Don’t be a selfish jerk. It’s pretty simple career and life advice, you’d think.

However, when it comes to sales, many people almost expect reps to be self-serving, pushy and aggressive in pursuit of a deal. This negative sales stereotype has been around for years, but it’s becoming less and less relevant today with the adoption of consultative selling.

In recent years, sales has changed for the better. High pressure sales just isn’t a good business strategy anymore. In a world of easily-canceled Software-as-a-Service contracts and instant customer feedback on social media, you can’t afford to anger your customers by misleading them or ripping them off during the sales process. It may benefit you in the short term by winning the deal, but in the long term, you will regret it.

With this serious shift in sales, successful reps have learned that being selfish just doesn’t pay. In fact, the best sales reps aren’t only working hard to close deals, they’re also genuinely trying to help their prospects succeed. With consultative selling, reps must offer prospects advice and education before they earn the right to close a deal and gain a new customer. In order to be truly successful in sales, reps have to give much more than they take.

First, Give Value

Today’s sales reps can’t simply call a prospect and insist they sign a deal on the spot — they’ll just be hung up on. Reps have to get to know prospects and gradually build a positive relationship over a series of engagements. In order to earn a prospect’s trust and respect, you have to first offer them sales value and prove your worth to them. In B2B sales, this could be anything from offering a free eBook on a topic of interest to the prospect, or giving them solid advice on how to better run their business.

Sales reps should become subject matter experts in their specific field, so they can offer prospects accurate advice and best practices on how to run their business. This approach is often called consultative selling, where you offer prospects a type of free business consulting in return for a chance to sell to them. If, for example, you’re selling business analytics software, you should fully understand how analytics can drive business growth, and show prospects how this will make their lives easier and their businesses more successful.

Then, Work to Sell

Part of the advice you’re giving to prospects through consultative selling should, of course, always tie back to your product directly. If you’re selling business analytics software, you should give prospects valuable information about using analytics, and then point to the product as the solution to help them better utilize analytics. No prospect expects you to be offering this advice for free, although some people may take advantage of your advice, never intending buy your product. That is unfortunately a risk you’ll have to take, if you want to close the deal.

However, if you offer prospects the right value and subtly lead them down the path to buy, you will see a much higher rate of success. Great reps are able to teach prospects the value of their product until the only logical conclusion is to buy. You start out with a general business problem, zero in on the prospect’s personal pain point, and then show them the ease of your product’s solution.

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Finally, Win the Deal

Once you’ve given prospects valuable information and convinced them that your product can help them succeed, only then do you get your reward. With consultative selling, you have to give prospects a lot of information, attention and assistance before you get what you want from the interaction. Signing a deal with a prospect is the culmination of all of the value you’ve given to the prospect. However, it’s never going to be a 1 to 1 ratio. They should be getting more value out of the interactions than you do. Your only reward at the end of the day is winning the deal and closing new business.

Sales today is tougher than ever, and prospects know when they’re being sold to. However, if you use consultative selling tactics to sincerely help prospects and give freely of your time and knowledge, you will be able to win the deal.

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