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Could Hiring this Sales Pro Help Your Consulting Firm?

Meet Sheila. She’s a sales wizard. Fearless, charismatic, bright, resilient, persistent. Should you hire her to improve (or take over) your consulting firm’s business development efforts?

Sheila doesn’t have a terrific network in the industry you’re targeting and she’s never worked with a consulting firm; however, she’s proven she can open doors and get meetings.

Most importantly, Sheila loves selling.

You, on the other hand, love solving clients’ problems. That’s why you became a consultant and why you lead a consulting firm.

You distinctly don’t love selling and, if you’re like many consulting firm leaders, you feel like that’s a major factor holding your firm back. There’s not enough professional-quality rainmaking happening at your consulting firm.

So, wouldn’t it make sense to hire Sheila? Isn’t she the missing puzzle piece?

Probably not.

If your consulting firm’s annual revenue is below $25 million (and certainly if it’s below $2.5 million), you’re probably winning most of your engagements thanks to a combination of strong, personal relationships and intellectual agility.*

You (and your partners, if you have any) know your consulting firm’s capabilities inside-out because you’ve trudged through the weeds of delivery. In fact, you may still lead delivery.

Therefore, you’re able to listen, adapt your consulting firm’s offering, and build trust with potential consulting clients.

That’s not replicable, though.

And if it’s not replicable, a salesperson can’t help you.

In contrast, when your consulting firm’s targeting, messaging and offering are all correct, it feels like your consulting services practically sell themselves.

That’s Impact. You have high Impact when your consulting firm is focusing on the Right Solution to the Right Problem for the Right People at the Right Time. (i.e, the Four Rights of Impact.)

A professional salesperson magnifies Impact.

If your Impact is spotty, the gaps and weak points will become even more apparent. Sheila the salesperson will underperform, eat all the expiring cannolis that were supposed to be mailed to new clients, and either leave or be fired.

Hiring a salesperson won’t fix your sales problem.

Therefore, if you’re struggling with sales, resist the siren song of lead generation companies or a professional business developer.

Instead, commit your energy, time and money to the hard work of solidifying your consulting firm’s Impact.

Increase Your Impact

Right People. Narrow your consulting firm’s target and develop a clear and reliable set of criteria that qualifies high-potential prospects.

Right Problem. Develop messaging that always resonates without adaptation or tailoring, because it promises a solution to problem that is widely viewed by your target market as pervasive and urgent.

Right Solution. Formulate an offering description that successfully conveys your consulting firm’s services as a reliable, credible solution to your clients’ problem.

Right Time. If possible, isolate timing signals that indicate when a prospect is likely to most want and need your consulting firm’s offerings.

Oh, and track your performance. Consulting firms that do not accurately track their performance at each stage of the pipeline, tend to overestimate their success at the late stages of business development.

When you have replicable, consistent business development success based on the Four Rights, then is it time to hire Sheila?

Probably not. You still need a reliable, productive business development system. But we can save systems for another day.

Have you tried hiring a salesperson or business developer or lead generation firm?

If so, how did it work out for you? Good or bad, your experience will be a helpful lesson for me and other consulting firm leaders.


20 Comments
  1. Dan Monaghan
    October 6, 2021 at 6:50 am Reply

    I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work. Potential clients want to speak with, and get to know, the person who is actually going to do the work. A connection can start right from the initial conversation, one that can continue for years. Plus, no one knows your business like you do. There are small little nuggets people drop that can help you close the sale that a generic salesperson would miss. As a consultant, you need to learn sales techniques regardless of your comfort level. No one can have the passion for your business that you have.

    • David A. Fields
      October 6, 2021 at 8:35 am Reply

      You’re in good company, Dan. Virtually every boutique consultancy tries this at least once–some try it multiple times figuring they just haven’t hired the right person or sales team.

      In truth you don’t have to do all the business development yourself; however, until you can do it consistently yourself, there’s little hope that someone else without your knowledge of the business will be able to magically win new clients.

      I appreciate you volunteering your experience–it’s immensely helpful, Dan.

  2. Mike Bergin
    October 6, 2021 at 7:28 am Reply

    Great article, David. Are there sales training and sales enablement consultants you recommend?

    • David A. Fields
      October 6, 2021 at 8:41 am Reply

      Mike tees the ball up right in front of David. The crowd wonders, “Will David step up and hit it?”

      Of course, Mike. If you run a consulting firm and you want to improve your business development results or install a proven business development approach, or develop your next generation of rainmakers, I highly recommend you fill out the form on this page. That firm creates phenomenal results and the team who will respond to your inquiry is absolutely top notch.

  3. David Burnie
    October 6, 2021 at 9:41 am Reply

    Great article David. I have seen a few boutique firms succeed with a sales force, but they have a very specific product and process that they follow every time. I’ve tried it with my firm and failed – as you mention above it’s tough for a salesperson to sell non-specific consulting services. It is easy to be swayed by all of the lead gen companies who email every day – glad to get confirmation that the right answer is to rely on your leadership team.

    • David A. Fields
      October 6, 2021 at 12:48 pm Reply

      It is easy to be swayed by all those lead gen companies, isn’t it? You’re also right that when a firm is extremely productized, it’s easier to use dedicated sales people… but then, it’s not quite as close to consulting!

      Thanks for adding your voice, today, David. Your experience and insights are extremely valuable.

  4. Kevin
    October 6, 2021 at 10:39 am Reply

    Dave

    Wow….exactly what Im considering. You approach is on target. Thank you

    • David A. Fields
      October 6, 2021 at 12:49 pm Reply

      Glad the article was valuable for you, Kevin. pretty much every small firm looks into hiring a salesperson at some point. The dream is to not have to do it yourself. That dream can turn into a nightmare pretty quickly!

      Let me know what you decide to do, Kevin.

  5. Hugo
    October 6, 2021 at 1:09 pm Reply

    Tried three times hiring a sales person. Three failures. You and your own group of consultants are the best sales reps you can have. Great insight!

    • David A. Fields
      October 6, 2021 at 4:23 pm Reply

      Well, there’s a case study for other readers! Hugo, I’m 100% sure it’s not because you are bad at hiring or bad at managing–it’s the nature of the beast. (And it only took you three attempts before you stopped chasing that mirage–that’s not bad at all!) I appreciate you sharing today!

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