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How to Start a Sales Training Consulting Business
A 40 Percent Success Rate?
Business owners and managers are engaged in a constant quest to increase company sales. One practical solution for businesses is to hire a sales training consultant to train sales managers and the sales staff to do a better job. If you are thinking about starting a consulting business that provides sales training, find out in advance what is required to succeed in this business.
Sales training and consulting can be rewarding. However, prospective sales training consultants cannot afford to ignore the challenges on the horizon. In a healthy dose of reality, the Small Business Administration reports that the failure rate for cross-industry businesses is 60 percent during the first year — plan ahead to make it into the 40 percent that succeed.
Starting a consulting business is much harder than it looks.— Dan Schawbel
Review Your Skill Set
Before jumping into any business opportunity, you should always examine if you “have what it takes.” Running a sales training consulting business requires a complex mixture of skills — for starters, management and the “Big 3” skill set of consulting, training and sales.
How many salespeople (and managers) are not realizing their fullest potential? What stands in the way to greater performance isn’t something they don’t have but something they don’t get consistently: effective coaching. Unfortunately, most managers don’t deliver consistent, effective coaching or have the coaching skills needed to make a long-term, positive impact on their salespeople’s performance.— Keith Rosen
Evaluate Your Sales and Training Experience
Clients will expect your sales training consulting firm to bring valuable experience to the table. If you do not have this expertise, you can hire employees who can add immediate street credibility to your new consulting team. If you are planning a one-person consulting shop, your most practical route is to have several years of specialized marketing and sales management experience on your professional resume. At a minimum, your prospective clients are likely to insist that you understand their business — and know how to sell to their customers.
Always Remember and Improve the Bottom Line
Sales training alone is not enough.
Your people can’t always diagnose their own skill deficiencies, nor can they coach themselves out of a slump. Managers focus on spreadsheets and treat symptoms instead of uncovering the root cause, so similar problems persist. Good coaching taps into people’s individuality and motivation, builds confidence and fosters deeper accountability.
— Keith Rosen
Be Alert for Zombie Problems
Review the Competition
You should anticipate plenty of competition. Your immediate goal should be to learn what these potential competitors are already doing and how much they charge for what you plan to do as a sales training consultant. The next step is to candidly ask yourself what you will do differently in order to get new business from clients.
Charging lower fees might work in the early stages, but you should resist the temptation to compete exclusively on a price basis. A better approach is to discover what would make you indispensable as a sales training consultant to specific clients. For example, perhaps you were the sales manager for a key competitor of a prospective client.
Evaluate the Potential Benefits of Career Training Programs
Client Research: Selling to Clients and Talking to a Critical Focus Group
If you are thinking about starting a professional services business that will help companies improve their selling, do not overlook the importance of another critical strategic need — your own ability to sell professional services to demanding clients. Many aspiring consultants overlook this key marketing principle. Without clients, your new consulting business can wither on the vine.
The business development and promotional phase for your consulting practice can never start too early. The immediate logistics of opening a sales training consulting business can be as simple as telling everyone that you are a consultant. But just as it “takes two to tango,” your business will not exist for very long without clients to help you pay the bills.
It is prudent to cover your client bases in the early stages of your business formation process. While it is not necessary to have a paying client on day one of your new consulting business, you should keep potential revenue sources in clear focus as you plan your new business career. Talking to potential clients beforehand is one smart way to determine what your immediate customer list might look like.
For example, this targeted focus group can help you formulate details about your fees and services before your business is officially launched. The ideal situation is for you to learn as much as you can about who will hire you before you take the real risk of hanging up your consulting shingle.
In recent years, professional services providers have had to rethink their sales strategies because so many of their tried-and-true approaches no longer work. Clients ask tougher questions and demand better answers. They expect to guide the sales process, and they insist that services providers customize proposals and presentations down to the last detail. They won't tolerate false sincerity, artificial deadlines and preprogrammed sales strategies.— Michael W. McLaughlin
Business Writing Is Critical to Sales Consulting Success
Business writing can be a powerful tool, but it is an acquired skill that many business owners and individual entrepreneurs are lacking. As suggested by the common wisdom, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” poorly written or inaccurate communication of any kind can result in permanent damage to future business prospects. It is hard to imagine a more important business and management role than producing excellent and persuasive business writing to clients, lenders, suppliers, prospects, advertisers, partners, and investors.
But in reality, the business writing ball regularly gets dropped for reasons like the following:
- Lack of time
- Misunderstanding of how important effective writing is
- Lack of skills
- Do not realize that business writing help is needed
- Indecision about what to do
- Unawareness of specialized business writing strategies such as “white papers”
- Unwillingness to pay for needed help
While these are all “good reasons” to explain why a high percentage of businesses deserve a failing grade when it comes to their business writing, is there really an acceptable reason for companies of all sizes not fixing this serious problem once it is discovered to exist? The only possible affirmative answer to that question should be if the problem is truly unsolvable. Does ineffective business writing represent an unsolvable crisis? Or is there practical business writing help that is readily available for sales training consultants? Some of the answers and business writing solutions are provided below in the form of a video presentation.
Sales Consulting: Two Business Writing Questions
Is the absence of effective business writing really a do-or-die issue? A prudent starting point for anyone wondering about this question as well as the proper role of business writing is to ask the following two questions to see where things stand:
1 — What are unsolicited business proposals and why are they so effective in the business development process?
2 — How can white papers and extended articles help increase sales?
Images and Video Content Are Essential Components
In today’s increasingly visual world, effective business writing also requires a specialized visual quality in order to produce desired results. This means that mere words are not enough. Three of the most effective illustrations of “visual words” include the following:
- Text-based images that are relevant and informative
- SlideShare presentations
- YouTube videos (business writing help video is included below)
Remember to Avoid Common Business Writing Problems
Being a good salesperson is no longer enough.
Clients want more certainty about potential results before they commit their resources. You must draw clients to you with your ideas, rather than chase them with outdated sales tactics. You must also identify clients' real problems, persuasively advocate for change and effectively manage complex sales.
— Michael W. McLaughlin
© 2014 Stephen Bush