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Balancing the Consultant and Strategist Roles

MANAGING THE FOUR SIDES OF SALES IS THE KEY TO HIGHLY DEVELOPED SALES EFFECTIVENESS.

BY MICHAEL LEIMBACH, PhD, WILSON LEARNING

There was a time when a salesperson could fulfill a unified role as a vendor, trusted advisor, and challenger. But today’s hypercompetitive market requires the salesperson to play two distinct yet complementary roles—that of Consultant to the customer and Strategist to both the customer and his or her own organization.

We all know salespeople who are strong Consultants but weak Strategists. Strong sales Consultants bring valuable expertise to their accounts, but they rarely close the big deal; and if they do, all the value-added services they promise make it an unprofitable sale.

In contrast, salespeople who are all Strategist and no Consultant can tell you the precise dollar value and margin of every opportunity and can outmaneuver the competition, even when it is not in the best interest of the customer. The result is they win a lot of deals but often only once, and they damage relationships both inside and outside the organization.

Building on the foundational skills of Personal Effectiveness and Technical Effectiveness, successful salespeople today must also develop both Consultant and Strategist skill areas. This balancing act is critical if salespeople hope to be competitive and serve their clients.

PERSONAL AND TECHNICAL EFFECTIVENESS

Before developing the roles of Consultant and Strategist, successful salespeople must tap into their Personal Effectiveness to handle stress, assess risks, manage conflict, and generate creative solutions. Consultant-Strategist Model Their success is dependent on their ability to develop relationships, deal with complexity and ambiguity, and provide leadership in the diverse universe of globalization and multinational talent.

At the same time, Technical Effectiveness is the lifeblood of the highly effective salesperson. To sit down and speak credibly with a CFO or CEO, salespeople need much more than just product-specific knowledge; they need a range of strategic and business acumen, including knowledge about applications, business processes, financial conditions, and other functional factors that affect the purchase, use, and integration of products and services.

SALESPERSON AS BUSINESS CONSULTANT

The Consultant role serves as a source of competitive advantage to the customer. A Consultant facilitates an organizational response to solve customers’ business problems. Key Consultant skills include:

SALESPERSON AS STRATEGIST

The other role required of the successful salesperson is that of a Strategist to his or her own organization. Key Strategist skills include:

THE KEY IS BALANCE

The roles of Consultant and Strategist are not contradictory. They represent the yin and yang of sales effectiveness.

Senior buying executives uniformly say that the most valued suppliers are those who demonstrate both the Consultant and Strategist roles; who will push back on assumptions, who are willing to walk away rather than sell them the wrong solution, and who bring value every time they engage with the customer.


Want to learn more? Wilson Learning research has found that there is a 32% increase in top-line performance due to a salesperson’s ability to serve as both a business consultant and a business strategist. Read the Research Report.

About the author:

Michael Leimbach, Ph.D., is Vice President of Global Research and Design for Wilson Learning Worldwide. With over 25 years in the field, Dr. Leimbach provides leadership for researching and designing Wilson Learning’s diagnostic, learning, and performance improvement capabilities. Dr. Leimbach has managed major research studies in sales, leadership, and organizational effectiveness, and has developed Wilson Learning’s impact evaluation capability and return on investment models. Dr. Leimbach has served as a research consultant for a wide variety of global client organizations, is on the editorial board for the ADHR professional journal, and serves in a leadership role for the ISO technical committee TC232: Standards for Learning Service Providers. Dr. Leimbach has coauthored four books, has published numerous professional articles, and is a frequent speaker at national and global conferences.

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