You’re Not A Consultant, You’re A Salesperson!

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Today, I was coaching a good friend on some sales calls.  We were role playing the call, he was struggling with telling the customer who he was and what his company did (they developed and sold software products).  He had the same problem I see many sales people have.  We have been so indoctrinated with being consultative and solutions focused that we are reluctant to call ourselves “sales people.”   We dance around the issue, we don’t even put the title “Sales Person” on our business cards, we cloud it with some different kind of title.  (I particularly like Relationship Manager, we have some friends that are having some problems in their marriage, maybe they can use a Relationship Manager.)

We are not consultants—unless you really are.  We sell solutions that solve very specific problems for customers.  When we are prospecting, we are looking for people and organizations that have the problems we solve.  We are not interested in helping our customers solve world hunger–unless our company develops these solutions.  We want to be consultative and solutions focused in understanding our customers problems, requirements, and goals—but only as they pertain to solutions we provide.  Otherwise, we are wasting their time and our time.  Customers want to know what we can do for them very quickly.  They want to hear, “We help people who want to achieve this.  We do it by providing software tools that enable your people to do this.”  If we have done our homework, hopefully we have an inkling that they are worried about these issues before we even call them.  Have they responded to our marketing campaigns?  Have we seen news about their company that indicate they may have a need or requirement?  Are all the companies in their industry having the same problems?



Let’s give our customers credit.  They know we are sales people, they know that we will be trying to present our products and services, possibly persuading them to buy.  These days, they probably won’t be interested in meeting with us unless they had some potential, possibly very remote interest in what we are selling–that still doesn’t make them a qualified customer, but it does make them a possible prospect.  We want to determine if they have problems we can solve.  They want to determine if we have the potential of solving their problem, if they are interested in talking to us further.

A customer isn’t looking for a consultant—unless they really are.  They are looking for people to help them solve problems.  They are looking to address new opportunities.  They want to talk to people that can solve their problems.  They may not know they have a problem, then they may not want to talk to anyone–getting their interest in this case is another blog.



We’re sales people, we provide solutions to help our customers do certain things.  We want to find customers who want to do that.  Let’s give our customers the respect to be direct with them and hope they are direct with us.  Seems so much simpler.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Dave: as you point out, customers want honesty above all. The title Consultant in place of Salesperson serves no one. It’s a mealy admission that any title containing the word Sales is somehow tainted. More self-loathing for salespeople.

    What makes matters worse are the mixed messages salespeople receive through titles. Companies use Consultant in the title because it implies a more objective interaction with the customer. It has a softer edge than “Sales Representative.” But it’s a facade. Salespeople hear, “We want you to behave objectively, but we’re managing your job and compensation much differently.” Pull back the covers, and you’ll find that many “consultants” report to a VP of Sales. Doesn’t seem right. At least keep the taxonomy consistent!

    A related blog I wrote Defanged, Declawed . . . Meet Your Next Generation Sales Rep.

  2. Thanks for the great comment Andrew. At the same time, it’s important that sales people sell consultatively. It’s different, but oddly enough, a lot of sales people (and others) don’t understand it.

  3. It’s too bad that the sales profession is not held in higher regard.

    Right out of school I went to work as a Systems Engineer at IBM, and learned that the quota-bearing people were called “marketing reps” and “marketing managers.” Didn’t think anything of it at the time.

    IBM took a very professional — consultative, even — approach to selling. But why in the world did the company decide to use “marketing” as a name for a sales person?

    Calling a sales person a “consultant” is just as bad an idea.

    Consultative selling is a Good Thing, but after a stint in real business consulting I realized that consulting is a completely different profession.

    Consultants do sell, and sales reps should consult in the selling process, but let’s not confuse one job with the other. Or with marketing.

  4. Great comment Bob, we get tangled up with all this stuff, it’s better for us and our customers to be direct with who we are, what we do, and how we can help them.

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