10 signs it’s time to hire a sales consultant + 7 mistakes to avoid
How do you know when it’s time to hire a sales consultant?
While everyone’s reasons to hire a sales consultant will vary, it doesn’t mean you’re throwing in the towel on current strategies or minimizing the work your team has done up to now.
When you hire a sales consultant, you’re setting your sales team (and your business) up for even better results with a more efficient process, workflow, and tool stack.
How do we know? Because we talked to some of today’s top SaaS and startup sales consultants.
Let’s dig into what they said about:
- When to hire a sales consultant: 10 reasons you may need one
- Want to really benefit from a sales consultant? Avoid these 7 key mistakes
When to hire a sales consultant: 10 signs you may need one
There are some clear signals your sales org may be sending out that mean you need help, pronto. Are you listening to the signs?
Here’s a post from a top LinkedIn voice, Hannah Ajikawo. She says:
“You don’t just go to the gym when you find out you’re sick. You go because you think you can be fitter, healthier, happier. Don’t wait until your sales process is fundamentally broken. Start now. Right where you are. Stop waiting to hit survival mode.”
So, instead of waiting for everything to start breaking down, start looking for early warning signs.
We asked some of today’s top sales consultants about what kind of challenges their clients are commonly facing when they reach out. Here are 10 common challenges they see in their clients.
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1. Your sales message is inconsistent or weak
How does the sales team feel about your message? How do customers respond to the way your reps describe your product? Are they excited? Confused?
If your overall sales messaging needs more clarity or a fresh look, this is a good time to work with a sales consultant.
Here’s how Michael Halper of SalesScripter explains it:
“Most of my clients are small business owners that are not professionally trained as salespeople. They’ve become salespeople because they’re a business owner, and they want to create a script.”
“What I often do is help them take a step back: before creating a script, I help them create their sales message. This means organizing the most important, attention-grabbing, clear things they should be saying.”
Michael has his clients go through a series of questions, such as:
- What are your benefits?
- What are the pain points that you solve?
- What are good questions you should ask prospects?
- How are you different from the competition?
- What’s a quick example of someone that you’ve helped.
Organizing these thoughts into a clear messaging strategy allows small business owners and startup founders to easily create cold call scripts or cold email templates.
Josh O’Brien of RevShoppe adds this idea: “People come to us for messaging strategy, they want to know how to engage. And yes, that is important, but you also have to think about the operations side. How do I align the technology to the workflows that I have?”
A sales consultant can help you clarify your message and implement it with the right technology.
2. You’ve hit a limit with scaling
We’re all rooting for the hustlers: Startup founders who are scaling fast and doing a lot of the work themselves.
If this is you, congrats! But you may be starting to notice something that Kevin Ramani mentions:
“The primary reason why a lot of founders want to work with me is that they recognize that they've hit a certain limit in terms of their abilities in sales.”
“Maybe they feel sales isn’t moving as fast as it could, or maybe they have some early customers but are lacking repeatability. Or, sometimes they just don’t know what structures or processes would be necessary to grow this.”
Scaling startups will often reach a point where they simply can’t grow anymore without help. If you’re still reluctant to start hiring for essential sales roles (eg. VP of Sales), working with a sales consultant can help you pinpoint the most efficient path forward.
But Kevin adds: “I find there’s usually a gap between where startup founders think they are and where they actually are. Most founders think they need to build for repeatability and scalability much sooner than they actually do.”
“I help them chart a path with more foundational work today, which has a tremendous impact on long-term growth.”
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3. Churn in your sales pipeline is increasing
If you’ve started to build a sales team with a clear process and pipeline, churn is a bad sign.
Mor Assouline talks about a common thread that may be causing this:
“One common challenge I see is that AEs aren’t getting ramped up fast enough,” he says. “On demos, they’re feature dumping. They’re not taking their time with discovery. They’re not finding pain points.”
“Because of that, they could be closing deals, but then churn is high.”
If you’re seeing this sign, you might consider hiring a sales consultant that will help your reps set up better processes for prospecting, discovery, and demos.
4. You have some pieces of the process but need help to put everything together in an effective way
Jake Dunlap of Skaled works with companies to develop tactical advice and workflows for sales operations.
Here’s what he says about the companies he works with:
“I think it’s really important to highlight the fact that, with your current sales process, you probably have about 60-80% of what you need to be successful. You just need someone to help you pull it together and drive it home.”
Remember what we said at the beginning: you don’t need to wait until the ship is sinking to look for help.
5. Your process isn’t getting predictable results
One month, you exceed your targets by 100%. You increase your target for the quarter, thinking it’s an upward trend. Then the next month, you miss your target by more than half.
As Mark Colgan of Yellow O says: “Typically, people come to me when they want a more repeatable and predictable process for sales, so they can generate new revenue.”
When your results aren’t predictable, forecasting can feel like throwing darts in the dark. This is a point where many startups and SMBs will turn to a sales consultant for help.
6. You’re a startup fresh off the press and want to scale fast
If you’re a startup founder building your first sales org and trying to scale quickly, getting the help of a professional who’s been through the process before can make all the difference.
Alberto Nodale is now a sales consultant, but at one time he was a startup founder in that exact position. Here’s what he says he learned:
“I was running a startup, doing sales blindfolded. After that experience, my advice to founders is this: really search for someone who can teach you or consult with you on sales so you don’t end up spending effort on things that definitely won’t work.”
“I learned this the hard way. My startup looked great from the outside, it won tons of awards, but it didn’t generate the revenue people thought it was generating. It was a really tough time for me when we decided to close it down. I actually think that if I was better at sales, it could've gone differently. My advice: learn as much as possible about sales, as early as you can.”
Scott Leese also specializes in helping startups grow their first sales teams, having helped various companies go from $0 to $25M in ARR.
Here’s his advice:
“Often you have a technical or finance founder with a good product and maybe a bit of traction. But they don’t have a good pitch and messaging in place, and they have no idea how to build or scale a sales org.”
“When they come to me, they’re looking for someone to help them figure out a sales playbook, figure out how to sell their product. And down the road, when things start taking off and they need to add people, I put out the bat signal to my network and help them hire great talent.”
Getting a consultant that can help you set up the right foundation for your sales org can make all the difference for an early-stage startup.
7. Your lead generation process is leaky
As Jake Dunlap says: “I’ve never met a B2B company that said they didn’t want more leads.”
Of course, having more leads doesn’t necessarily mean more revenue. If you’re generating more leads but not seeing improvements down the line, now is the time to reach out to a sales consultant and help fix your process.
“At least 40% of our engagements involve helping companies optimize their lead generation process,” says Jake. “We do hundreds of tech implementations around that every year.”
When you hire an experienced sales consultant, they can help you smooth out your process with the right technology and workflow to generate more revenue from new leads.
8. Your sales org is falling behind the trends
“Sales is evolving rapidly,” says Jake. “It’s like when you lose weight: you don’t see it, but someone who hasn’t seen you in a while will notice.”
Do you feel like your team is having trouble keeping up with the trends? Something that may be causing issues for your team is the switch to remote selling.
Iain Swanston of Klozers has noticed this: “How to sell virtually has become a big thing,” he says. “You’ve got this workforce of field salespeople who are used to going out and shaking hands. All of a sudden they've got to try and close business without being face-to-face, and for some, it’s still alien. They're in a position where everything that they'd learned and did successfully for the last 20, 30 years is now no longer relevant. It’s so tough.”
If your team is still struggling with remote sales, now is the time to get them the help they need.
Jake Dunlap has also seen changes in the buying process, and sales teams have been slow to adapt.
“We don’t quite realize what’s happening around us, particularly around customer behavior. More companies are going to have multiple buying processes, but right now most companies are cookie cutter.”
9. Your sales team doesn’t understand their ICP
Who are you selling to? If your team can’t answer that question clearly, you need help building an ideal customer profile.
“A lot of times, we help people understand who their ideal customers are,” says Mark Colgan.
“Start by developing a very thorough understanding of what is actually important to them and what challenges and pain points they have. Then map that out to success stories from your customers, underpinned by the features of your product and services.”
10. Your sales team has high turnover
If you find yourself constantly having to replace good talent on your team, that’s a clear warning sign that something is wrong with your sales team structure, culture, or process.
A sales consultant that works specifically with small teams can come in and help you identify problems, and find creative solutions to keep your employees motivated and happy.
Want to really benefit from a sales consultant? Avoid these 7 key mistakes
If you’ve decided it’s time to hire a sales consultant, you’re on the right track to getting the help your team needs.
For the process to run smoothly, look out for these red flags or obstacles that could slow down your progress:
1. Working with someone who treats your business as one-size-fits-all
Every business is unique, and any good sales consultant will recognize that.
As Jake Dunlap says: “You want to look for a consultant who is willing to talk about results and who gets to know your business. In our process, we try to preserve as much as the processes that are currently in place.”
“We don’t tell businesses they have to do everything this one cookie-cutter way. I feel like that's old school, and more companies are looking for someone who will take the time to really get their business.”
“Then the solution that comes out the other side doesn’t feel cookie-cutter. It feels like they took the time to develop an educated opinion on what you should do.”
2. Going in with no clear expectations
When asked what mistakes companies commonly make when they hire a sales consultant, Mor Assouline said: “A lot of times they’re not coming in prepared. They’re expecting the sales consultant to come in and have all the answers.”
“They’re not thoughtful about what they want to get out of it,” adds Jake Dunlap. “And you don't have to figure it all out, that’s part of the reason you hire a sales consultant. But at least think about the outcome you want to drive to.”
“Preparation before getting on a call saves time and money,” says Mor. “Don’t expect immediate results without doing your research and due diligence.”
3. Telling your consultant exactly what to do
While not having any expectations isn’t good, the other extreme can also cause problems for a sales consultant.
Mark Colgan says: “The biggest mistake is just telling the person what you want them to do. Often I work with companies that say they want to increase net new leads or meetings booked each month. And I’ll say, great, but let’s look at your funnel. Let’s look at your sales process. Because if there are errors and problems there, you’re just putting more water into a leaky bucket.”
When you prepare and set up your expectations, don’t narrow your field of vision to the one area you think needs to change to make improvements. Otherwise, you may end up rejecting help that will get you to the goals you want to achieve.
4. Assuming you can figure it out on your own
“I spoke to a founder who said he thought he needed help,” explains Mor Assouline. “On the call, he told me his AEs were only closing 20% of their sales demos. I offered my services, but in the end, they didn’t move forward with any consultant or VP of sales. They decided they could just figure it out on their own.”
“This is a big mistake because now the CEO is playing consultant instead of CEO because they’re looking at this as an expense rather than an investment.”
Mark Colgan has also seen this problem: “An external consultant will offer objective third-party advice. And sometimes it can be hard to hear. Oftentimes companies don't like the advice that consultants give.”
“But you've got to understand that most people have your business's best interest in their hearts. They're looking to provide a service to you to help you. And sometimes that involves listening to some difficult conversations.”
Jake Dunlap adds: “You need to be ready to accept the help you get from a consultant. Because you can get a lot of advice and not execute on any of it.”
5. Allowing sales managers to feel threatened by a sales consultant
“A lot of problems are caused by a lack of experience in sales management,” says Iain Swanston. “I feel for sales managers because many are still carrying that sales target. You see the sales manager chasing the target and spending less time developing the team, and I’ve seen instances where the sales manager feels threatened by the consultant, thinking they’ll show them up.”
How do you stop this from happening when bringing on a sales consultant? Talk to your sales manager. Be transparent. Help them buy into the idea of getting outside help to boost results. Don’t leave them wondering about their own standing within the business.
“Hire a sales consultant that can be a trusted Lieutenant to your sales manager, to stand by their side and help them grow and develop the team,” says Iain. “Any any good consultant will tell you that the sales manager is essential to the organization. Without the sales manager, we've got nobody to hold people accountable when we are not there.
6. Choosing a consultant you don’t have chemistry with
“Picking a sales coach is a very personal thing,” says Kevin Ramani. “I think most coaches are good, but you need to have chemistry with a coach. You need to feel like you can trust them and that the things they say actually resonate with you.”
“If you want to find a really good coach, just open yourself up and talk to people and just go by your instinct. I'd rather only work with people where I know I can really help them and they can get a lot of value.”
7. Letting the motivating die right after the sales consultant leaves
“The hardest part of being a sales consultant is getting people to hold themselves accountable,” says Iain.
It may be easy for the team to feel motivated while a sales consultant is there helping them along, but it’s the job of sales leaders to keep that momentum going after the sales consultant’s job is done.
“The danger with motivation is that, when the call ends, it’s like pulling the plug from the wall and that motivation starts to seep away. Salespeople need a solid motivation that makes them jump out of bed in the morning.”
“Employers need to understand the personal sales goals of your team, and then match them to your business. Give them a cause to stand behind, something that makes them feel good while doing it. Then the team will be much more motivated, they’ll be working with a smile on their face.”
Ready to hire a sales consultant?
If you’ve seen the warning signs that your sales org needs external help and you’ve prepped to avoid common mistakes, you’re ready to hire a sales consultant.
Where do you start?
Check out our Sales Consultants Directory, with over 100 listings of vetted sales consultants. You’ll get information about their services and style, as well as recorded audio interviews that dig into the details of working with a sales consultant.
Get started now and boost the results for your team: