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Sales vs. Consulting

#1 Sales vs. Consulting
22/05/2009 15:01


My manager is trying to convince me that salespersons and consultants are the same thing. After reading the dictionary definition, he argues that they are the same roles because consultants analyze and recommend solutions. What the definition eludes to but doesn't explicitly state is that consultants are paid by their clients for their advice and or services during a project.

Can you please chime in with your definitions and or explanations of the differences between consultants and salespersons?

Thanks in advance,


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#2 RE: Sales vs. Consulting
22/05/2009 15:05

Jeremy to Jeremy (#1)

Sorry, I refreshed and it resent. Please ignore. See my earlier post.

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#3 RE: Sales vs. Consulting
22/05/2009 15:37

Cynic to Jeremy (#2)


Consultants are paid by the client in order to give advice that is in the client's best interest. Discussions about the consultant's fee are kept separate from the impartiality of the advice they provide.

Salespeople however are paid to bring in business for their employer. Normally, this means doing things that aren't in the client's best interests (e.g. wringing every last £ out of them that you can).

In reality however, most consultants are only interested in their own bottom line and don't act in their client's interests (e.g. by extending problems in order to generate more billable hours fixing the 'problem').

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#4 RE: Sales vs. Consulting
22/05/2009 15:41

Jeremy to Cynic (#3)

Thank you!

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#5 RE: Sales vs. Consulting
22/05/2009 17:09

Tony Restell ( to Jeremy (#4)

Very much depends on the type of consulting - and highlights why many firms will play on the fact that they are "independent" and have no ulterior motives for pushing one outcome over another.

In an ideal world a consultant is neutral as to the outcome the client chooses to pursue once advised by the consultant. This would usually be the case in pure strategy consulting. A good consultant in this case will focus on analysing the situation the client is facing and proposing the best course of action the client can take - all the while using their sales skills to ensure that executives at the client organisation "buy in" to the suggested course of action. Being good at selling helps in the career track - but ultimately the consultant doesn't have a pre-defined solution or outcome that they want to sell and so they are operating "without constraints".

A salesperson is quite different. They have services or products they want the client to buy - and so are incentivised to prefer certain outcomes (client buys the offering) over other outcomes (client doesn't buy or delays buying) - even if that's in direct conflict with what's best for the client. There's not the same impartiality towards outcome and the "analysis" undertaken by the salesperson is with the explicit aim of positioning the offering to fill a need.

Consulting tarnished itself a little earlier this decade when certain firms allied themselves with certain solution vendors and so the impartiality that would usually be expected of a consultant could no longer be said to be genuinely present.

If you work in an organisation that has incentives for pushing certain solutions in preference to others then I guess your manager could be right that you've become more salesperson and less consultant.

Tony Restell

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#6 RE: Sales vs. Consulting
22/05/2009 18:02

Jeremy to Tony Restell ( (#5)

Thanks Tony. I agree totally.

We provide IT training at our firm.

My manager is seeking feedback on the title of a new employee whose responsibilities are purely sales in nature. For example, they do pre-sales work such as finding leads, making cold calls, and in addition they analyze the needs of clients in terms of which certs they should aim to get.

He argues that these duties are the same as for consultants.

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#7 RE: Sales vs. Consulting
22/05/2009 18:04

Jeremy to Jeremy (#6)

I should mention that they don't do much post sales work.

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#8 RE: Sales vs. Consulting
23/05/2009 09:19

Cynic to Jeremy (#7)

Oh, I get it. The manager has come up with something like "Business development consultant" as the job title, right?

Well, the truth is that nobody has a job title of "Salesman" these days. So... it looks like the new employee will indeed probably have the word "consultant" in their title, to emphasise that they will be doing "consultative selling" where they listen to the client's needs and build an offering to match their particular requirements, rather than trying to just get them to buy 100 of whatever is on special offer that month.

If you want an alternative, how about "Business development manager" or suchlike?

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#9 RE: Sales vs. Consulting
28/05/2009 00:16

john to Cynic (#3)

A professional salesperson will care for their customerf for life.

A consultant will move on leaving the client with more work to do to implement theory

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