As a solo consultant or partner leading a boutique consulting firm, chances are you are not that interested in developing your sales skills. Your passion is solving problems and engaging with clients. You do sales by necessity, not by choice.
Looking back at our CCS framework, as soon as you find and systemize a way to continually generate interest for your services, the next step becomes capturing that demand.
That is why the thought of hiring a salesperson is very natural to many. When you have more opportunities than you can handle, it seems like sales is the bottleneck. Therefore, the solution is to remove yourself from the process.
After working with +100 small consulting firms, I'll give it to you straight: If you're doing under $10 million/year, hiring a salesperson will only hurt your business.
This happens due to two inherent characteristics of the consulting industry:
- Your clients hire you, not only your offerings.
- Consulting sales requires deep and specific expertise.
Clients Bundle You And Your Offerings
Clients give as much importance to your offering as they do to who's going to deliver it.
Even if you have a team of contractors that deliver implementation, you and your offerings become one in the mind of buyers. When you invest a reasonable amount of money to hire expertise, ensuring you will have access to the expert himself is a must. That's how consulting works.
As the saying goes, "If you don't trust the messenger, why would you trust the message?"
Consulting Sales Require Expertise
The sales process for consulting services is complex and includes activities like:
- Exploring in detail what's the prospect's current situation, sharing insights based on previous engagements from similar clients;
- Identifying the root of their most pressing issues, or opportunities to improve their business and attain expressed goals;
- Presenting relevant and effective solutions, tailoring your offerings to meet the prospect's needs.
It will be very difficult for a salesperson that never delivered engagements to understand what you can and can't do to customize your solutions. To go deep and share expertise on how to overcome practical challenges during implementation. You can't put this on a checklist.
That's why you and your partners are the best salespeople for your firm. You are experts that can diagnose and provide customized solutions for each prospect. When you do that correctly, prospects see you as a trusted source and feel much more comfortable hiring your services.
What About Productized Offerings?
One common counter-argument I hear is: "But what if I productize my offerings? What if I systemize and streamline tasks so that clients don't need direct access to me?"
If that's the case, you are likely solving a specific problem to a specific audience. You don't need to lead the sales conversations. But you also don't need a salesperson to do so.
If you don't need deep discovery or bespoke solutions, let the prospects buy the service themselves. Productized offerings can be sold just like products, and that's one of their biggest advantages.
Your marketing material should do all the work. Advertising and promotion materials make it clear what problem you are solving. Sales pages include a list of frequently asked questions and the option to hire the service without friction.
When your offering mix includes both productized and bespoke solutions, you are in a healthy position to make the best of your marketing engine. Just remember that, in both cases, a salesperson is rarely a fix.
Don't overcomplicate your consulting business. Keep it simple and lean.