There has been much debate about what is the appropriate way to sell consulting services and incrementally grow business.
A company’s cultures, people and organizational models produce different results. Most companies have tried several approaches and probably none has it figured out completely. However, the importance of having a sales model that produces results may be the crucial determinant in a consulting services firm’s degree of success or failure, and especially so during tough times.
There are a range of roles and working relationships in a sales model that vary according to a company’s management background and organizational structure. Broadly, there is a Partner organization model or a Corporate Sales organization model and combinations of both.
The Partner model is similar to that of a large traditional consulting company in that senior executive status and promotion requires the combination of consulting delivery management experience as well as significant business development and revenue generation. The Partner is a “Rainmaker” who deals with “C” level client executives and typically has P&L and overall delivery management responsibility. Positions below Partner include Principals, Practice Managers and various Senior Manager functions.
In the Corporate Sales model, sales career progression is to higher and/or broader levels of sales and sales management that typically does not include delivery or operations management and P&L. Typical positions include Sales Representative, Business Development Manager or Account Executive, Sales Manager, Director, VP and SVP for geographies, major accounts, industries, or service lines. It could be argued that this model is more successful in larger companies with the necessary overhead to support a separate sales/BD infrastructure.
In combined models, Partners may have sales managers (Account Executives, Business Development Managers, etc.) reporting to them who carry new business quota responsibility and/or account growth managers (Account Mangers, Engagement Managers) with client relationship and revenue responsibility. The Partner may also have Sales Directors or Business Development Principals who directly manage sales and handle sales plans and administration. The VP or Director in the combined Corporate model may have P&L and delivery executive direct reports. It is not unusual for companies that achieve a certain revenue level ($50M to $100M) to evolve into a sales driven organization.
No single sales model or combination is most effective in producing sales results. Rather it is the selection of the optimum model appropriate for the company’s current situation. And each model’s success is heavily influenced by whether there is a sales driven/sales supportive culture and the necessary new business capture and proposal resources.