Sales Consultants - What to Look For
So you need a sales consultant. Maybe sales are slow, or you're having a hard time maintaining sales team headcount. You might be planning an expansion or preparing to enter a new market. Or maybe your company has never had a sales team, and needs some guidance for getting started. Sales consultants can help you with any of these problems, as well as other issues related to sales.
A quick google search can give you a million sales consultants ready to take your money and give you what they promise is good advice. But how do you know which one will best fit your needs? Here are three tips for what to look for (and what NOT to look for) when you're evaluating sales consultants.
Take Advantage of the Free Consultation
Make sure the sales consultants you are evaluating are willing to give you a free consultation. If the sales consultant you're talking to wants to start billing you before he or she even understands your needs, that's a huge red flag. Sales consultants who are more interested on the first call in starting to bill you than in finding out about your business and whether or not they can help you will probably not be more helpful after you start giving them your money than they were before. A good sales consultant will be choosy about clients, and use the first consultation as an evaluation to figure out if your company is a good fit for his or her services.
During a first consultation, you should find out in which areas your sales consultant feels most comfortable. Don't be afraid to ask about prior experience, number of years as a consultant, and the specifics of what a consultant can offer you. Make sure you have a good understanding of your sales consultant's fee structure, and be clear and up-front with your expectations, time-frame, and the sales issues your are dealing with.
Experience, Experience, Experience
Know how to evaluate potential sales consultants for real, valuable experience. Unfortunately, what looks like experience often isn't. If you've never heard of any of the companies where the consultant you are considering has worked in the past, do some further research. You'd be surprised how many failed entrepreneurs are running around attempting to reinvent themselves as sales consultants. If they couldn't get their own companies running, you definitely don't want their advice about yours. Ask to speak with a previous client. Be aware that many consulting firms sign confidentiality agreements with clients, and may not be able to divulge their clients' names. However, your sales consultant should be able to provide you with case studies and testimonials, as well as a list of industries and types of companies he or she has worked with.
Many sales consultants work in industry first, and then eventually break off to leverage their work experience as consultants. Seek details on the companies where potential sales consultants have previously worked, and verify those details. Experience in your industry is very helpful, but it's even more important to look for a sales consultant who has worked with a company similar in size to yours, and with a comparable business model. For instance, if you want your sales team to engage potential customers face-to-face, don't work with a sales consultant whose primary experience is in telemarketing. Small and mid-sized companies also have different sales challenges from large enterprises, and need a different approach to sales consulting.
Sales Consultants Come in All Shapes and Sizes
Should you hire a large, well-known consulting firm or go with a solo sales consultant? The answer to this question depends on several factors, including the size of your company, the budget you have available to you, and the type of relationship you'd like to have with your consultant. A large firm will typically have a wide range of expertise, but may have limited interest in working with small companies. Solo sales consultants tend to have a more focused portfolio and may also have a more personal approach, since you'll likely be interacting just with the one consultant rather than the team often assigned to a case by a large firm.
A good middle ground might be finding a small firm that seems like a good fit for your industry and company size. That way you get the range of experience and perspective of a team of consultants, while retaining the feeling of working with a small, responsive organization. Whatever size or type of sales consultant you choose, make sure that you feel comfortable with the person or people you'll be working with. A good working relationship with your sales consultant will put you on the road to success and smooth sailing in your company's sales department.
For a personalized evaluation of your sales needs, take advantage of a free consultation with one of Netpique's sales consultants.