Something is amiss! Today’s sales consultants are not sales experts; they are expert administrators of the prepackaged, template-based models they “tailor” or “customize” and superimpose onto a client’s business. They evaluate businesses from a narrow frame of reference (the program they want to sell), as if all businesses are alike. Not only is each business unique, the idea that one, two or even three sales methodologies could collectively encapsulate correct solutions for all the needs of businesses is absurd.
So, why are sales consultants still hired by business owners and sales managers?
In the 1980’s, a shift in the sales profession occurred. In the interest of “maximizing profits,” companies started hiring sales representatives, who were inexperienced, less costly salespeople. The sales managers of these companies knew how to sell and created sales programs in order to educate their representatives. Over the years, this cost-saving business model created problems, the ramifications of which are experienced in many of today’s businesses. As competent sales managers retired, they left behind significantly less capable successors. Now, most of those employed in sales jobs—reps and managers—do not know how to sell correctly. Industry and product knowledge are prized over sales skills and strategic-thinking. And the sales consultant is depended upon as a sales improvement resource.
Ignorance is Costly
Sales consultants realized that they could increase their profit through the lack of knowledge among business owners and sales managers about differences between “tailored” or “customized” solutions and completely custom made sales solutions. These template-based, ready-to-go solutions are easier for sales consultants to develop, and much more profitable for them than the creation of custom made solutions, which are most beneficial to businesses.
Among the fallout from the programs of sales consultants, business owners and sales managers faced issues of “adoption” and “transfer,” which limit the effectiveness of consultants’ solutions. Consequently, the efforts of salespeople will return to routine and, often, careless work, sales will be more incidental than the result of competency, and companies will continue to lose money. Eventually, the pendulum will reach its limit and change will occur. Until then or the time when business owners recognize the problems presented here, their sales operations will retard their success.
The Return of Professionalism
Sometime ago, a business owner had greater expectations of their sales team. Salespeople were in sync with the times and changes in buyers’ mentality. An ability to connect with decision-makers was a fundamental skill of a salesperson. In those days, sales managers knew how to create strategies and analyze productivity. And, unless specifically designed for a business, the notion of a generic sales solution, sales seminar, and sales instruction book would have been considered absurd.
In today’s highly competitive business world, companies can no longer afford to be content with sales improvement; sales improvement is a short-sighted goal. Today’s standard for sales excellence is sales optimization, the attainment of a company’s sales potential, which necessitate custom made state-specific solutions, which are not available from sales books, seminars, and sales consultants. A return to sales professionalism is on the horizon. The days of the sales representative will pass. As companies traverse the course back to a greater ability to actualize, issues related to sales improvement will find resolve in highly creative and diverse ways. Among the sales-related issues that business face today are:
1. reoccurrence of sales challenges;
2. sales improvement compared with attainment of full sales potential;
3. recession from improvement soon after sales training or operational change;
4. reliance upon outside aids—consultants, books, seminars, webinars, etc.;
5. continued dependence of salespeople on management to secure sales;
6. inability or unwillingness of salespeople to think creatively, self-assess, and adapt;
7. inability or unwillingness of sales managers to improve their ability to manage and train.
If you employ a sales manager and/or salespeople, consider the absurdity of a generic sales seminar, sales book, and sales consultant to help you understand how to sell your own products and services. Your investment in sales improvement is best applied to employment of an actual sales expert or the education of your sales manager. Doesn’t your business need expertise from the people on whom you most depend to be experts?
About the author
Steve Young is a nationally respected, “outside the box” sales expert who is President…