Turning Your Salespeople Into Consultants: Art, Science, Or Bull?


Many organizations need to change their sales approaches, and by default their sales people, into something more consulting focused. The big question is: How do they actually accomplish this transformation? Is it an art? Is it scientific? Or, is the whole notion of turning a salesperson into a consulting expert full of bull and malarkey? Well, it's a little of the first two and absolutely is not the third.

First, though, let's address "why" the organization needs to change in the first place. Very simply, the prospect buying process has changed, forcing salespeople to change with it. Prospects and existing customers are more savvy because of the Internet and social media. Additionally, salespeople are too focused on selling product and are too stuck in the "old" ways of selling.

Think about it. For the past 20 years, salespeople have been trained to ask prospects about their pains. And, for the past 20 years prospects have been hearing this. While still relevant in many regards, there is now a missing piece when it comes to selling -- especially as it relates to cloud and mobility related technologies.

[Related: Managed Services: Two Sales Forces May Be Better Than One]

We call this piece "Business Guidance" and its relevance is rooted in the salesperson morphing into more of a trusted advisor that is giving business guidance more than anything. The results can be extraordinary: stickier customer relationships, greater short and long term profits, and more loyal clientele.

The "art" of this transformation is found in the commitment of management to infuse their particular organization with a vision. Once the mandate is set forth, salespeople can buy into Business Guidance methodologies. Until then, they will always try the old ways, with not as much success as they could potentially realize.

The "science" of this movement is the actual methodology of Business Guidance. What we do not propose is a full-fledged replacement of your sales approach. There are still some good and relevant areas within strategic or solution selling.

What we tell organizations is that they must insert Business Guidance into the mix, which allows the salesperson to switch modes during the sales process -- ending up with guiding the prospect or existing customer on unrecognized business needs that they may not have realized. The result: showing the prospect other areas that they can redeploy resources (and funds) to. This is highly relevant in cloud- and mobility-based technologies because salespeople are now being taught to discuss switching costs from capital expenses (capex) to operational expenses (opex). And of course, the salesperson is in prime position to help them.

And, there is no bull in wanting your salespeople to be better or your organization to grow -- rest assured.

Ken Thoreson of Acumen Management and I have developed a comprehensive program on Business Guidance. Feel free to drop me a note if you are interested in learning more.

Keith Lubner is managing partner of Channel Consulting Corp, a global consulting organization focused on channel strategy, design, enablement, outsourcing, and training for growing companies. For more information, visit www.channelconsultingcorp.com.

PUBLISHED MARCH 4, 2013