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November 24, 2008

Advanced Selling Concepts with Bill Caskey

I am a very big fan of The Advanced Selling Podcast. This is a podcast hosted by Bill Caskey  and Bryan Neale which tackles a lot of really great themes on sales and managing sales teams.

I like this because these two guys display all the classic traits of successful people. They are dripping with experience and knowledge, they take their work seriously, but they don't take themselves too seriously. And I love that attitude!

Their podcast is a professional and entertaining way to learn about some advanced sales techniques. They enjoy a good laugh and take a contrary approach to many themes. An approach that only works because they obviously have the experience to back up their words. 

Bill Caskey  was kind enough to answer some of our questions on sales in consulting and it has turned into a fantastic set of short advice pieces that I think all of us can learn from. 

CP: You are famously against "closing" techniques in sales processes. Why is that, and if we aren't "closing" - what should consultants be doing?

BC: That’s true. I am against closing as a “technique.” I am NOT against closing as a part of the process, where a decision has to be made by the prospect as to whether he/she wants to move forward with the solution or not. I consider it more of a “decision” than I do a close.

A much more important issue is, does the salesperson want to move forward? I’m trying to get sales teams to understand that they have a say in this process as well. So, it’s as much your decision if you want to continue as it is their decision if they want to continue.

CP: Most consultants enjoy what they do, and they pride themselves in their ability to get a result. But…most of them aren't salespeople by any stretch of the imagination.

What tips would you give the person who has just stepped out on their own, or is trying to grow their practice, with no clue how to navigate from an introduction to a sale?

BC: I actually think non-salespeople have a huge advantage today, because they are the ones who are the “subject matter experts” who will deliver a solution.

We work with a lot of accountants and engineers, and to me, they can make the best salespeople, because they are not salespeople. It’s quite a paradox.

So, if you’re not a salesperson, what are you? Answer: You are a problem finder and problem solver. And in my estimation, that’s all consultants do is find and solve problems…for a fee.

CP: Many of our readers do provide services, not software, and I have also run into roadblocks selling services when my competitors are offering software. Is there any way around issues like this?

BC: This is a tough question to answer in a paragraph, but let me guide you back to the overall context of my sales philosophy. You find and solve problems. But you solve those problems in the context of the business.

The services vs. software question is really a minute question compared to the overall issue of, where is your prospect’s business going and how are you going to help them get there by providing whatever you do?

We get too hung up sometimes in the us vs. them, one solution vs. another, and it doesn’t allow us to step back and take a more broad view of, what are we doing to help the organization we’re calling on?

CP: I have seen many consulting firms operating without a sales team. Meaning that the owner or a few of his trusted lieutenants are running around trying to sell, deliver work, and run the company.

What are some best practices in this area? Should SME consultancies invest in a sales force, and is this something that you would recommend ahead of the curve or only once current revenues covered the salary?

BC: What I find with a lot of consultants is that they’re usually too busy doing the work to sell, and when they don’t have the work, they’re too desperate to sell. Instead of hiring salespeople, I like to think of creating a “sales system.”

The ideal situation is that a consultant have a line out the door of prospects waiting to work with them when they’re done with their current assignments. So there needs to be some mechanism in place that creates sales opportunities with the consulting firm.

It could be speeches or networking events or educational seminars or podcasts or blogs or teleseminars or webinars…the list goes on forever. But it needs to be systematized, and that would replace the need for a salesperson.

In Summary...

BC: The bottom line of all this is every consultant sells. Whether it’s the services you’re selling or ideas to the current client, you still have to communicate your value and positions and ideas in a way that allows people to buy in to them. “Pitching and convincing” does not work anymore. 

I would suggest to your readers that every consultant needs to know how to sell and communicate better and thus probably needs training of some kind to do so. But run quickly if the training that you’re getting tries to make you look like a salesperson. 

That is going the exact wrong way of where you want to go and actually the wrong way from where most salespeople need to go.

“Intellectual capital” is the coin of the realm today. Your know-how and knowledge and wisdom will demand people pay for it. If a salesperson is not adding value to the process, then they are replaceable. 

So, if you’re a consultant, and you do add value to the process, then learn how to communicate your ideas in a more effective way.

I really appreciated Bill taking the time to do this for us. As you can see this is truly sage advice from an experienced sales mentor.

If you are a consultant anywhere in the world, regardless of whether you are currently involved in sales or not, you need to listen to the Advanced Selling Podcast 

There is a very good reason why this is a success story among sales podcasts, and I think that within a few minutes you will understand why.

Thanks Bill!