I’ve seen it happen in start-up businesses time after time. A company offering a great product or service has a dozen or so customers and a small inside sales team or just a few field sales reps. However, every salesperson is using their own unique approach. There may be a sales process in place, but it’s loosely defined and there is no roadmap in place to measure key milestones. This must be addressed early to gain momentum and pipeline growth.
Or, the core team is more focused on product marketing or engineering, selling is not their primary area of expertise. They may not have enough experience outside of outlining basic features and benefits and are unsure how to demonstrate which benefits are appropriate to various prospects types. They will often bucket all leads into the same feature and benefit pitch as opposed to uncovering the real pain that the prospect is feeling.
While features of any product or solution may offer the same benefit to all customers, the way your prospects measure their pains against your features and benefits are unique to them.
These are prime examples/situations of when it’s time to bring in a 3rd party consultant or professional to support your sales organization. As you examine a candidate, there are five key skills to look for when choosing the best sales consultant:
- Does The Consultant Understand Your Product Solution? A good sales consultant isn’t necessarily the one who’s logged the most hours leading sales team training, but rather the one who wants to absorb and understand your product offering first. He is the one who has already examined everything on your website, and then wants all your case studies, will volunteer to listen in on your sales calls, and sit down with your salespeople in order to fully grasp how you are currently selling.The sales consultant you choose needs to embrace both your solution offering, and your customers as much as you do. If he’s only dictating a process and doesn’t want to listen or learn about you, that’s a huge red flag. Watch out! Your sales team will not believe him, become irritated and, not implement the recommendations. Your training $ will be a wasted. This is often illustrated with no pipeline increase or even worse a negative pipeline growth because people have lost faith in the organization.
- Does The Consultant Have a Strong Track Record? Any consultant worth his or her salt should be able to listen and determine what your needs are, why they are important, and how they impact your organization. They should then show use cases, testimonials and other specific programs or methodologies from similar clients, along with illustrating a customized solution for you.Hiring a consultant looks a lot like hiring an employee. Check references!!
- Does The Consultant Have a Proven Design? The biggest challenge that many companies face, especially start-ups, is the lack of usable, cohesive training materials. There is often a mix of Word and Excel documents gathered from past jobs that have been loosely cobbled together and then tossed up on the intranet. Contributors to this information come from varying points of view, not to mention departments and see the world differently: sales reps, managers, VP’s, marketing, I’ve even seen engineering work hard to provide technical information so the sales team can explain the product. The intent to disseminate information to the sales team is commendable; however things are fumbled in the execution due to the lack of a cohesive voice and flow. Often data is presented based on the authors’ perspective, not what the prospect actually needs to see or hear during the decision-making process. This loosely defined network of information is often the source of a dreaded feature and benefit sales pitch that does little to solve your customers’ pain points.The good news here is that the company is reaching a point where they understand the need for stronger materials to support the sales organization. If you are in a similar situation it means you are ready to consider how you will scale the sales organization.An effective sales consultant should be able to provide a design a curriculum for your sales training or sales process that is customized to your needs and includes tools your team can use well after the consultant is gone.
- Can The Consultant Customize to Your Needs? More often than not a company’s struggles stem from the use of a generic, hand-me-down processes and one-size-fits-all training curricula. But what works for enterprise sales teams may not work for mid-market sales teams or SMB sales teams. And things will definitely need tweaking if you have a lead generation, ISR training or SDR training goals. He or she needs to be able to feel your pain and articulate a solution that has the right balance for your sales organization. The consultant should include time in the initial discussions for speaking with key people within your organization in order to best understand the various client pains which your solution addresses as well as the different perspectives within your organization of your clients’ struggles. At The Harris Consulting Group, we do this before an engagement is finalized. We do not just want your business; we want to earn your business. A nice by-product of this shows everyone in the organization how much their input is valued by the sales team.If your consultant does not offer this, RED FLAG!
- Does the Sales Consultant Bring a Fresh Perspective?
Ever been to a sales kickoff event like this:
- CEO: Rah-rah speech
- VP of Sales: Rah-rah speech about the next two days
- Marketing: New programs, drip campaigns, blah, blah blah,
- Product Marketing: New product release and walk-through (not training)
- Sales teams: Share best practices and successes
- Evening drinks
- Award Ceremony
What’s missing? Someone needs to teach an actual sales process, facilitate role-playing exercises and teach skills to train the sales team to listen. These exercises help everyone learn how to better visualize their current deals, create a buzz and chatter about how to do it better and create a positive energy that everyone in the room can feel. The consultant serves a valuable role in sales training because they offer a balanced approach that can work outside of internal politics and function not just as an unbiased trainer or sales process designer. They can also lend fresh eyes to old challenges and apply the insight and wisdom gleaned from working with other companies to your situation. Here are two important points about the perspective a consultant can bring.
- Sales people can be more open to a consultant. When you choose the right consultant, and get them talking with the sales team early, often times the sales team will open up and use the consultant as a sounding board about how they see the sales organization. This bodes well for everyone, after all someone’s perception is also their reality.
- The consultant can often see what you can’t. Ever had a sense something wasn’t right but you could not put your finger on it? Wish you could get a different view of your sales team? Someone who can help see the forest instead of the trees? A good consultant will always be help you move the rocks and see what is underneath.
In the end, the sales consultant you hire should be able to articulate the value of your product and its benefits as well as anyone on the inside sales team or your field sales reps. They should be able to illustrate a proven approach, and build a customized program for your sales organization. They should aim to teach everybody in the sales organization the process and the techniques to communicate with prospects in a helpful conversation revolving around their pain points. And if he doesn’t, then it’s time to look for a new candidate.
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