I wanted to write this article as many customers and prospective customers have asked me about consultancy models and the differences between them.
It is often challenging to find a sales consultant that knows your company, your industry and your problems inside out. The interesting thing is that sales consultants attack the challenge of growing a technology company in different ways. Some I’ve heard don’t have a methodology, although in practice they do and hence sharing that with you.
What are the three consultancy models?
- Low-Touch Model: Analyse and Support.
- ‘Let’s Go’ Model: Analyse and Execute.
- 5-Step Framework: Analyse, Plan, Execute, Review and Support.
Each of these models have their advantages and disadvantages. The model also reveals the goals and ambitions of the consultant when talking to your company. Every consultancy is trying to balance having both regular, profitable and non time-intensive work.
The choice for a tech company of each model can come down to a couple of factors:
- The sales skills of the consultant
- The available budget and cashflow position of the tech company
- The size and state of the sales team and their results
- The financial position of the consultancy
- The view of sales consultancy by the CEO and board.
The Low-Touch Model
The low-touch model is kicked off with an analysis of the company. This is normally 2-3 days of workshops for a tech company. The workshops will be classroom based with the tech company providing limited materials for the consultant to prepare. An agenda will be loosely outlined, sent and followed. The deliverables include a word document or pdf with some of the observations bullet-pointed and maybe some overarching descriptions of needed improvements in each of the section of the report.
The outcome that the sales consultant wants from the low-touch model is normally a 2-4 days per month to support the company with some of the previously outlined challenges. This means that they can run several projects at once as an adviser rather than an implementer.
This can work well if it’s a mentor relationship that the company wants initially. This will then result in small incremental changes being made over time to reach its desired goals.
There is not enough output to really cause long-lasting change. The tech company doesn’t really see the individual in action, leading and coaching the team and seeing their analytical skills. The Tech CEO often feels at a loss and sometimes is resentful when they seemingly seem to “swoon in” and offer some “off-the-cuff advice”.
The Let’s Go Model
The Let’s Go Model is quite similar to the low-touch model to begin with. It often starts with an analysis of the company which includes interviews with the various team members and departments, a product demo and a strategy conversation with the CEO and senior leadership. This probably includes some classroom based workshop and informal interviews with the various team members. They will often create a powerpoint/slide deck on the state of the company which includes their observations and targeted improvements.
The sales consultant wants is to act as an Interim Sales Manager or Interim Sales Director. They know the company needs results and some direction and they have the experience and know-how to begin. This would normally result in the consultant proposing a retained agreement for a set number of days per month.
The company will immediately feel after the sales consultant has concluded the analysis that they want to get going and implement some of the necessary changes. The experienced professional can spot things quickly and keenly wants to make changes.
The sales consultant is really searching for a job-type arrangement at this point. They balance their eagerness with a need for regular retained income with the company’s necessary requirement to grow. Often the sales consultant will first attack the challenges that they are most familiar with and have most experience in dealing with. This is often not the most strategically important issues. Secondly, you are not really given a view into the consultant’s mind and what they’ll do in month 2 or month 3.
The 5-Step Framework
This is a strategic way of looking at the relationship from analysis and insight to sales execution. After sales increasing, there is an eagerness to improve the relationship and become a long-term mentor to the CEO.
In terms of the analysis, we see consultants ask for CRM access, financial reports, invoice reports, and marketing collateral to analyse the company. This is not really a commercial or sales analysis. I know that at Sales for Startups, we call it a Sales MOT but really it’s more than that it’s a Business MOT. Sales interacts with so many other departments and has some many dependencies within your organisation and workflow to flourish consistently.
The consultant is really keen to understand what is going on with your customers, your pipeline, your revenue and activity trends. They’re looking at the interplay between all the vital parts of a sales operation and analysing how they function in your company.
The deliverable is a write-up in either a long-form report or one on a software like Trello or Asana. This will be mostly bullet-pointed and can be easily shared and commented on within your organisation. To accompany the report there will be a statistical review of the key vital trends in your business. Therefore this will give the Tech CEO a real commercial picture for the first time.
The consultant has analysed your business by reviewing nuanced and statistical data. They are then in a position to give recommendations to you based on evidence and a clear understanding of your business.
The analysis needs to be deeper as they are onselling a plan. Secondly, even if you elect to skip the plan stage, you can go straight to the plan as the analysis will have gone much deeper than you first anticipated. It may even surprise you on what information that they request from you. On a long-term view the 5-step framework outlines the model to the Tech CEO upfront saying that we’ll transform your results, review our work and support you long-term as an adviser. You earn your right to be an adviser, you don’t ask for it without knowledge, experience or a trusting relationship between both the Tech CEO and the sales consultant.
Tech CEOs can see this as rather cumbersome or fear that they don’t have the data available to make a statistical analysis relevant. After all someone is looking at your whole business and pulling out insights that weren’t immediately apparent. For creators like Tech CEOs this can be a little challenging at times, as after all it is their creation. Besides, we are all eager to increase our sales results and hence a Tech CEO’s impatience sometimes is seen at this point, as they just want you to get going. Although this does remind me of the unhelpful chant in football of “do something, do something”. Not always the most constructive approach!
In summary, the three models do differ due to the incentives of each party and what they are looking to do as their next step. The Low-Touch model is looking at holding an initial workshop for a one-off fee then supporting you as an adviser straight off the bat. The Let’s Go model has an improved analysis model and builds relationships quickly and then jumps into action straight away on the things that they feel comfortable on doing and what has worked in their past roles, often corporate sales roles. The third model the 5-Step model is started with deep analysis, a plan and then timely execution.
Above all this model informs the client of what’s happening right from the start. Moreover, they are making an investment in a long-term relationship rather than a knee-jerk reaction to their circumstances.
From all its trials and tribulations at Sales for Startups we have decided to go with the 5-Step framework as it puts an emphasis on a long-term relationship based on evidence and fact-based knowledge and ultimately earning the right to be an adviser after a sales transformation. It does have its challenges as sometimes it can appear cumbersome and too long-winded for the revenue-eager Tech CEO. But there are many ways to grow a company and when it’s someone else’s livelihood and passion always err on the side of caution. That’s my personal opinion.
Certainly I’d be keen to hear what business models or practices have you experienced with other sales consultancies? Please connect with me and share your insight in often this challenging and for many confusing field, as too many overcomplicate matters and neglect simplicity.