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How to Know if Hiring a Sales Consultant Is Worth the Money


If you’re struggling to build sales momentum, or if you have a challenging goal you need to achieve, you might consider hiring a sales consultant. Sales consultants have the potential to help you reassess and reconstruct your entire approach to sales (and related areas like marketing), but they also tend to be expensive– especially for small business owners.

So when is hiring a sales consultant worth the money?

B2B sales consulting is a broad field, and different consultants will take different approaches. For some, consulting is a short-term arrangement, defined by an audit of your current sales efforts and a series of recommendations for how to improve. For others, consulting is a long-term partnership, defined by consistent, ongoing collaboration and support.

In any case, sales consultants typically help you with some combination of internal needs, which might include auditing and reviews. Consultants will take the time to review your current efforts, analyze your failures, and point out the weaknesses and flaws that are currently holding you back. This unbiased, “outsider” perspective is tough to replicate with internal resources.

Consultants can also help you brainstorm new ideas, such as new strategies to try, alternate copy to experiment with, and new systems and tools to use to see better results. You’ll work together to come up with a better plan moving forward.

Some consultants will also offer their own knowledge and expertise, training and educating your staff to become better salespeople. Plus, they may also be able to connect you with other experts and resources, such as providing a referral to a full-service marketing firm.

There are some limitations to what sales consultants can do, however. Sales consultants cannot change your business for you. Sales consultants can help you determine the best way to change your business– but they can’t step in and change it for you. Those changes have to come from within.

They also can’t boost sales immediately. Most consultants optimize for the long term; they’re not capable of transforming your business overnight. Finally, they can’t guarantee results. While they’re going to try and get you the best possible results, most consultants can’t offer strict guarantees for how much they’re going to boost revenue.

As for the costs, sales consultants range from affordable to ludicrously expensive. On some level, price is correlated with ability; experienced sales consultants with hundreds of happy clients tend to charge more than novice consultants entering the field for the first time. That said, the more expensive option isn’t always the superior option.

Experienced consultants will likely charge you several hundred to a few thousand dollars an hour, if they’re charging hourly. If they’re charging on a per-project basis, you can expect to pay several thousand dollars (at minimum), up to hundreds of thousands of dollars for large-scale intensive projects.

Of course, the expenses of hiring a consultant should be viewed in comparison to the results they’re likely to bring. It may seem like an unreasonable expense to pay $50,000 for a consulting arrangement, but if they’re capable of boosting sales by $150,000 per year, they’ll quickly pay for themselves.

So what’s the bottom line here? When is hiring a sales consultant worth the money?

When your business has already tried everything in its wheelhouse.

You have a lot of potential to improve your business independently and internally, from hiring new people to reviewing new resources. If you’ve already experimented with tons of new tactics and you still haven’t gotten the results you want, a consultant may be your last line of defense.

When you’re lagging behind your competition.

If your competition is outpacing you in every relevant dimension, you’ll need to do something drastic if you want to keep up. That could mean innovating a new product or service, or it could mean getting an outside opinion to help you reshape your internal dynamics.

When you feel confident in a particular consultant.

Not all sales consultants are equally capable of helping you. It’s entirely possible to pay $100 an hour for a total genius who can reshape your approach to sales, or pay $100,000 to a scam artist who wastes your time. Only when you feel confident in a particular consultant should you finalize moving forward.

When you can tolerate the risk.

There’s always a risk of failure. Don’t spend money on a consultant if it’s going to jeopardize the future of your business in a significant way.

Sales consultants aren’t the right move for every business, nor are they the solution to every sales and marketing problem. But if you find the right partner and you’re struggling to get your business to grow, they could be well worth the investment.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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