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From Salesman to Consultant – Where Do You Fit In?

05 Aug

Are you Salesman or Consultant? Attached to these two descriptions are deeper meanings on a way of doing business that you are probably familiar with. Let’s take a look at the assumed agenda of each of the two contrasting roles.

Salesman: Wants to move product, may exaggerate product specifications or hide negative information regarding the product to increase sales. Information received from the salesman is not regarded as reliable or ‘expert’ information.

Consultant: Is highly ethical and interested in the best interests of those engaged in business and is an expert in their area of operation. A consultant provides expert advice that is typically regarded as fact.

A common misconception is that the revenue structure of each individual should speak volumes about how a customer perceives you. People might assume that if you are selling certain goods or services (typically one that you are not providing yourself) then you are a salesman. Likewise, they assume that if you are selling services that you provide yourself, then you are a consultant. Neither of these things is true.

Relationships hold sway

In reality, the two titles are more a description of the actual relationship that exists between the person selling and the person buying.  At your first engagement with a business and possibly for many engagements after, you are seen as a salesman to some degree. You are often trying to sell them some goods or services and your advice needs to be verified somehow externally. Their initial level of trust will help decide what level of engagement with the business you start at, but this can certainly move in either direction over time.

Quality and value delivery matters

Clearly, doing poor work or selling poor quality products to a client will firmly push you into the ‘salesman’ category. Conversely, high-quality work and providing the best products to fulfil client needs pushes you towards the ‘consultant’ title. Furthermore, thoughtfully declining work or sales that you are not able to perform in the best interests of the client will increase the trust level of the relationship, making them view you more as a consultant.

There are many people out there with the title salesman printed on their business cards who are actually consultants. There are also people out there with the term consultant on their business card who are actually salesmen. It also doesn’t matter whether you are selling goods and services, are vendor neutral, or are selling only one product that you passionately believe in.

So, where do you fit in?

A good way to know where you fit into the spectrum of Salesman to Consultant with a particular client is to observe the way they engage you. A client asking you at any point “what do you think?” is an indication that they are asking you for advice on an issue. Giving them honest advice and accurate information is the only way you can keep having them ask this question. This is what makes you a consultant to them. Rapid-fire, direct and specific functional questions tend to indicate a lower trust level, meaning the client may view you more as somebody looking to take their money (i.e. a Salesman).

There’s a number of other ways to analyse the situation, but it’s a good idea to make a point of assessing your own relationship with your clients and asking yourself how they really perceive you.From here we are in a stronger position to grow and develop our business as a consultant, as all good salesmen should also be consultants at heart.

If you’re a consultant then take a look at HirePulse, the service directory for consultants, freelancers, contractors, and other service providers. For more great reading take a look at 4 Tips On How To Manage Multiple Freelance Jobs Without Going Crazy.

 

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3 responses to “From Salesman to Consultant – Where Do You Fit In?

  1. Steve Hopper

    August 5, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Very interesting indeed.

     
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