Rapid change in selling (and buying) processes is impacting sales in unprecedented ways, providing a driver for companies to engage a sales consultancy to re-shape their sales operations.
Sales consultancy is now a growth disciple within the management consultancy sector.
If you browsed any bookstore just a few years ago for a consultancy based approach to sales you wouldn’t find many examples. Until recently, sales books were the reserve of testosterone-fuelled motivational speakers and guides offering “101 closes”.
If you looked today, you will find a new breed of author, usually from a specialist sales consultancy, applying research and rigor to the sales process.
In the US, over 30 business schools now have a sales centre. Within the management consultancy sector, the number of boutique sales consultancies are growing and what was once considered a “black art” is now recognised as a key strategic discipline for any company.
What’s driving this change?
The internet, global resourcing and instant communication is changing the selling process in both retail and business-to-business sectors. New sales channels, new technology, new selling skills and new sales processes are needed to retain the competitive edge; this is the focus of today’s sales consultancy.
As markets become more competitive, products and services mature, and customer buying processes change, companies can easily become misaligned with their core market. Revenues could be declining, close ratios slipping, order values dropping, etc.
Often, companies react by changing their product mix, targeting new markets or creating more complex product and service bundles. All these changes will have a dramatic effect on the company in terms of its go-to-market strategy, its existing sales channels and internal capabilities; these are all areas that a sales consultancy can add value.
A sales consultancy will work with the client to map their current sales process and consider whether they are fit for the current market.
Tools which a sales consultancy will use include win-loss analysis, voice-of-the-customer, and sales operational audits, which are excellent ways for a sales consultancy to measure what’s happening and bring a fresh perspective to a client.
In fact, one the reasons why companies hire an external sales consultancy is precisely because they have a fresh perspective.
They can speak directly with customers about why they are defecting and get an unbiased viewpoint. They can objectively analyse sales team and channel structure and performance unencumbered by internal politics.
A sales consultancy will also bring additional capabilities to the existing management team and transfer tools and processes, enabling the client to embed change within its organisation.
Rather than the traditional reaction to poor sales performance, which is usually to buy in some sales training or fire some of the team, a sales consultancy will take a holistic approach, considering external and internal factors affecting the sales team.
Where appropriate, a sales consultancy will provide training and coaching, for both sales management and the sales force, but this is to ensure lasting change rather than a quick fix.
The typical Sales Consultancy firm is run by senior ex-Sales Managers, Directors and VP’s with both operational experience and sales consultancy backgrounds. Compared with the typical view of management consultants as fresh MBA’s, people within a sales consultancy have worked in the trenches.
Whilst the largest global sales consultancies focus on sectors with huge sales operations, such as pharmaceuticals and high-tech, a smaller, niche sales consultancy will provide services aimed at small and medium sized businesses.
In fact, some of the more entrepreneurial firms work with start-ups and provide sales consultancy services on results based fee models.
Fortunately, unlike other management consultancy “fads”, the case for employing a sales consultancy is easy to understand. After all, sales is inherently measurable and directly impacts a company’s top-line.