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By Liz Stone December 8, 2016

Do I Need a Sales Trainer or a Sales Consultant?: Blog 2 of 2

This is a continuation of our blog series differentiating sales training and sales consulting. With so many options out there, and an often fuzzy demarcation between the two, these blogs are aimed to help sales leadership get a better understanding of the pros and cons of each to help them select the service that best fits their needs.

To read the first blog in this three-part series, visit Blog 1, which defines sales training, when it works and when it doesn’t, and results to expect from your sales trainer. This week, we’ll look at sales consulting through the same lens

What is Sales Consulting?

Sales consulting is the advisement of businesses in order to improve the quality of their sales organization. Sales consultants provide value by completely understanding their client’s company and product/service, and providing expertise, ideas, and strategies to on how to improve selling effectiveness.  

Key Points and Differentiators:

  • Sales consultants come in all sizes, from individual consultants to multi-million dollar firms
  • Sales consulting is intended to optimize a sales organization to function more efficiently for better results; it’s generally a much larger project scope than sales training alone
  • Sales consulting usually costs more than sales training, depending on project scope
  • Consulting takes place over a longer period of time than training; while training may take a 1-2 months to develop a lesson plan and host training sessions, consulting can last for 6-8 months, or longer
  • Sales consultants work more closely with sales leadership to make top-level decisions that will affect the entire sales organization
  • Sales consultants have a mixed reputation; while some companies swear by them, others have had bad experiences

You May Want to Consider a Sales Consultant When...

  • ... you recognize you have a problem, but you don’t know how to fix it
  •  ... your company has no sales foundation
  • ... your company has a sales foundation, but its not working well
  • ... your company has great potential but is unable to grow
  • ... you are unable to scale your sales organization
  • ... you have bad sales management
  • ... you have high turnover
  • ... your sales team is underperforming
  • ... the competition is killing you

When Sales Consulting Does Work Well

  • When rules of engagement are set. Before making any changes based on their recommendations, sales consultants and your company leadership need to define and agree upon expectations, goals, and priorities.
  • When they see things you can’t. An important part of sales consulting is discovery, in order to fully understand a client. A good sales consultant will separate the forest from the trees and uncover hidden revenue blockers and other issues that you haven’t found.
  • When they get your team talking. Employees can be more receptive to talking to a consultant versus their own company management, and a good sales consultant facilitates this kind of discussion and uses findings to find areas of strength and weakness in the sales organization.
  • When they provide a customized solution. Every business is unique, and so should the solution be that a sales consultant provides. Just as is the case with sales training, sales consulting won’t work if it’s a one-size-fits-all kind of solution.

When Sales Consulting Does Not Work Well

  • When there is no alignment with your company leadership and rules of engagement have not been set, nor expectations, goals, priorities defined. Your sales consultant should be working with you.
  • When they don’t deliver on what they promise. Sales consulting is a big investment for companies, and needs to provide repeatable, sustainable, measurable results to provide ROI. A completed sales consulting engagement should leave you feeling great about your decision. 
  • When they don’t care about your company culture. A consulting solution should enhance your work environment and way of doing business, not bulldoze it. A good sales consultant will provide a solution that fits and improves your company culture, not push a canned approach.
  • When they don’t implement. Recommendations for improvement will only work if they’re actually implemented in your sales organization and adopted by the sales team. A good sales consultant will work with you to put their ideas into action and gain buy-in from the sales team to make sure things stick once the engagement ends. 
  • When they don’t understand your product/solution. Your consultant should learn about your business and product/service, and understand it as well as you do, as well as get to know the people selling it. If not, your money will be wasted and your sales team will lose faith in your leadership decisions. 

Results to Expect from a Good Sales Consultant

If you’ve decided you need a sales consultant, now it’s time to find one that is the best for your company and needs. Regardless of if you choose an individual consultant, mid-size consultancy, or big firm, here are some things you should expect and demand:

  • A discovery phase with reporting back to leadership about findings, recommendations, and strategy.
  • A strong track record. We’re talking about sales here, of course a sales consultant can make themselves sound good! Prospective sales consultants should provide references upon request, which can provide you with a client perspective of working with the consultant.
  • Good project management that works with you and keeps you looped in on the status of the project and all moving parts. 
  • A fresh perspective: new ideas, strategies and ways of looking at things that you haven’t considered before.
  • A customized approach; a good sales consultant will adapt their solutions to your unique company and needs, rather than providing a cookie-cutter approach.

I hope you found this blog useful in your search for the right partner to aid in your sales success. 

Topics: Sales Management, Sales Training, Sales Consulting


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