - What solution do you have for them, how does this fit their needs? what makes this product or service stand out? how will this buy solve their conceptual problem

Getting Commitment - Are they ready to make a purchase, what is their investment level in this business

To get through the three sales process stages, one fundamental skill is necessary: Listening, which is such a critical component. Conceptual Selling process requires a sales team professional to slow down their process, and actually talk less. This is contrary to old school selling techniques, where you are sales planning and pitching your prospect was the number one goal. With this selling methodology, the number one goal is to identify a prospects concept of their own problem and issues. Then, the second goal is to relate this concept directly to the product or service being sold. 


Common Conceptual Selling questions include:

- What is the core reason a prospect is buying something? 

- What thoughts and values is this prospect using to make their decision making process? 

- What buying process fits this prospect the best? How can I understand a prospects problem and relate this to a solution, solved by a product or service being offered here?

Sales reps must combine the sales process with the buying process. This is exactly what this methodology practices. It is about following a prospect along on their journey to becoming a customer (and hopefully stay until their needs are met). 

What are some key things and confirmation questions to keep in mind while practicing Conceptual Selling? First, it is important to keep your approach simple. This can be done by creating a sales process that is adaptable and covers basic points (including 3 phases noted above). Think of this as an outline for a sales methodology… one that is adjusted to meet the unique needs of each prospect. Another key aspect of the sales methodology is to keep in mind is that one must truly understand their prospect. This can be done by learning more about the prospect, asking intelligent and meaningful questions to discover who they are (personally and professionally) and what they need. 

With successful conceptual selling sales methodologies, it is okay to be a bit more personal with a prospect than in a “traditional” selling approach. Consistent best practice behaviors will aid in them having a higher level of trust, therefore being more likely to invest in a service or product. 


When is Conceptual Selling Used? 

Conceptual Selling is used when a prospect has a problem or issue that needs to be uncovered, most of the time below the surface.  When using Conceptual Selling, sales reps professionals will only be sharing relevant information to their prospect, in order to help them solve their problem or issue.  

Some would say that Conceptual Selling can be used with prospects who could be difficult to sell or close a deal with, or prospects who are unclear on what they want and/or need from a product or service. These clients typically take more time to understand their current needs, review and prepare a budget they are comfortable, explore all buyer options, all too land on the best choice for them as a buyer. Because of this, the job of the seller is to guide the prospect through the three Conceptual Selling phases, relate to the buyer on a deeper level and truly understand what they need. 

The beauty of Conceptual Selling is that there is no “right answer” when working with a prospect. That is because, anything can mean something different to each person. This is what makes Conceptual Selling so dynamic and applicable across the sales profession. Whether selling B2B or B2C, Conceptual Selling can be adapted and implemented. 


When should it not be used?

It can be argued that Conceptual Selling should not be used by more “junior” sales professionals. Here is why. Conceptual Selling requires a sales professional to display strong decision-making skills. A sales professional must exhibit an ability to think of their feet and adapt to the needs of the client. Although newer sales professionals do exhibit these skills, it is more common in professionals who have been selling for a few years. 

Conceptual Selling should not be used when salespeople cannot ditch the script and pitch, they use for prospects. In addition, this approach should be ruled out when sales teams truly do not care to learn about the prospect’s ideal solution to their problem. 


Pros and Cons of Conceptual Selling 

One of the positives for Conceptual Selling is that it creates an opportunity to differentiate the product or service at hand. There is an opportunity to build a relationship with the prospect that is missing elsewhere. Use this time to stand out from others. 

Another pro for Conceptual Selling is that it reduces wasted time. Due to the careful discovery of a prospects problem and identified needs to fix this, Conceptual Selling quickly reduced misalignment between what the buyer is after and what the seller is providing. 

As noted above, Conceptual Selling combines two cycles into one journey: the sales cycle and the buyer cycle. As a result, there is a productive use of both parties’ time AND it often aids in moving the sales cycle along (when seen as the right solution). 

One downside of the Conceptual Selling approach is that a sales professional will have to remember more data about a prospective client. This is where a CRM tool comes into play. Keeping track of a prospective client’s basic information and demographics, their professional and personal role and background, problems and issues at hand, etc….. can be A LOT to organize and digest. Using a CRM supports a seller in keeping details on the client organized and easily accessible.  

Lastly, prospects might not be comfortable with the personalization that accompanies Conceptual Selling….leading to difficulties in engagement and following a sales cycle. Therefore, it is the sales professional’s job to gauge their prospect and adapt their methodology as needed to meet their prospect where they are at. 


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