What is a Consultant? (any, not just a ‘Sales’ Consultant.)

I thought that I wrote on this before, but when I searched my archives, I couldn’t find what I was looking for. So, here’s what’s on my mind? What is a consultant? How did they get to be one? Are they consultative?

What is a consultant?

Dictionary.com suggests that a consultant is a person who gives professional or expert advice or a specialist who gives expert advice or information.

Wikipedia suggests that a consultant (from Latin: consultare "to discuss") is a professional who provides professional or expert advice and that a consultant is usually an expert or a professional in a specific field and has a wide knowledge of the subject matter.

There’s this old joke.

So, if you're a consultant, let me ask.

  1. Are you always invited in?
  2. Are you answering questions that were never asked?
  3. With answers that they already knew?
  4. Do your prospects think that you understand their business?

As if it’s not confusing enough, we’ve got companies that want their salespeople to be able to sneak up on their prospects. So, they call their salespeople “_____ consultants”. (Fill in the blank with anything except the word “sales”.)  ;-)

So, as I reflect on these, possibilities, I find myself liking Wikipedia’s use of the word “discuss” mostly because I think that discuss implied two way communication rather than unilateral presentation, but when I looked up consultare, I saw “to advise with”. With is the word that I like. Not advise, or advise to, or advise at. Advise with. Again, it implies two way communication.

So, how about – “A consultant is an expert that has a wide knowledge of the subject matter in specific field and advises with clients in that field.”?

How did they get to be one?

Some of them got laid off from their job and couldn’t find another one, or got downsized, or got replaced by cheaper, younger talent, or got tired of the boss doing it the wrong way, or they were tired of doing all the work and getting paid peanuts while the boss was making millions, yada, yada, yada. I’ve met a lot of smart, talented people that were lousy consultants. They were really good at what they did while they were employees, but when they got out on their own, they didn’t like hiring employees, didn’t like sales, or marketing. They were used to having support systems in place, expenses paid for, and the employer’s reputation and track record when they needed it and when there was a screw up, they blamed the boss, the company or a co-worker.

Now, I’m a little sorry about the way that I started this section, but the truth is that bad consultants may look like good ones. So, you need to ask tough questions and if the
 consultant needs your business, or is too much of a pushover or they’re arrogant and get upset when you question their abilities, trust your judgment. Run! If they don’t understand your business, understand where you’re trying to go, and what you’ve been up against, describe the image they’re not the one. If their resume shows that their last accomplishment was in 1992, find somebody else. If they aren’t eating their own dog food, find somebody that is. It’s easier to not hire the wrong consultant than it is to fire the wrong consultant. (Read that again.)

Are they consultative?

I gotta tell you. I really like Wikipedia’s “to advise with”. If your ‘candidate’ doesn’t ask good, thoughtful questions that help you uncover truth during your first conversation, what makes you think that they ever will? Gotta go. It's 5 o'clock!

Topics: Sales, sales coaching, mediocrity or failure

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