Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Difference Between Selling and Consulting

Sometimes, as a CRM consultant, I must sell and sometimes I must consult. For me, they are different skills although it is not impossible to wear both hats if you understand the difference.

Selling CRM vs Building CRM

In a pre-sales meeting or when you are the primary business development manager (BDM), the job is to sell a vision. You must appreciate where the customer is today, the problems they are having and to communicate how a CRM system can solve these problems. Most solution selling processes I have seen talk around this idea of identifying the pains the customer is having and taking them on the journey of realising how CRM can alleviate them.

For a consultant in a workshop, it is assumed the vision has already been painted and the client is excited about how CRM can solve their issues. The key for a consultant is not to continue convincing them they need CRM, or necessarily how awesome it is, but to convince them that the consultant will be there ensuring the project stays on track and the client can ask them anything and they will get a direct answer.

Obviously this needs to be tempered, but the idea that the client needs a consultant who will say yes to any request is, in my opinion, a recipe for disaster. Dynamics CRM has limitations and, when designing a solution for a client, these need to be addressed head-on and worked with. Dancing around the inherent limitations in the product is in no one’s best interest. Clients, in my experience, are not naive and understand any solution will not be perfect. The key is finding an acceptable balance between making a solution practical for the user and making it palatable in terms of time and cost to bring it to life.

By being honest about your product as a consultant, the client will quickly learn to trust you; an essential element for any project. There are times the client will not necessarily be happy with what you tell them but they will respect you for it and be willing to work with you to generate the best possible outcome.

It is About Trust

For both the BDM and the consultant, it is about trust. For the BDM, the job is to ensure the client trusts you to present the best options to solve their problem. If the client needs an ERP solution and you try to sell them a CRM solution, this will be a poor experience for everyone. The best example of this is in “A Miracle on 34th Street” where Kris Kringle directs the shopper to another store which better suits their needs. I am not suggesting BDMs sell in other vendors, but they should not be afraid to say “no” if there is a better path the client can go down to avoid disaster. The client, in the long run, will respect and trust you for it.

For the consultant in the workshop it is about convincing the client you will present the product, warts and all, and together you will do whatever it takes to make it a success. Some specific stakeholders may still need to be ’sold in’ but for the main project sponsor, their reputation rides on providing the best possible solution. They need to know where there may be problems and the earlier this is addressed, the better the wrinkles can be worked with.


Whether you are selling the vision of a solution or helping build a solution, building trust with the client is essential. Understanding the concerns and needs of the client in relation to the product lifecycle ensures you deliver the right message at the right time. Give the wrong message as a BDM and you will have a nervous client. Give the wrong message as a consultant and they will see you more as a salesman than an architect. When selling, provide a vision for success, when building, lay out what you have to work with and collaborate with the client to build the best possible solution.

In both roles, you will be seen as a trusted advisor and regardless of the reliability of the software, the client will be sure they can rely on you.

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