I’ll bet you know plenty about agreements, contracts, and legal compliance in your industry. You probably know enough about accounting, taxes and audits to get by too. And I bet you know your way around insurance, investments and real estate.
Despite all of that knowledge, I’m certain you have a great corporate attorney, corporate accountant, insurance advisers for commercial, benefits and personal lines, and a Realtor. Some of these people may even sit on your board.
Do you have a sales expert on your board? On retainer? Working with your sales team? Your sales management team? On your sales infrastructure? On compensation and incentives?
The question shouldn’t be whether you should or shouldn’t include a sales expert in your group of inside advisers, the question should be which kind of sales expert you should rely on for advice.
There are several types of sales advisers and I wanted to discuss their various areas of expertise today.
- Sales Trainers – Deliver training, usually canned, and regardless of their content, the training is only as good as they are at engaging the group and getting into lively role-plays. Focus on skills training.
- Sales Consultants – Out of work former Sales VP’s whose primary focus is on territories, strategy, roles, infrastructure, compensation, systems and processes.
- Sales Strategists – Primarily focus on the sales force’s ability to execute the strategy and provide necessary services to enable more effective execution.
- Sales Coaches – Usually skip most of the above and focus on one-on-one coaching of salespeople.
- Sales Gurus – Out of work former Sales VP’s who use marketing to differentiate themselves from Sales Consultants.
- Sales Authors – Those who can write with authority about various sales topics.
- Sales Management Consultants – Same as sales strategists.
- Sales Speakers – Can speak with authority and entertainment value on sales topics of their choosing.
- Sales Development Experts – Focus more on the development of the sales organization as a whole rather than one particular area.
- Integrated Sales Development Experts – Able to perform all of the above quite well, from comprehensive diagnostics to comprehensive integrated solutions.
All sales advisers are not created equal. They usually have the most expertise in the industries from which they came and their ability to help you is in direct proportion to the number of diversified clients, industries, challenges and scenarios they have dealt with. Also quite important is their understanding of your issues and challenges, and their ability to effectively solve any and all of the problems associated with those issues and challenges. You don’t solve an infrastructure problem with training and you don’t solve a skills problem with consulting.
Unless you’re very insecure, you won’t want a “yes man” because you’ll end up with a facilitator. You’ll want someone who will push back and point out the errors in your thinking, even if you don’t believe your thinking needs to be revised. You’ll want someone who asks more questions than you’re comfortable answering and you’ll want someone who can differentiate the real issues from the symptoms you provide. For example, it’s not unusual for a client to say, “We need some training on closing skills”. That’s the symptom. Your sales adviser must be able to identify why closing is an issue in your company and that should involve asking questions about the company, management, systems, processes and each individual salesperson to differentiate between cause and effect. Skills training alone will rarely solve any of the problems that you bring to one of us.
There you have it. If you don’t already have a sales adviser, add a great one to your team. If you have someone, make sure that you get their input on everything related to their expertise.
For example, most clients include me on all their important account strategy emails so that I can contribute when something doesn’t look right. Most clients won’t hire a salesperson, sales manager or sales director without my direct involvement. Most clients won’t discuss company strategy without me. Most clients won’t install systems and processes without my advice. Sales advisers know what they’re doing in much the same way as your lawyers and accountants do. Take advantage of it and stop guessing at what the best possible approach might be.