7 No Bullshit Questions to Ask When Hiring a Sales Consultant

December 13, 2017 Richard Harris

In our last article, we did a tactical tear down of when to hire sales trainer or sales consultant. In this post, we’ll explain how to find and hire the right sales consultant or sales trainer for your business. We’ll lean on our panel of experts and start by sharing their unique perspective, followed by 7 very specific questions to ask when interviewing a sales consultant or trainer candidate.

What Do You Look For In A Sales Consultant or Trainer?

“I look for someone who has experience in our broad category, which in our case is SaaS, as well as familiarity with our sales team setup with an inside SDR team and hybrid AE team (inside and field).

A great trainer has not only the right material, but also has learned how to deliver it in a way that salespeople can consume so that they can get better.”

From Bob Marsh – Founder and CEO, Level Eleven

“I’m seeking an assertive project manager type who knows what they need from me / the team, and knowing we’re very busy, is able to adapt and take on more work to bring the initiative to the finish line. We can always iterate after an MVP has been delivered. The sales coach should also make 1-2 top reps feel at ease- when there’s a connection it makes life easier.”

Matt Belitsky – SVP, Global Sales & Marketing at Komiko

“I look for someone who is referred or comes from my network, as coaches come in many forms, but one that is referred to me by my network shows me that this person has driven results for someone I trust. From there I try to make sure the sales consultant or trainer’s skill sets are directly applicable to the business problem I am trying to solve – whether it’s training skills, new techniques, or a new perspective, it’s gotta be super relevant otherwise it’s kind of pointless.”

From Dave Hawley – CMO, Silicon Valley

The #1 Red Flag To Look Out For When Hiring A Sales Consultant

If you think you need to hire a sales trainer, our advice is to find at least two different consultants and start a few conversations. It’s always good to have something to compare and contrast.

And here is a really important tip, on what great sales consultants and sales trainers DON’T DO.

They don’t try to sell your their services, EVER!

They talk about your challenges, why you want to solve them, and only then do they explain what they do, how they do it, and discuss if it makes sense to continue the conversation.

7 Key Questions to Ask When Hiring a Sales Consultant or Trainer

  1. Does the sales consultant understand your product solution?
  2. Does the sales consultant practice what they preach?
  3. Does the sales consultant have a strong track record of success?
  4. Does the sales consultant have a proven training curriculum?
  5. Can the sales consultant be agile and customize to your unique needs?
  6. Does the sales consultant bring a fresh perspective?
  7. How does your potential sales consultant handle the competition questions?

1. Does The Consultant Understand Your Product Solution?

A good sales consultant isn’t necessarily the one who’s logged the most hours leading sales team training, but rather the one who wants to absorb and understand your product offering first.

He is the one who has already examined everything on your website, and then wants all your case studies, will volunteer to listen in on your sales calls, and sit down with your salespeople in order to fully grasp how you are currently selling.

The sales consultant you choose needs to embrace both your solution offering, and your customers as much as you do. If he’s only dictating a process and doesn’t want to listen or learn about you, that’s a huge red flag.

Watch out! Your sales team will not believe him, become irritated and, not implement the recommendations. Your training money will be a wasted effort. This is often illustrated with no pipeline increase or even worse a negative pipeline growth because people have lost faith in the organization.

2. Practice What They Preach?

Does the sales trainer dominate the conversation or do they come in gently and ask questions? Do they try to tell you they can solve all problems or do they tell you that if they don’t do what you ask they will help you find the right person who does?

A seasoned sales consultant will help you understand the difference between your own surface pains and your real core pains.

surface pain vs core pain

Then they will most likely just share what they do, their methodology, and how they prepare, engage, and create follow up coaching.

A good sales consultant or trainer will help you understand what you are trying to accomplish and will help you confirm what you have suspected all along.

3. Does The Consultant Have a Strong Track Record?

Any sales consultant worth his or her salt should be able to listen and determine what your needs are, why they are important, and how they impact your organization.

They should then show use cases, testimonials and other specific programs or methodologies from similar clients, along with illustrating a customized solution for you.

Hiring a consultant looks a lot like hiring an employee. Check references!

4. Does The Consultant Have a Proven Training Curriculum? 

The biggest challenge that many companies face, especially start-ups, is the lack of usable, cohesive training materials.

There is often a mix of Word and Excel documents gathered from past jobs that have been loosely cobbled together and then tossed up on the intranet.

Contributors to this information come from varying points of view, not to mention departments and see the world differently: sales reps, managers, VP’s, marketing, etc.

I’ve even seen engineering work hard to provide technical information so the sales team can explain the product.

The intent to disseminate information to the sales team is commendable; however things are fumbled in the execution due to the lack of a cohesive voice and flow.

Often data is presented based on the authors’ perspective, not what the prospect actually needs to see or hear during the decision-making process.

This loosely defined network of information is often the source of a dreaded feature and benefit sales pitch that does little to solve your customers’ pain points.

The good news here is that the company is reaching a point where they understand the need for stronger materials to support the sales organization.

If you are in a similar situation it means you are ready to consider how you will scale the sales organization.

An effective sales consultant should be able to provide a design a curriculum for your sales training or sales process that is customized to your needs and includes tools your team can use well after the consultant is gone.

5. Can The Consultant Customize to Your Needs?

More often than not a company’s struggles stem from the use of a generic, hand-me-down processes and one-size-fits-all training curricula.

But what works for enterprise sales teams may not work for mid-market sales teams or SMB sales teams.

And things will definitely need tweaking if you have a lead generation, ISR training or SDR goals.

He or she needs to be able to feel your pain and articulate a solution that has the right balance for your sales organization.

The consultant should include time in the initial discussions for speaking with key people within your organization in order to best understand the various client pains which your solution addresses as well as the different perspectives within your organization of your clients’ struggles.

A trustworthy sales consultant does not just want your business; they (should) want to earn your business. A nice by-product of this shows everyone in the organization how much their input is valued by the sales team.

If your consultant does not offer this, RED FLAG!

6. Does the Sales Consultant Bring a Fresh Perspective?

Ever been to a sales kickoff event like this:

  • Introduction
  • CEO: Rah-rah speech
  • VP of Sales: Rah-rah speech about the next two days
  • Marketing: New programs, drip campaigns, blah, blah, blah,
  • Product Marketing: New product release and walk-through (not training)
  • Sales teams: Share best practices and successes
  • Evening drinks
  • Award Ceremony

What’s missing? Someone needs to teach an actual sales process, facilitate role-playing exercises and teach skills to train the sales team to listen. These exercises help everyone learn how to better visualize their current deals, create a buzz and chatter about how to do it better and create a positive energy that everyone in the room can feel.

The consultant serves a valuable role in sales training because they offer a balanced approach that can work outside of internal politics and function not just as an unbiased trainer or sales process designer. They can also lend fresh eyes to old challenges and apply the insight and wisdom gleaned from working with other companies to your situation.

Here are two important points about the perspective a consultant can bring.

Important Takeaway #1: Salespeople can be more open to a consultant.

When you choose the right consultant, and get them talking with the sales team early, often times the sales team will open up and use the consultant as a sounding board about how they see the sales organization. This bodes well for everyone, after all someone’s perception is also their reality.

Important Takeaway #2: The consultant can often see what you can’t (or refuse to see).  

Ever had a sense something wasn’t right but you could not put your finger on it? Wish you could get a different view of your sales team? Do you wish you could better see the forest instead of the trees? A good consultant will always be help you move the rocks and see what is underneath.

In the end, the sales consultant you hire should be able to articulate the value of your product and its benefits as well as anyone on the inside sales team or your field sales reps.

They should be able to illustrate a proven approach, and build a customized program for your sales organization. They should aim to teach everybody in the sales organization the process and the techniques to communicate with prospects in a helpful conversation revolving around their pain points. And if he doesn’t, then it’s time to look for a new candidate.

7. How Does Your Potential Sales Consultant or Trainer Handle the Competition Questions?

Will the consultant admit they are not the right fit for you?  

Often times a sales consultant says they can do everything for you. It has been our experience that this is not true.

For most of the companies we would call competition we do not actually view each other that way.

There have been numerous occasions where other consultants such as John Barrows, The Bridge Group, VorsightBP, NoMoreColdCalling, and TOPO have worked together or outright referred business to each other.

You want a consultant who will help you not only find your solution but also someone willing to admit they are not the right one for you.

Need help with anything? Learn more in the video below.

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