What if I told you that you could sell a product without ever talking about what that product actually is?

You’d probably think that’s nearly impossible. Who is going to buy something without knowing all the ins and outs of what it is, how it works, and why it’s beneficial?

But that’s exactly what conceptual selling is. 

With a conceptual selling process, sales professionals focus on selling the idea of something rather than the product itself — and it’s not as complicated as it may seem. Let’s dig into what conceptual selling is, how it can be used, and how to make it work for your sales team. 

What is conceptual selling?

Conceptual selling focuses on selling a product or service as a solution to a problem the prospect is experiencing. The salesperson focuses on selling the concept of the product or service rather than the product or service itself. 

Here’s an example. 

Let’s say you’re selling a car. Your prospect needs a new vehicle, but they also need a car that is safe, will last, and accommodates their family needs. 

You could sell a vehicle based on price or features, but these approaches could make it difficult for the buyer to understand the true value of the purchase.  With conceptual selling, you’d focus on building a story around how the vehicle will be used to solve their issues. 

Rather than pitching the price or features, you might highlight the safety or durability of the vehicle, or how it can fit a large family. You’re pitching the concept of the vehicle. 

Key elements of conceptual selling

Here are the key elements of conceptual selling. 

1. Focus on the concept, not the pitch 

Conceptual selling believes that people buy for the solution, not the product or service. This means the first step of successful conceptual selling is to understand what that concept is. 

Understand the issues the prospect is facing, then determine how the concept of what you’re selling will help solve or eliminate those problems. 

2. Acknowledge the sales process and the buying process

Most sales professionals prioritize the sales process when trying to close a deal — and it makes sense why they would. They’re familiar with the sales process and it’s the side of the transaction they have control over. 

But the buying process is just as — and maybe even more — important. 

Conceptual selling needs to put the sales process and the buying process on equal footing. When you understand the process the buyer is following as you’re pitching, you can better address their needs and concerns.

3. Create a win-win scenario 

Conceptual selling doesn’t prioritize closing the deal — it focuses on getting the customer the product or service that best aligns with their needs. 

With conceptual selling, you need to figure out what scenario allows both you and the customer to “win.”

4. Forget the idea of a one-size-fits-all pitch

Every customer is going to have different needs and problems, which means a generic one-size-fits-all pitch isn’t going to land with every prospect you talk to. 

Your pitch should be customized to align with the kind of solutions your prospect needs. With this, it can be compared to consultative sales approaches like Challenger Sales or Baseline Selling.

Who should use conceptual selling?

Conceptual selling isn’t right for every sales process. Here are the scenarios where conceptual selling works best: 

  • Service-based solutions. Services are often abstract offerings that can be difficult to pitch based on features or benefits. Conceptual selling helps describe how a service-based solution will help the prospect in a way other sales methodologies can’t. 
  • Continuous buying cycles. Conceptual selling focuses on the long-term impact a purchase has on the customer, meaning it’s a great solution for sales processes that involve repeated or continuous buying cycles, such as subscription models. 

Best practices in conceptual selling

Ready to create a conceptual sales process for your business? Here are the best practices to follow to set yourself up for success. 

1. Be a good listener 

In order to sell the concept that will convince your prospect to buy, you need to understand the pain points they’re experiencing. This means prioritizing listening, not talking. 

Ask questions and encourage your prospect to share their experiences and concerns. Work to uncover what problems they need solving and what they expect from a purchase. We dedicated various articles to how to ask the right questions, e.g., in our piece on sales discovery questions or question-based selling.

2. Get personal 

Conceptual selling requires a deep understanding of the problems or issues your prospect is facing. This is nearly impossible to do if you’re trying to keep your prospect at a distance. 

Don’t be afraid to get personal when connecting with leads, prospects, and customers. Work to build trust so they feel comfortable opening up about their challenges and fears. The more they’re willing to share with you, the better you can sell your product or service.

3. Meet in the middle 

Conceptual selling doesn’t work if you and your prospect aren’t on the same page. In order to create a win-win scenario, be ready to meet in the middle. 

Find common ground with your prospect and ensure your goals align. Remember, you want to prioritize the buying process just as much as the sales process. 

4. Stand out 

Conceptual selling gives you the tools you need to get creative with your pitch. When you step outside the box and frame your product or service in a new way, you can stand out from the competition. 

Take advantage of this opportunity and really differentiate yourself. While your competitors are focusing on price or features, create a conceptual story that truly resonates with your target audience.

5. Build long-term relationships

Long-term relationships are always beneficial when it comes to selling — and conceptual selling is no different. Don’t just try to close a quick deal. 

Instead, focus on building long-term relationships where customers will want to buy again and again. 

Advantages of conceptual selling

Why use conceptual selling? Here are some of the biggest benefits:

1. Deeper customer understanding 

Because the conceptual sales process revolves around matching a story to the customer’s needs, you’ll have a better understanding of who your customer is, what their goals are, and what they struggle with. Knowing your customer better can allow you to better serve them, helping you build long-lasting relationships. 

2. More efficient sales cycles 

When done correctly, conceptual selling can shorten your sales cycle and make closing deals more efficient for your team. Conceptual selling allows you to get to know your customer to provide them with a customized pitch that directly addresses their biggest concerns — your customers see the value of your product or service faster so they decide to buy faster. Curious how to measure sales efficiency? We got you covered.

3. Higher average deal size 

The key to scaling a business is closing larger deals. With conceptual selling, you can help make that a reality by showcasing the value of your products or services. Convince customers to buy faster and build long-term relationships that keep them coming back for more. 

Disadvantages of conceptual selling

While conceptual selling can be a beneficial practice for many sales teams, it’s important to understand the disadvantages before getting started. Here are the biggest drawbacks to be aware of:

1. Missed expectations

When selling a concept, you have some creative freedom to spin your product or service to align with your customer’s needs. However, sometimes the product doesn’t actually work as described or there is a better solution out there for them. 

If you convince a customer to buy your product or service and their expectations aren’t met, they could feel lied to or manipulated. They’ll be unlikely to buy from you again, and they might even tell friends and family to stay away.

It’s important to be honest with prospects and leads, even if it means they ultimately buy from a competitor. 

2. Requires storytelling skills 

For sales reps just starting out, conceptual selling can be difficult to grasp. It requires strong storytelling skills that often come with practice and experience. 

Some reps are more comfortable using pitches they can memorize or tactics that allow them to create one-size-fits-all talking points. Conceptual selling does require reps to get out of their comfort zone and allow their creativity to flow. 

3. Potential for wasted time

In order to paint a picture that entices your prospect to buy, you need to invest time into getting to know where they’re struggling and what solutions they need. If you’re not able to drill down to the most important parts quickly, you could spend a lot of time just getting to know your prospect.

Conceptual selling requires you to communicate effectively and make the most out of every meeting you have. It requires skill and practice to know exactly what to ask and when. 

Conceptual selling questions to ask

The questions you ask your prospect will give you the answers you need to start building your conceptual story. Your questions should be open-ended and encourage your prospect to share their current struggles, solutions they’ve tried, and where they’re falling short.

Here are some top questions to help get the conversation started:

  1. What are your current goals for this quarter or year? Figure out what is most important to your prospect and where they are focusing the bulk of their time and energy. 
  2. What is the biggest challenge preventing you from reaching those goals? Understand why their current situation isn’t putting them on the right path. 
  3. How much time and money do you currently spend on X? Get to know their current situation and investment into solving their problem.
  4. Who do you see as your biggest competitors? What are they currently doing better than you? See how they measure themselves against other businesses in their space to understand what threats they see looming. 
  5. Are you looking for new solutions to solve for X? Get a feel for how open your prospect is to switching the products or services they’re currently using.
  6. How quickly would you like to make a change? Set a timeline by understanding how serious your prospect is about changing their products or services. 

As you’re speaking with your prospect, look for opportunities to take the conversation deeper. Each prospect will have their own unique needs, challenges, or fears, so you’ll want to get a full understanding of each before moving on to the next question.

Get started with conceptual selling 

Conceptual selling can help you close more deals, build stronger customer relationships, and improve your average deal size. With the help of a Salesforce productivity workspace like Weflow, you can make conceptual selling even more powerful. 

Get started with Weflow and start building your conceptual selling process with a free trial.

Conceptual Selling Explained (+ Free Question Examples)

March 28, 2023
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