There is great value in hiring an external consultant to diagnose poor sales performance, help streamline the business, and scale sales processes. The following five items summarise what I learnt from consulting for companies in the past few months:
1. The good and bad of being an outsider
Company politics, legacy processes, and lack of cohesion between departments can greatly benefit from an external perspective. A good consultant can quickly identify problems and work with management to resolve them. However, the consultant isn't welcomed by all and must decipher fact from fiction. The people whose jobs are in jeopardy go into survival mode and struggle to hide their desire to see you fail. It's a fascinating dynamic because the primary motivation of a consultant is to fix problems, and one of the first jobs is to convince these people you’re there to help.
2. Start with the customer
One of my first jobs was a minefield of politics, lack of departmental cohesion, and a disconnected Millennial/Generation X mix. It was difficult to know where to begin, so I rebuilt the sales process as if approaching the market, myself - starting with the customer journey. This highlighted the disconnect between the sales process and customer, and it was clear how to align all departments, the sales strategy, and company messaging. I met with key customers and discussed the new process, having them fine-tune the new approach to maximise the impact.
“There is no better way to sell than have your customer tell you how they want to be sold to.” (tweet)
3. Sales and Marketing alignment
I have seen (and worked with) brilliant teams, where sales and marketing are aligned, and mediated arguments that were simply depressing. As a consultant, you must respectfully hear everyone's point of view before making a recommendation. However, it is soul-destroying to witness lack of cohesion and a closed-minded approach to colleagues within the same company.
The first step to aligning departments is agreeing on the company values and mission. I once asked every person in a room of sales and marketing professionals: “Tell me concisely what we do?” 80% of the room gave me a different answer, but most surprising was that marketing was more concise than the sales team. It took an entire day for everyone to agree on precisely what they did. The customer dictates everything from sales training, management behaviour, and marketing communication.
“Regardless of company politics, personal beliefs, and legacy processes, the business must be structured to best serve the customer.“ (tweet)
4. You must have the support of the C-Suite
Change won't happen without support from the board or directors, especially if the people perpetuating the problems are in a leadership function. There must be an acknowledgment of the issues and a commitment to change. It may be your top salesperson is destroying the team morale (I wrote about this in a previous article here), the sales director was promoted early and out of their depth, or a personal issue is affecting departmental relationships. The consultant’s job is to report back the findings, and the action is implemented from the top down.
5. Revenue can hide problems and hinder scale
Sometimes, a business grows so quickly that fundamental processes are overlooked. I have seen dysfunctional sales teams crushing their numbers. The dysfunction is nobody's fault. The workload and growth have been so extreme that sales and management training, inter departmental protocols, and details, such as effective sales onboarding, are understandably deprioritised over revenue. When revenues eventually plateau, the company becomes stretched, trying to reverse engineer processes, while continuing to drive revenue. This is the consultancy job I love, having lived through this situation on multiple occasions in my sales career.
In the short time since beginning, it has been interesting to learn from the different approaches and mistakes of others. If anything, it makes you want to get back in the saddle and crush your own product. After all, if you can't follow your own advice, how can you guide others.
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