What Is “CONSULTING”? (Explained By A World Leading Consultant)

Richard Newton is a world-leading author, consultant, and speaker working internationally.

We’ve all been told that we should sell “consultatively”. Well, in this episode of the Salesman Podcast, Richard breaks down what this actually means from the perspective of a true consultant.

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Featured on this episode:

Host - Will Barron
Founder of Salesman.org
Guest - Richard Newton
Specialist in Change Capability Development

Resources:

Transcript

Will Barron:

Coming up on today’s episode of The Salesman Podcast.

 

Richard Newton:

The bottom line is, and the great thing about consultancy is people always have challenges, they always have issues and if you’ve got some way of helping them resolve those issues, there’s a solution that somebody will buy.

 

Will Barron:

Hello, sales nation. I’m Will Barron, host of The Salesman Podcast, the world’s most listened to B2B sales show. If you haven’t already, make sure to click subscribe. And with that, let’s meet today’s guest.

 

Richard Newton:

I’m Richard Newton. I’m a professional author and a management consultant. I have written a number of books and I consulted all around the world for a few decades now. If you want to find out more about me, best place is look at my profile on LinkedIn. I have a page on Amazon sales page for my books, and you can look at my company website, which is enixus.co.uk.

 

Will Barron:

On this episode of the show with Richard… Well, we’ve all been told that we should be consultative selling. In this episode, Richard is explaining what a consultant actually is from the perspective of a professional consultant, what value they bring to the table, how they sell and close deals and how they account manage after the fact. It’s a tonne of value in this episode, so let’s jump right into it.

 

What is Consulting? · [01:11] 

 

Will Barron:

For decades now, even… I got in sales probably about 10 years ago, we’ve been told, sales professionals, that we should sell like a consultant. We should consultative sell. We should act and behave like a consultant. And I want to dive into if that’s really possible when all we’re trying to do is drive revenue and perhaps add a bit of value upfront. I want to dive into that’s possible and then your thoughts on how you would go about adding value to a client kind of further down the line in the interview itself. So with that, Richard, do you have a definition of what or a kind of, to paint a picture of what a consultant actually is?

 

Richard Newton:

Yeah, I did do and I’ll paint that picture. I mean, one of the things I would say is I don’t actually think all consultants do what I think of as consultative sales. So we’ll talk about both those, but to me, a consultant is somebody with some expertise, which they are selling to clients essentially to provide advice. It’s a service based sale. It’s a complex service. And I think the interesting characteristic about it is the client doesn’t actually know what they’ve bought until the work is finished. So it’s kind of a bit of a trust base kind of product that people are buying.

 

Why do People Need Expert Consultants? · [02:17]

 

Will Barron:

And on that, again, just to continue painting this picture just for a second, why… And this is a seemingly simple question, but there might be somewhat of a profound answer to it. Why do people need a consultant and expertise? Other than the obvious, what value can that add?

 

“The great thing about consultancy is people always have challenges, they always have issues and if you’ve got some way of helping them resolve those issues, there’s a solution that somebody will buy.” – Richard Newton · [03:06] 

 

Richard Newton:

Yeah, I mean, I think it’s a good question and I think that’s changed over time. So if you went back, historically people needed consultants because there were points of expertise, which it wasn’t worth an organisation employing full-time, but they needed those expertise for a particular instance. I think as we’ve gone forward, organisations have become leaner and thinner and they have fewer of their own teams and so there’s just stuff they haven’t got enough resources to do and consultancies have expertise in certain areas and so people come out to for help. The bottom line is, I mean, the great thing about consultancy is people always have challenges, they always have issues and if you’ve got some way of helping them resolve those issues, there’s a solution that somebody will buy.

 

Will Barron:

And we’ll come back. I feel like I have three questions and we’re going to go down a rabbit hole and sidetrack already, but with the world of B2B sales, it was kind of shook up and I think in the best way possible with the onset of the internet. It used to be that salespeople were the gate keepers to catalogues and information and you had to, if you wanted to buy any product, you got to engage with two, three sales professionals to get just a tender or a series of quotations in place. Now the internet, the information is out there. It’s free. Salespeople are now engaging later on in the sales cycle and kind of changed sales forever and got rid of a whole bunch of terrible salespeople from kind of the bottom rungs of the industry.

 

How the Internet and Information Age Has Changed the World of Consulting · [03:55] 

 

Will Barron:

How has the internet changed, perhaps, consulting with not just books being out there, more people writing more and more books about more and more topics that are available for essentially almost free kind of 5, $10, $20 a pop, but how has just the internet… And essentially you can Google pretty much anything that you would want to find. How has that changed the consulting industry, if at all?

 

“Knowing stuff is no longer a useful skill because I can do a search on the internet and know it. But knowing how to put stuff into practise is still really the differentiator.” – Richard Newton · [04:18] 

 

Richard Newton:

I mean, I think what has changed, you’re absolutely right, is that knowing stuff is no longer a useful skill because I can do a search on the internet and know it. But knowing how to put stuff into practise is still really a differentiator. I write books, I don’t hold any secrets. I put what I know into them. I still think even if someone reads those books, those things I can probably do better than 95% of people, because the practical application of knowledge is still something that you can’t just encapsulate in a blog article or a page on the internet, or even a book. It’s kind of experience and there’s those sort of… Oh, I’m not sure what the expression is, but those things that you can’t… they’re difficult to grasp, but they are the things that make you practical and able to apply things.

 

“The practical application of knowledge is still something that you can’t just encapsulate in a blog article or a page on the internet, or even a book. And so I think the emphasis is increasingly on value through not telling me stuff, but showing me how to get it done and helping me to get it done.” – Richard Newton · [04:40] 

 

Richard Newton:

And we all know people, great academic may know loads, but you wouldn’t necessarily hire them to get stuff done in your business. And so I think the emphasis is increasingly on value through, not telling me stuff, but showing me how to get it done and helping me to get it done.

 

How Consultants Uncover and Solve People’s Problems · [05:47]

 

Will Barron:

Okay. So I want to dive into specifically that in a second of again, how we compete against the Google Search and get things implemented, but before that, as a consultant, and this is about the consultative selling process that sales people are taught. We go in, we find the problems, we perhaps give some ideas or examples of how to solve problems, how other people have solved them and hopefully it relates back to our product. They make a sale. And then if we get into account management, we kind of look after the account over time. But with that said, how would someone like yourself, professional at all of this, how do you uncover problems that people have so you can align to potentially solve them?

 

“If you focus on building trust and relationships, the sales naturally come over time.” – Richard Newton · [06:22] 

 

Richard Newton:

I mean, the fundamental thing is for me is every… When I meet a client, let’s say a new client for the first time, my mind is I try not to be focused on selling them anything. My view of a good interaction is have I learned something about that client I feel like deepened my relationship? And I know that sounds a bit trite, but the truth is if you focus on building trust and relationships, the sales naturally come over time. So it is a bit about thinking about the long game, not about the transaction of today, and as you build trust with people, and somehow a skill which, if we were down the pub with our mates, we have no problem building trust, but we kind of leave that skill at the door when we go to work for a reason I don’t understand. But if you apply the same sort of skills with your customers and you build that trust, they will open up and tell you stuff.

 

Richard Newton:

And it’s not always the obvious things that are their real problems. I mean, somebody has to have a degree of trust to tell you what’s the real challenges they’re facing. And the more trust you have, the more times a client will treat you as the person that’s going to help them. I mean, for me, the aim of every interaction is get to the point we have that, what people generally call that trusted advisor status. What does that mean in practise? What it means in practise is when somebody, a client is there and has a problem, they actually pick up the phone and think, “Who shall I talk to? Oh, I’ll talk to Mary or I’ll talk to Fred or I’ll talk to Richard because that’s someone I know I can trust and I can talk it through with them. They’re not going to try and sell me stuff.” But we may well get to a point which the answer is, you know what? What’s going to help you is you need some of my time. So it is about that kind of long-term relationship building and developing trust.

 

Richard Newton:

And there are specific techniques you can use to develop trust, but the reality is… the simple thing is just being honest and open with them.

 

Will Barron:

So I want to go into the learning element of this in a second, but the trust elements is something that we shouldn’t just gloss over. Now, I don’t have a framework. I don’t have a technique. I don’t have any way of doing this, but my experience in medical device sales was that I worked for one of the biggest companies in the endoscopic space, endoscopy space and then I moved to the other biggest company in the endoscopy space. So I knew both their products. I knew the surgeons on both sides of the table, whether they’re committed to one series of products or the other. And so people would call me up exactly how you’re describing there it, Richard, of, “We’ve got problems with supplier A’s equipment. Can you solve it with supply B’s?” Or, “We’ve got problem with supply B’s… We’re thinking about supply A. Perhaps you could just give us a bit of insight or thoughts on that as well.”

 

Will Barron:

And I would regularly do inadvertently, this is… Clearly it wasn’t planned. It was just me being a complete nerd with the equipment and really enjoying playing around with it. I knew all the inside outs and I could help, I could debug, and I could solve problems on that front. And it led to what you described, which is amazing. Which is the best for salespeople, right? People called me, I would go in, stuff would get sold and it wasn’t icky. It wasn’t weird and after kind of cold call people or anything like that.

 

Practical Frameworks for Building Trust · [09:01] 

 

Will Barron:

So with all that said, and that kind of example laid out for the audience, say, Richard, is there a framework, is there some way of building trust? Is there a structure to how we should schedule our meetings out perhaps over a month or two months as we’re doing this discovery, as we’re learning about a potential business or maybe it isn’t two months, maybe it’s two phone calls, if you’re skilled at the process. Is there a way to build trust that is more… Is there a way to go about it more so than just spend more time with the individual?

 

“I know that a lot of people say they listen, but when most of us listen to people, when we’re in that kind of sales mode, what we’re listening for is the opportunity to introduce our product or our service. I think when you really listen, you’re actually in a different state. You’re trying to understand that person’s mindset and trying to think how you can help them. And the sales hook comes secondarily to that.” – Richard Newton · [10:00] 

 

Richard Newton:

Yeah, I mean, I think that there are specific techniques in building trust and actually… It’s not one of my books. There is a great book out there called The Trusted Advisor, which I really would recommend anybody who’s interested in that field to read. And it’s got some absolutely solid techniques on how to do it. Without spending a huge amount of time talking about it. I mean, the fundamental thing to me about trust is actually really listening to a client. I know that a lot of people say they listen, but when most of us listen, when we listen to people, when we’re in that kind of sales mode, what we’re listening for is the opportunity to introduce our product or our service. I think when you really listen, you’re actually in a different state. You’re trying to understand that person’s mindset and trying to think how you can help them. And if you like, the sales hook comes secondarily to that.

 

Richard Newton:

So it’s that being authentic and open. And there really is a difference between someone who is actually listening and someone who is listening just for the opportunity to when I can make my pitch. And we are, as human beings, we are remarkably astute at knowing the difference between them. I don’t really understand how the brain works in that respect, but we all know when we’re in one situation and the other.

 

Richard Newton:

The other thing I would say about consultancy is a consultancy is different from say a product based sales, because it is inherently a service and therefore there’s always an element of… Of course, you’re being compared to other services, but when I buy something, I may have a brand, I may come from one of the big consultancies and that may have that brand really may help, but fundamentally what you’re buying is the person in front of you or the people they’re going to bring in. So no amount of branding or anything else changes the fact that it is the individuals who are going to do that work. So it becomes about the individual relationship.

 

Richard Newton:

And then one of the things that people talk about is, for example, they’ll say, I have a relationship with firm X or firm X has a relationship with me. I always think that’s kind of nonsense. Firms don’t have relationships. You don’t have relationships with a firm. You may have an opinion about firms. That’s different thing. You’re having a relationship with people. It’s always about individuals to individuals in that relationship there. And sometimes that gets kind of lost and people worry too much about that, what’s the relationship with my firm? It’s always about the individual you’re talking with and about yourself as an individual and building up that relationship. Does that help?

 

Richard’s Three Steps in the Consultative Sales Process · [12:03] 

 

Will Barron:

That makes total sense. Yeah. And just to kind of wrap up the relationship piece, clearly the more that we can learn about an individual and organisation, the goals and how that aligns with perhaps your experience, the easier it all becomes, right? Like as you described earlier, if you go for a paint with your mates and they introduce someone new, if you can find immediately, or as quick as possible, that moment of commonality, that point of commonality, everything clicks and you go, “Oh, they’re part of the group.” Do you ask any specific questions or are there any unusual or interesting questions you would ask other than the cliches of, what keeps you up at night? And stuff like that, which everyone kind of is yawning, as I say that question out loud. Are there any interesting questions that you ask, Richard, to clients?

 

Richard Newton:

I don’t think I have any off pack questions. I mean, I think there is an element of going with the flow in terms of the situation. Of course when somebody talks to you, what are you here to talk about? I think what keeping you awake at night is kind of an okay introduction. I don’t want to be too disingenuous with this and say that all I’m there to is to talk to them and understand their problems. I mean, I’m not a coach and of course I do need to make a sale. So rather than talk about the questions, let me talk about the process I use-

 

Will Barron:

Sure.

 

Richard Newton:

… to get to that point, which is, there is an element of… I mean, I think of the sales process in consultancy for me as kind of three steps, and those three steps are finding clients and just having that opportunity to talk. Then there’s that point about talking, but at some point you need to focus down that conversation, and that’s where the question’s becoming important. And the challenge in focusing down on opportunity is doing it in such a way that the questions you’re asking are getting you to a point where you can frame a specific opportunity, so my final stages of framing, but they can’t be… You can’t go in there with a predetermined mindset where there’s going to get there, otherwise you’ll make a mistake.

 

Richard Newton:

And what happens often in consultancy is you can lead a client by a set of questions, and they’ll get to a point where they actually will say, yeah, that’s what I want and you start some work, and then you find out very quickly that’s not what they want. And the problem then is you may be on the ground, but you may have sold a completely miss-sized piece of work that is not profitable for you, is not satisfactory for the client. So the process of questioning needs to be very, very, what’s traditionally called open questions. So not questions which have a predetermined answer, but questions in which you are really letting the customer get to. Once you’ve got that nugget, then you need to hone in on the specific questions to frame it down into, okay. So I understand this is your problem and then actually let’s get into the specific characteristics for this.

 

How to Understand Buyer Needs and Know Exactly What the Client Wants · [14:55] 

 

Will Barron:

How does this change, and to shift gears slightly here, after the prospecting process, perhaps they brought you on. I don’t really know how consultancy works on a fee basis. Maybe it’s a retainer, whatever it is. So you’re working with them. How does the questioning process change if at all at that point? What I’m getting at here from our perspective is perhaps we’re account managing at this point, they’ve got the product, we want to continue to build that relationship with them. How do we ask them questions to kind of deepen things?

 

Richard Newton:

Okay. So let me answer a couple of questions. I mean, consultancy generally works in one of two ways. It’s either a day rate type basis or it’s a price for a piece of work.

 

Will Barron:

Sure.

 

Richard Newton:

So you’ll say, well, I think this will take us three months. So I will charge you X for this and at the end of X, you will have whatever it is. It might be as simple as a report, or it may actually be some work you’ve done with the team or whatever. So the actual output varies. So once you have landed on a client, whether it’s you yourself landing or it’s somebody, because consultant, you may not be the person doing the consult. You may have sold somebody else to actually do the work. Then it does change because in that initial phase, it is very much about framing down to a proposition. Once you’re doing the work, it is much more… Now I’m the expert here, this is the sort of stuff I need to know for enable me to help you solve your problems. So that does become much more directive questioning.

 

Richard Newton:

But the interesting thing about consultancy is almost never, almost never, when you’ve sold the deal are you actually sure that is exactly what the client wants. And the reality is it’s not until you get in working with a client and because that client in an organisation, there’ll be other players involved that you have to kind of… you’re fleshing out what’s needed as you go along. And that’s one of the biggest challenges in consultancy is I’ve sold them a promise, but the reality is I don’t really know all the characteristics of this promise until I’m there and I certainly don’t know if that’s exactly the right promise they want. So there has to be a degree of flexibility in consultancy to sort of bend as you go through the work and delivery. So that’s always an interesting challenge as you go through a consulting engagement.

 

Will Barron:

I think B2B sales, especially the [inaudible 00:17:11] is moving more towards that with a software as a service-

 

Richard Newton:

Absolutely.

 

Managing and Building Trust-based Relationships Before and After the delivery of the Result · [17:43] 

 

Will Barron:

People are now… I know it’s… I won’t perhaps name companies in case it’s been told to me in confidence. And I forgot that I’ve been totally confidence because I have so many of these conversations, but a lot of brands, especially the Silicon Valley brands that we work with here on the show are moving towards commissions for bringing someone on board, but then heavy commissions quarter on quarter for retaining people at organisations. So it seems like it’s not totally dissimilar in certain areas of sales. So with that said, Richard, how do you then manage this massive politics within an account, kind of after the deal has been done, manage the decision makers, people pull pulling one way, and then five weeks in you realise that someone’s leaving the organisation and someone has different priorities? How do you physically manage this? Do you put it in a management software or is there any tools or they’re written down, how you go about ll that?

 

Richard Newton:

Okay. So it’s a very complicated question with lots of answers, but let me try and unpick it and sort of answer that layer by layer. Yeah. So actually in terms of managing and engagement personally, I always plan it out and I actually have a background from years ago as a project manager. So that bit is relatively easy and structured for me. I plan it out. Always in the mindset though, the plan is just a sense of direction. It’s never going to quite end up like that, so there has to be a degree of flex and capacity in that plant to move.

 

Richard Newton:

In terms of the work, you need to think in terms of, I think two streams of work and there is the work that’s actually doing the stuff the client wants you to do, whether it is a piece of analysis, whether it’s a strategic review or in my case, helping clients plan through how they’re going to make changes and improve their organisation. That’s the sort of work I’m typically doing. But in parallel with that, that’s kind of what would… It’s a word I don’t like, but people would typically call a governance stream. And this is where you’re managing the relationship with the client as we’re going along and that is an ingoing interaction, which is kind of saying, “This is how the work’s going. It’s going faster or slower than we expect. Is this what you’re expecting?” And in parallel with that, “Is your minds changing as we’re going to go through that and how do we deal with that change of mind?”

 

Richard Newton:

And this is where trust becomes absolutely crucial. And the reason trust becomes crucial is if you get halfway through a piece of work, which you have given a fixed price for, and you find the client’s expectation of it are completely different from yours, then where you have a trust-based relationship, when you go back to the client and say, “Do you know what? I’ve learned quite a lot. I’ve been here. And what I’ve learned is what we have originally scoped is not what you need, and therefore we need to change it.” And maybe that’s got a different price tag to it. The client is much more open to that dialogue than if you’re a bit of a stranger or maybe a point expert. The client’s going to go, “No, you’re ripping me off. I just want you to do it for the price we’ve already agreed.” So it’s that thing.

 

Richard Newton:

So think in terms of the management of the process, and ironically your point about to your project manager, a lot of consultants are absolutely awful at management or engagements. And there’s that classic consultant engagement, let’s say it’s a six month piece of work where it sort of pods along at a pace and then the last two weeks are complete madness, getting everything finished and yet we knew six months ago, it’s going to be like that. That’s why I wrote a book on consultants because one of the things I find irritating about a lot consultants they do that. So there’s that management process. There’s the delivery. And then there is the managing of the relationship as you go along. So a consultant is kind of always in two spaces doing the work, managing the relationship. And they’re interwoven, but they have to be both remembered.

 

Will Barron:

Okay. So we’ll come back on… We’ll perhaps wrap up the show with project management in a second. Very literally it’s funny, and this is a timely conversation, so I’ll get some thoughts on you on both resources for that. I’ve literally just bought Project Management for Dummies because I’m doing a lot of… Well, not me personally. I’m managing a team that’s doing a lot of software development at the moment for the sales school and I have no idea what I’m doing with regards to managing, hiring, keeping track of everything that’s going on and people’s different projects, kind of interlined to each other. So we’ll touch on that in a second, but one thing you said here, which I think is really important and perhaps is the easiest way to keep people on a software as a service product, if it’s valuable for them and that is to check in with them and to see regularly, whether they’re getting, I think you used the word or essentially the sentence of getting the value that they expected from the initial conversation.

 

When to Have Conversations About the Fulfilment of Buyer Expectations · [21:30]

 

Will Barron:

Should this be done quarterly? Is this a conversation? Is this something that should be documented, so if there’s a complaint, you can show them what they said originally? How do we go about keeping track of all this?

 

Richard Newton:

Okay. So if you took software as a service, as an example, now, I mean, I’m a consultant, not a software as a service sales, but actually ironically, a lot of my work is with clients implementing software as a service. I don’t think there’s a fixed answer to that. I think there’s a steady drum beat once we’re there and the software’s working, we’re all ready. I think, upfront when it first happens, I think there needs to be a very tight interaction with the customer. And the reason for that is two fold. When you buy something like software as a service, it is a little bit like consultancy in the sense, there’s a promise, but it’s only when the client starts using it that you know a couple of things, one is, does actually the product really match my needs? Which is kind of the area where a client might get dissatisfied.

 

Richard Newton:

But there’s the other… From the suppliers of the software as a service providers, is the client kind of using this in the way we anticipate them using it because software as a service providers really want you all to be working ideally in a pretty similar way, because that’s how they can sell a vanilla product, which all customers can use, but you find out the customers aren’t. So those initial few months, which if you’re not really on top of your customer, there’s a real danger that you’ll get a level of dissatisfaction. I think once you’re past that and you’re then into whatever the product is, it’s embedded into the process and operations.

 

Richard Newton:

Yes, there needs to be a regular drum beat because of course there’s always an opportunity that there might be additional modules and there’s always that upgrade path and new versions that need to be implemented, so it depends on the product, whether it’s monthly or quarterly, it depends how core it is to the operations. Is it your end to end ERP system or is it a point system used in a particular department? But I think the critical point is, it’s not that the lifetime use of that is there’s a consistent relationship throughout it that needs a consistent process. It needs different styles of interaction, I think, at different points.

 

Why Sales Success and Excellent Buyer Relationships Stem from Delivering More Than Initially Promised · [23:46] 

 

Will Barron:

So get on top of them at first, make sure it’s doing what we promised and then we can kind of a teeter off towards… Well, not teeter off. That’s the wrong way of describing it, but reduce the cadence, I guess, as it gets embedded.

 

Richard Newton:

Yeah. And I think what you don’t want to be is… The advantage software providers often have is that a software becomes embedded into an organisation and actually you can get to the point where they need you more than you need them, which is a good thing for a supplier because it gets lock-in, but it’s a bad thing because it’s in danger of getting that relationship where you get a bit arrogant about it. And I don’t think what you want to be as one of those suppliers who… And we’ve all seen it, who the firm is going well, they sold us X, but God what is this stuff that’s delivered? Because it’s certainly isn’t X. You want to be one of those suppliers who they say they sold us X and wow, this is 2X.

 

Richard Newton:

Because I think longer term, that’s what drives your success. And I think if you look at the great software as a service providers, and I’m not an expert for example, in Salesforce, but if you go and talk to salespeople, they want Salesforce. They don’t want the other CRM packages. They want Salesforce because they know it and it’s fitted their needs. And that’s the kind of relationship you want with a client.

 

Will Barron:

That makes total sense. Okay, I’ll give some kind of an example for this and we’ll keep essentially software as a service or a monthly payments, but I’ll put it back to hardware for anyone who’s selling kind of physical products. So I was selling to the NHS here in the UK endoscopy products and they wouldn’t want to have a huge capital outlay of millions. Perhaps they wanted a service contract where we own the equipment, but they essentially used it. We would cover all the repairs and a couple of NHS trusts in the UK when I left anyway set up these massive service agreements. So this works for not just software, which is, I guess… We talk about it probably far too often on the show because it’s top of mind with the brands that I work with, but it also is a physical product as well.

 

Will Barron:

And I found that you get it all installed. It all be going great and there’d always be one person within the account. It was either the IT department because they thought that they weren’t as involved as what they should have been with the camera systems and [inaudible 00:25:55] been installed in the first place and that was a problem on the salesperson’s front… the sales person’s perspective, they should have spent more time with the IT department. There were people who were always a pain in the ass where bio-electrical engineering. Essentially they maintained and monitored all the physical hardware within NHS trust here in the UK and hospitals worldwide. Now, they were important, Richard, to us and they were important for the accounts to have a long term standing relationship because if a piece of equipment went down, it went to either one of these departments, they would call you.

 

How to Have Conversations, Build Trust, and Add Value with Difficult People in an Organisation · [27:00] 

 

Will Barron:

If they didn’t like you, they wouldn’t call you for a week and then you’d be getting phone calls from a surgeon saying, why haven’t you been in and it caused friction on multiple fronts? But for whatever reason, whether it’s our fault in the first place, not spending enough time with them, not getting them involved in the purchase from the offset, whatever it was. They were always a pain in the to deal with, literally nine times out of 10. With that said, because we’re talking about relationships here, we’re talking about building trust, talking about adding value. How do we get these individuals that are perhaps in a specific industry like mine, who are always a bit of a pain to deal with, how do we get these individuals to open up to us? How do we get them to come on our side? Is there any intelligent questions we should ask them? Should we be inviting them to meetings? What would be the strategy to deal with these individuals?

 

“Very rarely in an organisation is there a decision maker who can make a decision that everybody else is just going to accept and tow in with. Normally there is a complex map of stakeholders.” – Richard Newton · [27:57] 

 

Richard Newton:

Okay. I think the health service is notoriously a very complex environment to work in and it’s complex for the particular reasons you’ve just mentioned. It has a very complex set of stakeholders and unlike a normal organisation, which for example, kind of all funnels up to a chief exec, in health service, you have different, if you like, power bases who all have different opinions. But I think it is, if you like, at the complex end, but it reflects a model that’s always true, which is organisations and… The trite answer to you is you need to do a bit more work. I know that sounds trite, but we have to be realistic about the amount of work we need to do because very rarely in an organisation is there a decision maker who can make a decision that everybody else is just going to accept and tow in with. Normally there is a complex map of stakeholders.

 

Richard Newton:

So the first thing I think that’s really important is understand who are the client or who is the client in this situation. And that is a remarkably complex question to answer in a lot of situations. And who are the key stakeholders? Now we can’t on one hand, we cannot literally try and get everybody on board that might have a bad or good thing to say about us. So we just have to have a realistic view that in a very complex environment, there’s always going to be somebody who’s going to come up at the last minute and say, “I don’t like what you’re doing.” That’s just life. On the other hand, we can’t take the simplistic view, which says person X has got a budget and they’ve agreed to buy this, so the only person I need to talk to is person X. Life just isn’t that simple. There are other critical stakeholders who will make a judgement on whether you’re successful or not.

 

Richard Newton:

So it’s not that there’s a specific set of questions, I think to answer, it is, but the first point is getting our head clear around who are the other stakeholders. And I think if I’ve been invited in by someone talking, we’re getting to a problem, one of the questions I’m going to start asking them relatively early on is, okay, who else is important in this process? Who else has an influence on the success of this? Who else is going to judge whether this is successful or not? Who else has an influence on the requirements to going through this? Can you actually spend that money yourself or do you need to get some other people on board? And so for me, governance processes are not simply about interacting with a person. They’re normally about interacting with a number of people. And this is something that we really need to take into account early on, because if the stakeholder say is really complicated, that means it’s a lot of work. And if it’s a lot of work, it means it may damage the profitability of your sale.

 

Richard Newton:

So we have to take into account when we’re judging a sale up front is, is the stakeholder’s maths so complicated that I can never possibly take a profit on this because I’m going to be having spent so much time managing them, or is there a way I can reflect in my pricing the complexity of that stakeholder? Now, you’ve actually should have alignment with your client here though, because if your client wants you to do a job and the client wants that job to be successful, again, and it goes back to that trusting relationship, part of the discussion is okay to make this successful we’re going to have to take these five other people with us or these 10 other people with us. Well, that’s actually work and that’s going to add about another 15 or 20% overhead on my piece of work.

 

Richard Newton:

Now, obviously I’m normally selling services, I’m talking about day rates, so you can do that. How you reflect that in pricing into physical products, I don’t know, but I think it does absolutely need to be reflected in both the pricing mechanisms and in those critical decisions of, is this a client we really want? Because there are some situations where the stakeholders are so complex and so antagonistic, but not really willing to put the investment in coming together, so actually sometimes you have to think about those clients is, you know what? That’s not really a client I think I want to deal with, because it’s just going to be too much overhead. I’m not trying to focus on the negative, but we always have to have that as a backstop there.

 

Will Barron:

Yeah. That makes total sense. And this is exactly what I wanted out of this conversation, Richard, that is higher level thinking than perhaps what the average, even the average successful B2B sales professional is thinking about. 99% of the time they’re thinking, add value, get the deal done, and then see you. And then it goes off to hopefully customer success or there’s account manager or people come after the fact. But as an organisation to have success, perhaps these are conversations that we should be having, especially if we’re doing account based selling, perhaps we’re trying to sell to Salesforce or some kind of beast organisation like that. Perhaps it isn’t as simple as just get in, get out and I passed on the book to someone else, especially if we want to close more deals off the back of it, right? If we want this to…

 

Will Barron:

Even if we are just commissioned up front, if you want to sell to… Like me selling to hospitals. I’d go in, I’d sell to urology. Pretty much all urologists used one of the brands that I’ve worked for, because they’re all trained on that equipment, even though it’s very similar elsewhere. That was the cool brand, basically. They wanted to use that. But then I do well with them. I go into gynaecology, then I’d go into general surgery and then we were selling flexible endoscopes at one point as well. So it’s important to go through all these and meet all the state [inaudible 00:32:30] and all that.

 

What is Project Management? · [32:47]

 

Will Barron:

And that leads us, I guess, on to the project management and I know this is five episodes in its own right, Richard. So we won’t go too in-depth into this, but just to touch on it as it’s been brought up. Seemingly, what we’re describing here is, tell me if I’m right or wrong, but is somewhat project management. It’s kind of starting out one end knowing where we want to go and then having a plan of action to get there, which I think salespeople don’t always… salespeople will go after the low hanging fruits, they’ll try and put out fires and everything else in between seemingly goes out the window because, as I said, we’re driven to drive revenue. We’re not incentivized rightly or wrongly to manage processes. So is again, is there just a super brief definition or description of what project management actually is? Because I think we know on a high level concept of what it is, but from an expert in that space, how does it look?

 

“Project management is about breaking down a task with a known goal into a set of logical steps and then working out what’s the best routine to do them in.” – Richard Newton · [33:28]

 

Richard Newton:

Okay. I mean, project management is about breaking down a task with a known goal into a set of logical steps and then working out what’s the best routine to do them in. Now, there’s a huge amount of complexity that can go under that, but the reality is that there’s a lot of skills we’re talking about in the sorts of sales we’re talking about, but they’re not complex like building a spaceship to the moon or something. And so my advice on this is when you talk to people in these, they’ll talk about a client, they’ll go, it’s a nasty client, or it’s a difficult client. You go, “Have you ever had one like this before?” And the generally they’ll go. “Yeah. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.” So the point is, “Well, what did you learn last time?” “Well, we learned this and this.” “And have you applied that in this situation?” “Oh, yeah. Sort of.”

 

Richard Newton:

So I’m a great believer. So for consulting, say, for engagements, there’s complexity and there’s lessons, but they’re not super, super complex. So I typically use checklists, frankly. I typically have a checklist of things like, have I thought about all these points? Am I doing them in the right order? Is this leading to the goal that I want to do? It’s not rocket science, but we’re not doing rocket science and it’s not like we’re doing it for the first time. We’re doing something that we do on a repeated basis. Of course each situation has unique characteristics, but it’s rare that you come to a situation that there is individually something which you go, “My God, I’ve never come across anything like this ever before in my life.” And so we learn from that.

 

Richard Newton:

And so my whole point about… We were talking about the complexity of stakeholder base is since we know they’re going to be complex, let’s think about that upfront and think about how we’re going to deal with it. Not go in and assume it’s not going to be complex and then go, “Wow, this is just like every other piece of work I’ve done, it’s complex.” So build that into your scope. And the other thing, which is not quite a project management thing, but is the person you are actually interacting with and selling with lives in that environment day in, day out. That is their reality.

 

Richard Newton:

So saying to them, “Do you know what? This is going to be a bit more complex than I think. I think we need to do some work around this, bringing stakeholders to the board.” Most cases they’ll go, “You know what? You’re right. That stuff that we deal… I have to deal with on a daily basis, but you’re quite right. We’re going to need to think about it in this piece of work.” So they’re not somebody who’s going to normally push back on that. They’re normally somebody who goes, “You’re absolutely right and that shows that you understand the environment I work in.”

 

The Benefits of Presenting an Actionable Checklist Documenting How You’ll Solve a Prospect’s Problems · [35:50] 

 

Will Barron:

That’s great. And I feel like if a sales person, if you have to tender or whatever it is, and there’s one sales person… I’ll ask you in a second whether it’s a physical bunch of checklists on a… documented or not, wherever is in people’s heads. But say, some person comes in, these are the steps you need to go through. These are the people we find that you need to have on board to make this happen. This is the first week progress and we’ll check in that we’ve achieved these four or five things. That person is going to look incredibly professional versus the salesperson who comes in trying to be quick witted and unplanned and trying to do all in their head on the spot. It’s almost the definition of a professional, right?

 

Richard Newton:

Yeah. I agree. And the thing that always surprises me is how easy it is to do. It’s not like we’re trying to [inaudible 00:36:40] it to some particular level. So the checklists I use are physical checklists. I have them. Some of them in my book, although they’re obviously, rotates to consulting engagements. They are physical checklist. One thing I do want to say and everything in life for me is about balances. We don’t want to go from a structured position though, to where the checklist becomes, if you like, the answer to everything. It isn’t. It’s a guide, but there’ll always be times where you need to have the freedom as a professional, as an expert in your field to say, “Yeah, you know what? That checklist has been a helpful aid memoir to me, but in this instance, I need to go outside of it.”

 

Richard Newton:

Because you don’t want to be from… You don’t want to go from the complete free wheeler to the person who is completely wooden with a client. He’s sitting there going, “Yeah. Right. I’ve done step 1.1B, tick. I now need…” Because that doesn’t work either. So it’s having the fluidity to use that as a guide. So it’s finding the balance, if you like, of the best of two worlds. Best of both of those extremes. Yeah.

 

Will Barron:

Yeah. I think that’s the key takeaway from this episode, Richard, of do… I feel having that in some kind of binded document. So I think we’ve all got these checklists in our heads. We all know for me selling medical devices, I’ve got to go and speak to IT. I’ve got to go and speak to this individual. I’ve got to see what other surgeons over the big loud mouth one that’s complaining about the hardware that’s getting all this kind of motivated. And as you said in the top of the show, it’s very easy just to spend a lot of time with that individual, because they’ll probably do most of the selling for you and they’ll probably get the deal done, but then you’re out of luck if you want any help from anyone else, because you’ve not built trust during the sales process, after the transaction is done. So you’re just making your life harder for yourself after the fact.

 

Will Barron:

I think coming in with some kind of document, some kind of structure, it almost sets yourself apart in that… How do you describe it? It’s almost like you could go a few steps deeper than this. I know a management consultant agencies have their own philosophies on things. You can start to tie in some of that if you work for a brand that’s… Like what I have that has been around for a hundred years. They have their own way of doing things and that isn’t always well communicated. And when you do communicate that, people go, oh, these guys are the real deal versus the quick startup that’s just charging 50% of perhaps what you are charging. It’s in a way to differentiate yourself and to validate the pricing. Is there anything else on that? And I guess this is what we’ll wrap up with. Perhaps you do charge more because you do all of this. Perhaps your organisation charges more because there’s more support on the backend. You charge more for all these different reasons, all these different ways to add value.

 

How to Position Yourself as an Expert in a Sales Conversation and Successfully Overcome the Price Issue · [39:14] 

 

Will Barron:

Are there any ways as a consultant you would position yourself with this knowledge, knowing that you’re going into a battle and you don’t want it to end up coming down to price? Is there any way you position yourself on that front?

 

“Most of the time what a client is looking for is somebody who comes in and says, “Do you know what? I understand your problem and I’ve done it 20 times before and the way I can show you that I’ve done it 20 times before is because I’ve actually got the semblance of a methodology or I’ve got some kind of checklist. I’m really, really a safe pair of hands. You can trust me intimately in this. And because I’m a safe pair of hands, you just trust me on that and actually we can then move our relationships beyond those safe pairs of hands and into trust.” And I think that does is directly influence your ability to premium price.” – Richard Newton · [39:42] 

 

Richard Newton:

Yes, there is. I mean, in the sense that what you’re talking about is very, very, very occasionally a client wants somebody to come in with a completely blank piece of paper and do something completely [inaudible 00:39:38] in of it too. That’s really rare, but it happens and it’s really exciting when it happens. But most of the times, what a client is looking for is somebody comes in and says, “Do you know what? I understand your problem and I’ve done it 20 times before.” And the way I can show you… I mean, I’d never literally say those words, but the way I can show you that I’ve done it 20 times before is because I’ve actually got the semblance of a methodology or I’ve got some kind of checklist. I’m really, really a safe pair of hands. You can trust me intimately in this. And because I’m a safe pair of hands, you just trust me on that and actually we can then move our relationships beyond that safe pairs of hands and into trust.

 

Richard Newton:

And I think that does directly influence on your ability to premium price. There’s no doubt that consultants who go into… And let me talk from the consulting experience, can go in confidently with a client and not, “Yeah, I’m a good guy. I’m a bit of Jack of all trades.” But no, actually, “I’m a guy who understands your specific problem and look, here’s my expertise in it. And by the way, yeah, I am 50% more expensive, but that’s because you are buying an expert. You’re not just buying somebody who’s going to come and have a nice chat with you.” So yeah, no, I think all those things get reflected into pricing.

 

Pros and Cons of Using Storytelling In the Consulting Process · [40:52]

 

Will Barron:

And final thing on this, Richard, we talk about… In fact, quite recently, we’ve had a few people on to talk about storytelling in sales and sharing customer stories and this kind of thing. Is there anything you do as a consultant, whether it’s testimonials or… I don’t know. Anything like that, that is perhaps out of the ordinary or unusual versus the obvious stuff like being able to tell a story about the person who’s speaking to his competitor who you’ve already helped?

 

“When you’re storytelling, one of the dangers in telling stories about other situations is the client finds it useful, but there’s also thinking, “Are you just going to walk out the door and tell my story to somebody else?” – Richard Newton · [41:32] 

 

Richard Newton:

Yeah. Storytelling is always a really an interesting technique. I mean, as somebody who’s a writer professionally as well is kind of my other life. I’m always very interested in storytelling and it’s something I try to do. I think there’s always a bit of a care there in sense of the… The only I’m going to add is, perhaps it’s not so particularly original, but when you’re storytelling, one of the dangers in telling stories about other situations is the client finds it useful, but there’s also thinking, “Are you just going to walk out the door and tell my story to somebody else?” So I think it’s again back to balance, which is my favourite word about just making sure that we don’t overly sell… We’re telling you all the secrets that we’ve sold to everyone else. And there’s a bit of an art to that. Beyond that, no, I don’t think I have a specific storytelling technique that I would use with clients.

 

How Richard Leveraged Books and External Resources to Build Trust Around His Personal Brand · [42:03] 

 

Will Barron:

And just to finish, do you get testimonials, do you get stories, do you document this kind of thing or is it… What I’m asking, Richard, you walk into a room, are people trusting in, Richard, comes in, has how many ever books you have, tonnes of them and they’re trusting in you as an individual, or do you have extra resources on top of that? If that makes sense.

 

“Anybody who knows the economics of book writing would know that you don’t really write books just for book sales. I love it when they sell, but actually they’re predominantly and increasingly a credibility thing.” – Richard Newton · [42:30] 

 

Richard Newton:

Okay. So I do have extra resources. I mean, books… Anybody knows the economics of book writing would know that you don’t really write books just for book sales. I love it when they sell, but actually they’re predominantly and increasingly a credibility thing. 

 

“The best resource of all is not a documented testimony, it’s a recommendation· [42:57]

 

Richard Newton:

I do have other resources, but the best resource of all is not a documented testimony, it’s a recommendation and it’s the ability, and I always ask clients, it’s a fairly easy conversation if you have it at the right time, which just says, “You know what? I’m going to be selling a similar service to someone else.” Ideally they’re not a direct competitor, that makes it more challenging. “Would you be happy for me to give them your phone number just for a five minute call?” And a direct conversation counts for so much more than a written testimonial.

 

Richard Newton:

Now, we’ve all seen documents with about 500 testimonials on it, or we’ve seen people with LinkedIn profiles and I’ve spent a lot of time on my profile, but does anybody really care about those things? But actually saying to someone, would you like to speak to your peer in another organisation? He or she is happy to give me a recommendation. You can ask them some honest questions about the what it’s like to work with me. And that is really, really the best of all.

 

Richard’s Advise to His Younger Self on How to Become Better at Selling · [43:45]

 

Will Barron:

Powerful stuff. Well, with that Richard, I know you’re not a, quote unquote, salesperson, but [inaudible 00:43:46] you have to kind of sell you consulting, so you’ll have an insight for this. I’ve got one final question I ask everyone that comes on the show and that is, if you could go back in time and speak to your younger self, what would be the one piece of advice you’d give him to help him become better at selling?

 

Richard Newton:

Not to feel that selling is anything dishonourable and that you’re pushing something that people don’t want. People need stuff. People need to get jobs done. You’re just offering them a service. You are actually adding them value. There’s no way you’re kind of cheating them. I think my younger self, and certainly my junior days in consulting, you kind of felt that sales was a little bit grubby and the actually doing the work was the good thing. And as you get older, you realise, or as I get more experienced, to be honest, I’ve realised that actually the reason clients talk to you is because they honestly do need help. And they like it when you do good work for them, you’re doing a good thing.

 

Will Barron:

That is a name of a book, for sure, if it doesn’t already exist.

 

Richard Newton:

Yeah.

 

Will Barron:

People need stuff, kind of go on yada, yada, yada about selling a business. That is probably the best way to put it. For anyone who’s listening to this right now, perhaps you’re new to selling, perhaps you don’t want to pick up the phone, you’re nervous about email and you’re knocking on doors, like I did knock it on operating theatres and you’re sticking your head in and hoping a surgeon doesn’t blast your face off shouting across that… like throwing scalpels. People need stuff is a good way to sum up the mindset, right?

 

Richard Newton:

Yeah. It’s how the world works.

 

Parting Thoughts · [45:11]

 

Will Barron:

Well, Richard, with that I’ve enjoyed the conversation, mate. I want you to tell us where we can find out more about you and then for anyone who perhaps got an itch and wants to learn more, are there any of your books specifically that can give a bit more of an insight to the world of consulting?

 

Richard Newton:

Yeah, I mean, I have one specific book called The Management Consultant: Mastering the Art of Delivery. It’s a very highly reviewed book. It’s available on Amazon. I’m actually working on a second edition, which will come out in about a year’s time, just sort of updating it, but that certainly got, if you like, all my thoughts and thinking of almost 30 years experience in consultancy. If people want to know more about me, my business is called Enixus, E-N-I-X-U-S, and has got a website enixus.co.uk Otherwise, I have a page on Amazon. My sales page with all my books on it, and people can find me on LinkedIn. I’m very active on LinkedIn. I write lots of posts and things like that. So any of those routes. And feel free to reach out. I’m always happy to have a conversation.

 

Will Barron:

Good stuff. Well, I’ll link all of that in the show notes of this episode over at salesman.org. And with that, Richard, I want to thank you for your time. I want to thank you particularly for coming on a sales podcast and giving your specific industry insights, that’s really valuable for the sales nation, the 30,000 people are going to listen to this. So I appreciate that, mate. And I want to thank you for joining us on the show.

 

Richard Newton:

Thanks, Will. It’s been an absolute pleasure.

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