A quick Google search for the term “sales consulting firms” yields no fewer than 26 million results. Even when you narrow the inquiry to focus on a specific city—like Chicago or Boston—you’ll still find pages and pages of search results, offering an endless list of sales consulting firms, all with sleek websites and unknown promise.
How do you separate the winners from the losers? Let us help you save some time. Here are four types of sales consulting firms that don’t deliver—and tips on how to spot them:
1. The Cookie-Cutter Solution Firm
Simplistic rules and formulas won’t get your sales team anywhere—especially in the technology or technical services arena. If you want one-dimensional advice on how to improve sales, you can shop the best sellers on Amazon.com. If you want nuanced sales consulting, you need a partner who can adapt his or her expertise to specific environments.
Solution: Ask prospective partners how they’d solve a sales challenge that’s unique to your product or customer buying cycle. Getting at a conclusive answer is probably impossible in the course of a brief interview, but you’ll learn a lot by the kinds of follow-up questions or problem-solving approach consultants begin to offer. A quality partner will want to delve more into the context and relationships involved. A cookie-cutter partner will redirect you to pat examples of what they’ve seen or recommended in the past.
2. The Shelfware Firm
If you’re seeking sales consulting services to give your B2B sales team or sales process a boost, the last thing you need is a litany of recommendations that fail to stick. Some sales consulting firms are at the ready to rewrite your pipeline methodology, overhaul scripts and messaging, even push new technology or CRM services. But at the end of the day, they have zero insight to share on effectively implementing these changes with earned buy-in and adoption from sales reps.
Solution: Ask prospective partners to walk you through the post-analysis phase. What exactly happens after new buyer personas or competitive analyses are complete? How should you manage the transition and reinforce newly recommended behaviors? And will any kind of testing be done to ensure recommendations are actually on point?
3. The Bait and Switch Firm
Even in our highly networked world, bait-and-switch sales consulting still happens—perhaps with a bit more subtlety than the average background check can reveal. Bait and switch scenarios can happen when the professionals or the processes you were originally sold on, fail to materialize. Sometimes the esteemed, senior consultant who originally shook your hand is replaced with a newly-minted MBA. Sometimes the tailored systems or sales playbooks you were promised emerge as cookie-cutter tools.
Solution: Don’t settle for case studies or hand-picked testimonials on a firm’s website; these are easy to couch in flattering ways. In order to ensure you get the most from your consulting arrangement, ask for references from satisfied and less-than-satisfied clients. If you actually succeed in getting the contact information of a customer who severed ties, that should instill some confidence that the consulting firm is conscientious—even when a paid relationship fails.
4. The Social Butterfly Firm
You know the sales consulting expert on Twitter who has 240K followers? If you hired him tomorrow, he’d probably be completely out of his element in your sales environment. Unfortunately, there’s no industry standard to verify the brains behind a prospective sales consulting partner. And in fact, social media “credentials” can make competency easy to fake. This is not to say the sales consulting industry is crawling with scam artists and snake oil salesmen; just that you shouldn’t have to pay for a subpar consultant’s learning curve—even if he’s lighting LinkedIn on fire.
Solution: Take “social proof” points with a grain of salt. Have several people from your organization speak to any sales consulting candidates, and use your combined business instincts to discern the buffs from the butterflies.
As you’re considering the option of sales consulting services, learn more about the kinds of tools and tactics an outside consultant might recommend. Download our online guide for engineering an agile sales force: