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How to Shop for a Sales Consultant

Monday, October 29, 2018

So, you’re considering bringing in someone to help ramp up your team’s sales productivity. Hiring an FTE doesn’t make financial sense just yet, so you are thinking a consultant might do the trick. There are lots of them out there, so how do you go about selecting the right one? Here are a few things to consider that might make the selection process clearer…

Tap Your Network: Ask your colleagues who they’d recommend. Interview someone they rave about. This will get you started and give you a benchmark by which to measure other candidates by.

Can I Trust This Person: Obvious, right? You are going to put this person in front of your staff and so low trust = a no go. During your selection process go to coffee or lunch with the candidate. You’ll see more of the “real” them vs. in the boardroom setting and can better dial into your trust radar.

Sales Chops: Decide what expertise you need in your situation and probe to learn your candidate’s acumen. Is it in sales method [how to conduct a productive sales interaction with a buyer]? If the way this person sells to you is off-putting, stop there. You won’t like what they teach your team. Is it sales process [mapping the steps to take an opportunity from the Lead stage to closure]? Ask to see the tool set they’d install in your business. Is it Lead Generation [filling the top of the sales funnel]? Again, ask to see their models. Good looks like Intellectual Property that is formal, organized, coherent and branded – maybe even a book. Bad looks like sales tips and tactics verbally delivered, stray MS Word docs and scribbles on your white board.

Years in Business: The longer in business as an active consultant, the better. This means you are dealing with a proven entity. Beware the friend of a friend who’s been a Sales Manager for forever, is between gigs and is “doing some consulting.” Unless they’ve got a solid pedigree [taken a company exactly like yours from start up to $100M] this person may be long on tips and tactics but light on road tested and proven teachable IP.

Company or Individual: One is not better than the other. There are awesome folks in either configuration. Generally, the size of your sales team will dictate which is best. You may need a big firm to manage a roll out to your 1000 sales reps.

Fee Range: You get what you pay for, to a point. If you are quoted fees that look weirdly high, continue looking at other providers to either confirm or deny if they are just high or if their offer is superior. Low fees mean you may be dealing with someone who is new to the role and perhaps not skilled enough to help you sufficiently. Or it may be that they are not comfortable to set fees that reflect the value they bring. If this is the case, you don’t want this person training your sales team anyway. Dig deeper into their sales chops to determine which.

Experience Base: Experience in your industry is an asset but not a necessity unless you are in a crazily narrow niche business. Actual proven success in multiple industries is a clear sign that this party’s methodology and IP produce results.

Skip the School of Hard Knocks

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

You likely learned a ton about how to run your business by attending the School of Hard Knocks. You are likely [and justifiably] proud of making it through not only intact but looking pretty good! When it comes to the sales function however, skip school this time. If sales aren’t your passion, your results aren’t great, or you already have 1000 other things to focus on, bring on someone to steer the sales function for you and you’ll be ecstatic with the results. Here’s why…

You are Human – not a machine. Running a business is tough enough without piling on another departmental leadership function on top of that.

Revenue is the Life Blood of Your Company – If you are bootstrapping, Cash is King. If you are funded, revenue lengthens your runway. If your sales results aren’t great, that should be addressed.

Sales is Way Harder Than It Looks – Look at those guys and gals over their blabbing on the phone closing deals. What could be easier? Trying to optimize and implement a sales process requires a lot of bandwidth.

The Sales Cliff Sucks – If the sales wheel isn’t continually turned, funnels dry up quickly, and revenue falls off fast.


Your Options:

Your first and most obvious option is to hire a Sales Manager, or the like. This works if you a) have the money and b) are at a growth point at which this makes sense.

If you are at 2-3 sales people and revenues are trending up, then hiring this person is an investment that will likely have a great ROI. Also, hiring this person lets you work more “on” your business rather than “in” it. If, however, revenue is light at the moment it may not make financial sense to spend the dough on an FTE. The time to payback may be longer than you are willing or comfortable to wait. In this case there is another option.

That other option is to hire a consultant – just as you would for any other business function. There are sales consultancies of all stripes. Some are awesome at pumping up your team with motivational speeches. Others are great at teaching your team how to conduct highly productive sales conversations with buyers. Some work with you to optimize the steps of your sales process to increase sales velocity and deal size. On the upside whatever your need it’s likely you can get it addressed by a credible expert for far less than the cost of an FTE.  On the downside if your team needs hourly/daily leading, then a consultant by design can’t fulfill this.

If Sales is a passion for you and you have the bandwidth to tend to the team and run your business as well, by all means, keep managing the sales team. Otherwise, take action now and hand the reins to an individual who can focus squarely on the task at hand and drive your revenue results.


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