Selling Consultancy VS Selling Products and Services

Selling Consultancy Services is very different from “Selling” as taught in MBA institutes of Harvards & Cambridges. Marketing, Selling, Brand building etc. all these words have different connotation when it comes to offering the consultancy services. The buyers of consultancy services vary greatly from the buyers of products and services, which makes selling the consulting services a hard nut to crack.

When selling a product or service, a salesperson has to fulfill the need of a buyer and only justify the value of what is being offered. Whereas selling the consultancy services requires the consultant identifying the problems in the business of prospective clients in the first place and then offering the suitable consulting solutions accordingly. The need many times is subtle and is not clearly defined.

To understand further the differences, we can analyze and look at the various features given below that distinguish tangible Products & Services from Consulting Services where knowledge and skills are transferred for better action and output:

1. For Traditional Products you have a Comparative Chart of Features:

There are many parameters to compare the traditional products, say mobile phones/automobiles/ with the competitor’s products and price lists. Most products can be put into a matrix for a better evaluation. Each product has an intrinsic resale value. In addition, there always exists a second hand market for traditional products & services, even for the resale of services like club memberships, etc.

Consulting services can neither be compared nor be resold as above. There is always a different and unique consulting advice for each business which cannot be compared with or transferred to another business. In addition, the consulting services cannot be measured on the basis of above parameters because of these following features:

  1. The intrinsic value of a Consulting advice is difficult to quantify.
  2. Consulting services have an extended period of Life.
  3. There are no uniform rates for all Consultants.
  4. Consulting Services are Unique and Custom-made Solution.

2. Needs are not Defined:

Unlike other products and services, there is no specific need that gets fulfilled through buying consulting services. In other words, when selling the products & services, the needs of potential buyers are known to the salesman; but when selling the consultancy services, the actual needs of the clients are not known to the consultant and at times, not even to the client himself.

It is rather a consultant’s job to identify the problems in the business of his clients which in turn help the consultant to figure out optimum ways of reaching their goals. The consultant then suggests the ideal solutions to the clients in the light of their goals and priorities.

Likewise, there are other specific problems that each business has. Based on these different problems, a Consultant offers those solutions that the business owners are not aware of. In many cases the indirect and tangential benefits are there for a business from the consulting services taken to address a problem.

3. The Need has a Perishable Span of Life:

There is no situation when a business owner can say that the need of consulting services is over. Say a family is looking to buy a house and there are many builders trying to sell them Villas, Flats or Condos. Once the family decides to buy, the seller will mark the lead as closed. All the other builders will mark the lead as dead because there is a very strong chance that the family is not going to be in the market for at least the next few years.

But this is not the case with consultancy. There exists no “closed” or “dead” phase of the sales leads in a consulting business. The business world is encountering changes every moment, old business models are getting obsolete and so are old consulting advices. In today’s tough competition, the business owners need a consultant’s assistance more often than before. For that reason, the need for consulting services has a long life and needs to be nurtured for a long time in comparison to other products and services.

4. Quantifying the Value is Difficult:

In two different cases, a same type of consulting advice was given to two different businesses. One firm makes a profit of 100,000 USD using the services, whereas another larger firm makes a profit of 100 million. This is why quantifying the value of a consulting service is difficult as compared to the other products and services. Consulting by itself can only be quantified as to how better the client wiananddamani@1234ll be able to use the services and maximise benefits.

In light of the above it is clear that selling the consulting services is a unique ball game much different from selling other products and services. A consultative sales strategy is required to be adopted by the consultant that involves building trust, interactive communication and building a close relationship with the clients with long term perspective. Consultants need to analyze their offerings and suitably modify the sales strategy using the above pointers.